• North Coast Environment Council

    Formed in 1976, we are the peak umbrella environment group in northern NSW. We cover the area from the Hunter to the Tweed and west to the New England Highway. We also actively support other campaigns further afield. We receive no government funding and have no paid staff or central office. Our members and office-bearers work around the region, often travelling large distances to assist others as we organise in our defence of the environment and the communities it sustains. We rely on donations and the efforts of our members and volunteers, to remain effective. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to assist us with our work, we guarantee plenty of bang for your buck. Post us a message to this site and we will get back to you.
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Great Koala Park a great step

Sharon McGrigor koala

The North Coast Environment Council congratulates Luke Foley on his Great Koala National Park plan.
“ If we want to save the koala from extinction, we have to save the forests that are their home,” said NCEC spokesperson Susie Russell.
“The Great Koala National Park would be a strong foundation for a new approach to managing our public forests. The priorities have to be maintaining healthy populations of our unique animals and plants and caring for our water supply catchments.
“Koalas populations are crashing across their known range. The previously largest known population in NSW in the Pilliga forest has all but disappeared. The koala populations of the north coast are among the largest remaining. Koalas are recognised by both Federal and State laws as being vulnerable to extinction.
“A major reason for this is the ongoing destruction of their habitat. There is a competition for trees bigger than you can wrap your arms around (30-80cm diameter). The koalas need them and the loggers want them too.
“Which is more important: Healthy koala populations or hardwood floorboards?
“Which will bring more economic benefit to the region: Visitors to see koalas, walk the park trails, stay, eat and shop in the local area- or dozens of log trucks carting away the future?” she asked.
“NSW is at a crossroads, if we keep propping up this heavily subsidised logging industry, we could lose the koala from the wild.
“The current Government promised before the 2011 election, that it was going to do something to protect koalas. The koalas are still waiting for whatever that is to happen.
“Meanwhile the Baird Government is slashing the logging licence conditions, that will see even less effort to protect endangered species such as the koala, and open up steep areas of forest that were protected since major landslips occurred in the early 1990s.
“The Great Koala Park announced today as a key election promise by Luke Foley, would be a connecting corridor of forest from the coast to the escarpment. It would also protect the forest proposed for a radical new type of clearfell cable logging on extremely steep slopes.
“It was 20 years ago that Bob Carr promised to protect oldgrowth forests….maybe Luke Foley will be able to do the same for the koala,” Ms Russell said.

Photo by Sharon McGrigor

Foley gives koalas a fighting chance

MEDIA RELEASE

Finally the koala has a keen defender in the person of Luke Foley, newly elected Shadow Premier of NSW who, for the time being is keeping the Shadow Environment portfolio.

“Luke proved his bona fides as a genuine environmental warrior with his call on the ex-environment minister’s ridiculous claim that logging protected koalas, he pushed hard for the Federal koala classification of “Vulnerable” and was one of the few politicians to quickly call burning forest biomass to produce electricity “dead koala” energy,” said Susie Russell, spokesperson for the NCEC.

“Unlike the politicians of the LNP Government, Luke Foley took the time to visit north coast forests on several occasions to see the damage ForestCorp have been doing in koala habitat. He has also inspected the route of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade north of the Richmond River to Wardell which will inevitably lead to the extinction of a nationally-significant koala population. We have seen him take back this information to Parliament and through questions, motions, and various Parliamentary committees attempt to right the current wrongs,” said Lorraine Vass, President, Friends of the Koala and NCEC public officer.

The North Coast Environment Council has worked closely with Luke Foley for several years. He has a genuine commitment to the koala and seeing it survive in the difficult climate ahead.

“Previous Premier Barry O’Farrell promised before the 2010 election to protect koalas, but koala protection on the North Coast actually went backwards with core koala habitat destroyed by logging in Royal Camp (near Casino), Boambee (near Coffs Harbour) and Wang Wauk (near Bulehdelah) State Forests. On the Far North Coast the review of environmental zones and overlays in local environment plans has weakened habitat protection and is still not resolved.

“Premier Mike Baird’s enabling of burning native forests to create electricity and promotion of removing limits on logging intensity and of the requirement to conduct pre-logging surveys for threatened species will see much of the koalas’ remaining habitat on the NSW north coast destroyed.

“The NCEC looks forward to an ongoing working relationship with Luke Foley. He understands that “logging (doesn’t) protect koalas”.” Ms Russell said.

