Since July, legal action has stopped the Forestry Corporation logging nationally important koala habitat in Braemar and Myrtle State Forests, south of Casino. However, logging can now resume despite evidence of significant impacts on koalas.
The stay on logging ended on November 20 when Justice Pritchard ruled as inadmissible the North East Forest Alliance’s (NEFA’s) expert evidence from Dr Steve Phillips that logging ‘will exacerbate koala population decline in these areas and, in the worst case scenario, could potentially lead to the extinction of local koala populations’.
He further ruled that there is no requirement for logging plans to account for site specific issues, such as the devastating impacts of the 2019/20 Black Summer wildfires.
These forests are part of the state government’s Banyabba Area of Regional Koala Significance and identified by the federal government as Nationally Important Koala Areas (NIKA).
In 2012 NEFA stopped logging two of these forests after finding exceptional densities of koalas, which were verified by the EPA. Since then we have undertaken numerous searches to identify important koala habitat, though as the rules are progressively weakened it has been increasingly hard to protect it.
Most of the Banyabba koala population was killed in the 2019/20 fires, though NEFA surveys have found they are slowly recovering.
Soon after the Minns Labor government was elected with a promise to protect koalas, the Forestry Corporation announced they intend to log known koala strongholds in Braemar and Myrtle State Forests.
The Minns government should not be allowing the logging of most koala feed trees in identified strongholds if it has any genuine intent to save them from extinction. Our attempts to get Penny Sharpe to intervene have been in vain. The NSW ALP are clearly not ‘fair dinkum’.
NEFA have now assessed 56,000ha of public forests in the southern Richmond, including Braemar and Myrtle State Forests, identifying that they:
• Encompass 28,000ha of Nationally Important Koala Areas identified by the Commonwealth as a priority for reservation,
• Provide habitat for 70 animal and 63 plant species threatened with extinction,
• Contain 35,000ha of forest ecosystems that still fail to meet the 1997 national reserve targets,
• Are within the NSW section of the South-East Queensland Bioregion, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, which has only 14 per cent in reserves, less than half the target of 30 per cent reservation by 2030 that both state and federal governments have committed to, and
• Have the ability to regain in the order of 28 million tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere through past logging.
Burnt: 86 per cent
In the 2019/20 wildfires, 86 per cent of these state forests were burnt, with significant losses of trees and wildlife, including most koalas. Now they are being logged, with the addition of some minor voluntary conditions which allow over 70 per cent of the large feed trees koalas depend upon to be cut down.
Time for change
The world is overheating, droughts and fires are increasing and species are retreating from rising temperatures. Meanwhile forestry is degrading wildlife habitat, bleeding taxpayers’ money, increasing wildfire intensity, releasing stored carbon, and diminishing stream flows.
It’s time for change. We have to hold our politicians to account. Make them honour their promises to save the koala and create a world-class reserve system for this world biodiversity hotspot.
Please speak up for the Southern Richmond if you want to make a meaningful difference.
See Protecting the Southern Richmond Range Parks plan of management at https://www.nefa.org.au/koalas.
Dailan Pugh, North East Forest Alliance, November 2023.