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Byron Shire
September 29, 2023

Are you for trees or not for trees? That is the question

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Cr Andrew Gordon did his best to not let Lismore Council talk about trees on Tuesday evening, in what has become a tradition of epic monthly meetings needing to be carried over to another day in the Goonellabah chambers.

The issue for debate was a motion that Cr Adam Guise proposed be taken to the 2023 Local Government NSW Annual Conference will be held from 12 to 14 November at Rosehill Gardens. Three councillors and the General Manager will be attending the conference which is the main policy-making event for the local government sector where issues are debated and motions put forward for consideration by delegates.

At the behest of members of the community, Cr Adam Guise wanted to propose one of the motions to be put forward by the Lismore delegates at the conference. Cr Guise missed the deadline for the motion to be printed in the agenda for the September meeting, but he submitted in time for it to be debated at the meeting (and it was emailed to all councillors). It was certainly within the time requirements for the conference.

From the outset it was clear that Cr Andrew Gordon wanted no part of Cr Guise’s motion, in fact he didn’t even want the subject brought up, trying to twist Council procedure to exclude the matter all together.

The motion

The wording of Cr Guise’s motion was that: Local Government NSW lobbies the NSW government to declare an immediate moratorium on current Forestry Corporation logging activities in NSW’s Native State Forests, and develops a just transition package for forestry workers and creation of sustainable employment opportunities in new related industries, including ecologically sustainable plantations and farm forestry.

Before community members had the chance to speak Cr Gordon highlighted that the topic was not in the printed papers on the list for the agenda. Is it appropriate that we speak about an item that doesn’t appear in the agenda through to you to the appropriate staff?’

Cr Gordon was reminded that Cr Guise was within his rights to submit the motion – and he was within his rights to submit his motion after the papers were printed.

Answering his questions

Thwarted at the first gate, Cr Gordon’s second tactic was to repeatedly question public access speakers and then harangue them with answers to those questions that he had on several sheets of paper on his desk.

Dot Moller spoke from experience and said she had visited local forests. Of course, she told PA she didn’t go there straight after the horrendous Black Summer fires of 2019/20 and it was only on TV and in maps and photos that she had seen the incredible damage.

‘As a member of Fridays4Forest, I visited Double Duke State Forest. It’s very quiet in there, only the occasional bird is heard to break the silence,’ said Ms Miller. 

‘This forest has been logged over many years. Forestry Corp has finished logging the Valley of the Giants at the moment, a wet area that fires past by – there’s old growth in there. 

‘Our local forests have been used like a mining resource and extractive industry with little regard for the future, [and] running at a huge loss. I’m not saying the business is running at a huge loss but how we support it from the state funds is your money and it’s a loss. 

Why isn’t it in the business papers?

Cr Big Rob took the break between speakers as an opportunity to say he didn’t understand what was going on and why the chamber was listening to petitions about forestry when it wasn’t in the business paper.

Meg Nielsen was next to speak with a stern reminder from the Mayor that speakers should only be speaking on the topic at hand – which is the Local Government New South Wales conference. 

Mrs Nielsen said that Forestry has completely changed in recent years. ‘It was once a sustainable profession of men who took great pride in their work to ensure that healthy trees were left for them to harvest into the future. But, there is no longer any selective logging in our public native forests – much higher timber quotas, taking far more trees than was previously recommended, and often damaging the few that are left and the use of contractors untrained or with inadequate training.

Water security and growing food

‘As a farmer, I have to mention water security, and our ability to grow food. Only native forests can remove carbon from the atmosphere at the rapid rate required to control the climate and the biodiversity crisis that we’re facing at this moment. There is no technical device or mechanical system that can do it.’

Cr Gordon pressed Mrs Nielsen for an answer to his question: ‘The timber industry, the native timber industry in New South Wales, do you know how many people are directly employed in that industry?’

Mrs Nielsen said that in the native timber on the North Coast, it was approximately 580. ‘In New South Wales, those directly employed in native forest logging is 1040 – that is, in the native forest logging. We mustn’t confuse the logging of plantations. This is a completely different business.’

Cr Gordon said he would ‘just answer that question correctly’ going on to quote figures of 8,900 people involved in the industry, from a sheet of paper on his desk in answer to his question and not giving Mrs Nielsen a chance to ask him to clarify what she says were false numbers.

Parrotting incorrect figures

After the meeting, Mrs Nielsen told The Echo that the figures that Councillor Andrew Gordon stated when questioning her were totally misleading. ‘They appear to be quoted directly from the forest industry’s script. Worryingly, we saw these same figures parroted by David McPherson who is Deputy Director General – Land Reform, NSW Dept Primary Industries.

‘We came to expect this kind of misinformation in reply to all our letters to the previous government when we questioned logging policy, but we were hoping for better from our newly elected Minns Govt. This is potentially a dangerous situation if government ministers are relying on these bureaucrats for advice to develop future policy.  

‘I can only assume this “figure fiddling” is spouted to inflate the importance of the Native Forest logging division of NSW Forest Corporation to the NSW economy, as if doing so will somehow justify the unjustifiable – the huge cost to taxpayers.’

Cr Jensen zooming in from India

After public access, Cr Gordon felt that it was the appropriate time to make a case for the change of the order of business considering the packed gallery and Cr  Elektra Jensen zooming in from India. He asked for all but item 11.10 – the Local Government Conference – to be brought forward in the order.

Cr Guise said that it is customary to alter the order of business to prioritise speakers in the chamber. ’It’s extremely disrespectful that Councillor Gordon would snub those here tonight who want to hear the outcome of that item. I would ask Councillor Gordon to please include 11 point 10 In the priority of the order of business, so it can be dealt with forthwith here in the chamber.