NSW needs an Environment Minister willing to stand up for the declining koala population in our State and protect their remaining habitats.” Luke Foley 27 October 2011 1

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1. http://pennysharpe.com/files/111027%20Logging%20protects%20koalas.pdf

COALition continues forest rampage…

Following hot on the heels of yesterday’s speech by Prime Minister Abbott who called the logging industry “the ultimate conservationists’, the NSW Government today made a regulation allowing native forest to be burned in power stations opening the way for it to be classed as a ‘renewable energy source’.

 

“The government wants environmentally conscious consumers to pay for the destruction of endangered species habitat,” said NCEC President Susie Russell.

 

 

“It will also allow the already heavily subsidised mining industry to burn native forests and woodlands to generate their electricity and seek renewable energy credits.

“COALition Governments have no respect for forests. They can’t see the trees for the wood. It seems they will stoop to any depths to pursue their anti-green anti-environment agenda. Claims that this will not increase logging and will be overseen by the EPA are farcical.

 

 

“The Government is in the process of winding back a whole raft of forest protection measures in the name of efficiency.

 

 

“The EPA has been shown to be a toothless tiger that has failed to act on evidence of breaches, and when it has been roused to action only manages to deliver pathetic slaps on the wrist such as letters or paltry fines. The community has no confidence in the EPA being able to regulate forestry.

 

 

“There is plenty of scientific evidence to show that older trees store more carbon, provide better habitat, produce more water of higher quality, provide more nectar and honey, are more resilient to fire and have greater appeal to humans on aesthetic and spiritual grounds.

 

 

“Everything this taxpayer subsidised logging industry is doing compromises all of those positive values.

 

 

“This will be another nail in the coffin of the renewable energy industry that is being sabotaged by COALition Governments at both State and Federal levels determined to prop up an energy sector based on either fossilised wood or now, living wood,” Ms Russell said.

 

BURNING TO REPLACE WOODCHIPPING

North Coast conservationists are fearful that a NSW Government proposal to allow burning of wood from native forests for electricity generation will result in extensive degradation of north-east NSWs public and private forests if successful.

The EPA announced yesterday that the Government proposes to amend the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 so that logging residues, sawmill residues, and “trees that might otherwise be made into pulp” can be used for electricity generation. The EPA will shortly be putting the draft regulation on public exhibition. http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/epamedia/EPAMedia13071101.htm

Spokesperson for NEFA, Dailan Pugh, said that it was only last month that the export of woodchips from north-east NSW finally ended after 30 years. “Now the NSW Government wants to burn our forests to generate electricity.

With the prospect of furnaces being established throughout north-east NSW and the Hunter Valley this could lead to the unprecedented degradation of native forests”.

Our native forests are most important as homes for native plants and animals, for provision of stream flows, as storehouses of carbon and for passive recreation.

Our forests sequester significant volumes of atmospheric carbon and store it in their wood. They are worth far more left standing as carbon storehouses to generate carbon credits than they are for logging and release of their stored carbon. Burning our carbon storehouses for electricity is one of the worst things we can do for global warming.

The NSW Government should use the opportunity provided by the cessation of woodchipping to stop the ongoing degradation of our native forests by limiting logging to speciality purpose high value products” Mr. Pugh said.

Susie Russell, President of the North Coast Environment Council said there were no positives in the move to allow forests to be logged to feed in to power stations for electricity.

Sawmill waste can already be used as a fuel, what is being proposed here is that trees that were being exported as woodchip (pulp) should now be burnt” she said.

The end to export woodchipping provided the NSW Government with an opportunity to decrease logging quotas and the intensity of logging that is trashing the State Forests. Instead, they have chosen to opt for an even more destructive industry that won’t pass the sustainability test of time. The future demands innovation and clean forms of energy. This move belongs to the past,” she said.

The proposal will be on exhibition for 28 days, we urge the community to take this opportunity to say NO!” Ms Russell said.

Export Woodchips: Good Riddance

The North Coast Environment Council welcomes the decision announced today by Boral Timber, to exit the export wood-chip business.

This decision has been a long time coming. For more than 30 years, conservationists have worked to end this destructive activity which has seen millions of trees from north coast forests taken to be wood-chipped and shipped to the paper mills of Japan.

However these days the Japanese paper mill operators want to be able to sell their paper with a label proclaiming that it has come from responsibly managed forests or plantations, and ‘business as usual’ forestry in Australia is no longer acceptable to them. They now require woodchips to be certified under the Forest Stewardship Council scheme as ‘not damaging high conservation values’.

Boral had recently applied for its wood-chipping operations to be certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label and audits were conducted of forestry operations on the north coast.

Conservationists mounted a strong campaign in opposition: organising submissions, commissioning expert opinion, and taking the auditors to a number of sites to demonstrate the environmental damage caused by logging.