Cr Gordon disagreed, there was a flurry of points of order before Cr Vanessa Ekins asked to move an amendment that the item be included. ‘There are people in the chamber who have come out of their homes and made an effort to come and speak to us tonight, which is not an easy thing to do. And I’d like us to offer them the courtesy of debating the matter that they feel is important while they’re in the chamber.’

Again Cr Gordon said the item was not on the agenda so should not be dealt with.

The Mayor clarified the process for Cr Gordon’s benefit. ‘We were sent an email from staff asking for any motions to be discussed, to be submitted by a certain time however, that doesn’t preclude motions being submitted on the night. We can submit motions tonight to be discussed. 

‘I think there are definitely two sides of the argument,’ said Cr Krieg. But, Councillor Guise is within his rights to submit a motion to be discussed for the Local Government New South Wales Conference. How so many speakers got to find out about it before we did is another matter to be discussed…’

Cr Gordon said that since the rules were being ‘chucked out the door and we can do we want’, he asked that the item be put last as Cr Jensen was beaming in from India and other matters ‘close to her heart’ should be heart first.

The debate began

After a break, it was decided that Councillors Krieg, Rob and Hall would attend the conference.

Cr Guise said that the Local Government New South Wales Conferences are a great opportunity for councils around the state to present issues of particular concern to their community.

‘The speakers tonight brought this motion here to get us, as the local council, to represent their views and take it to the State Conference. 

‘Councillors would be aware that forestry and forestry practices have long been highly scrutinised and have longly been under very great scrutiny from our courts, from activists from citizen scientists, and also from the impacts that it’s having on our ecosystem. And so we do need to bring about a rapid end to the logging of our native public forests. 

‘It’s well evidenced by the forestry practices are destroying our forests and leaving them in a far worse condition than they started with opening, them up to pests, invasive species, to fire-prone regimes, to soil loss, erosion and notwithstanding, the death and destruction to giant trees, old growth trees, and core koala habitat, and all the other myriad of species which our forests depend upon, and so it is time to call it quits on this rampant unnecessary logging of our forests.’

Will the delegates represent Council?

In a final attempt to hog-tie the discussion, Cr Andrew Gordon said that in his mind three delegates were going to the conference, and asked if the Mayor or Councillors Hall and Rob would be prepared to prosecute this motion. Again, before anyone could speak, he answered his own question, and also speaking on behalf of the trio he said: ‘No you’re not! I bet you’re not – no, you’re not. So, therefore it will lapse, so it’s wasting our time. It will not be prosecuted by our team and it’ll lapse. That’s how it works.’

Cr Big Rob reminded Cr Gordon that if it was a resolution of Council, he would be obliged to speak on its behalf at the conference as a representative of Council even if he himself disagreed with it.

Enthusiastic support for motion at the conference

Cr Vanessa Ekins said there would be enthusiastic people to support this motion at the conference. ‘It’s to end native public forest logging. And I’m pretty sure that some of those statistics that Councillor Gordon’s waving around aren’t for native public forest logging. And it’s logging in total. I’d say check your sources, mate, because that’s probably quite a biased one. 

‘The other thing I like about this motion is, apart from all of the information that you heard during public access, about the reasons for keeping native forests, not just for carbon sequestration, but also because of their biodiversity, value, and their aesthetic value, and all of the reasons that we love forests and go into them and wish to protect them, but also, this is a really positive motion. I really liked that it talks about developing just transition packages for forestry workers and creating sustainable employment opportunities in new related industries.’


Cr Darlene Cook said she had worked in the timber industry once-upon-a-time, and that in the past, things were done differently. ‘There were contracts with the cattle stations and tree fallers went in every 25 years and they felled three or four trees per acre. And those trees were beautiful big trees. Then, that acre was left for 25 years for the next generation of trees to grow. And 25 years later you could go back and you’d have trees that big again. It was sustainable, it was renewable. It was economically viable. 

‘Unfortunately, New South Wales Forestry Corp thought there was a better way of doing it. So they got in contractors. And they started clear-felling – it’s much, much easier to clear fall absolutely everything rather than do the selective tree – very, very carefully, dropping it down very, very carefully watching the habitat. What they did was they created unsightly moonscapes – barren lands devoid of native flora and fauna. Ecosystems completely gutted. 

‘I think they’re going to continue until we stop them until we stop them and say “this is beyond a joke”.’

We have to make them stop

‘We have to make them stop. We have to make them stop and rethink their position. We have to look at their staff, and retrain their staff and start looking at our public native forests for what they are: the lungs of this earth and the habitat for all our native wildlife. 

‘We’ve had a lot of people talk tonight with a whole lot of different viewpoints to this discussion. Let’s hope you will take that on board – it’s a vitally, vitally important discussion of a vitally important motion that must be taken to the Local Government Conference and debated there and hopefully, the State Government will take it on board.

The Mayor took a vote – all those in favour of taking Cr Guise’s motion to the Local Government Conference were Councillors Cook, Colby, Guise, Bird and Ekins. Those opposed were Councillors Gordon, Hall, Bing, Rob and Krieg. As it was an even split and the Mayor used his deciding vote to defeat the motion to speak of trees.

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  1. With essential available timber supplies shrinking due to green/red/black “tape”, no wonder forestry is getting more difficult to operate and also more visible to the public in the remaining areas.
    I guess it’s easier to import timber we all need from o’seas, where clear-fell logging is proceeding ‘open slather’, with no enviro-restrictions.
    I guess they need a John Williamson more that we do.


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