“We believe we were able to effectively demonstrate that high conservation values ARE definitely being damaged by forestry activities in the public forests of NSW,” said NCEC President Susie Russell.

“While the audit and certification results have not been released, we can only speculate that Boral and the Forestry Corporation failed to convince the auditors that their logging is not harmful. Being unable to sell woodchips with the FSC label, Boral had no option but to close down this component of their business.

“This gives the NSW Government an opportunity to dramatically reduce the intensity of logging that is trashing north coast forests,” she said.

“Our forests are worth more standing. They provide food and shelter to species of animals found nowhere else in the world. They protect our catchments and downstream water quality, and, if left to grow old act as a reservoir, providing water in times of low rainfall.

“Our question to Premier O’Farrell is this “Will he give our forests a reprieve and let them grow older so they can provide future generations with valuable environmental services? Or will he subsidise another wood-chipping industry that props up a handful of logging and trucking jobs at the expense of environmental benefits for all?”, she asked.

O’Farrell uses tricky language that rules ‘in’ logging of National Parks

Government claims of no commercial logging in National Parks is tricky language and should be treated with suspicion said NCEC President and long-time forest campaigner Susie Russell.

“What they are saying is that the Government is prepared to accept logging in National Parks as long as it is not ‘commercial’.

“There is a real danger they are planning to cook up a scheme and introduce some kind of ‘non-commercial’ logging. They are already trialling this in the Murray Valley National Park and calling it ‘ecological thinning‘,” she said.

“The NSW forest logging industry has already soaked up more than $300 million of Government handouts since 1995. They got the handouts as compensation for the creation of national parks. Now they’ve spent the money they want the Parks. 1

“It’s a lose lose for the community and the environment. The taxpayer has paid out the industry to get reserves, now it is being asked to further subsidise them while losing all the environmental benefits protected forests provide.

“The economic and social benefits are far greater if the trees are left standing. The rump of the native forest industry is contracting due to downturns in the housing and construction industry and greater awareness among consumers. Many people don’t want to walk floorboards that used to be koala homes.

“Most of us understand that forests provide many public goods apart from their inherent beauty. These include being home to many of our unique plants and animals; acting as water reservoirs; flood mitigation and erosion control leading to cleaner rivers and better fish habitat; long-term carbon storage; and a whole host of tourism and recreation opportunities,” she said.

“What does logging these forests return? Trashed weedscapes like many of the forests still under control of the Forestry Corporation, silted up waterways and eroded hillsides, declining numbers of rare animals and plants, more extreme bushfires due to the dried out landscape and younger trees and no long-term carbon storage. Not to mention the loss of beauty, wildness and tranquility.

“The Liberal and National Party members of the Government have supported the Shooters recommendations for logging in National Parks. Just as in Queensland and Victoria they are opening up National Parks and protected areas for logging. This is based on hatred of all things green…. and there is nothing with more greens in it, than a forest,” Ms Russell said.

1. $120m in 1995-2000, $80m 2005-2010, $97m in 2010, and additional millions to buy out contracts.

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Hyperlinks provide references.

Victorian plan to log ‘parks and reserves’ a cause for alarm in NSW

“We are horrified that as the International Year of Forests draws to a close, we have a Government in Australia proposing to open up protected areas for logging” said NCEC President Susie Russell.

 “In response to the Victorian timber supply crisis resulting from decades of over-cutting and unsustainable practices, the Victorian Liberal Minister responsible is recommending the logging of ‘parks, reserves and water catchments’ 1 as well as reducing protections for endangered species, bringing in 20 year wood supply contracts and making taxpayers liable for any timber shortfalls.

 “The Victorian Timber Action Plan released yesterday is an ecological and social disaster,” she said.

“What is alarming is that instead of seeing the writing on the wall for an industry that has failed to develop its own resource or respect the environment, the Victorian Government plans to head back to the dark ages and repeat the same mistakes by entrenching over-cutting, taxpayer liability and weakening environmental protection of key natural assets.

“It is a recipe for ongoing conflict in Victoria’s forests. You would think they would have learned something from the NSW experience. In NSW where 20 year contracts have been in place for more than a decade, and despite lax environmental regulation, taxpayers are already paying compensation to timber companies.

“The fight for the forests will be well and truly on again if the NSW Government follows suit and tries to open up protected areas for logging. We certainly hope they have more sense than to return to an era of protracted forest protest, ” she warned.

“We ask that Premier Barry O’Farrell and Forestry Minister Katrina Hodgkinson rule out solving the timber supply crisis in NSW by opening up national parks and other protected areas for logging, or watering down what we consider to be the already weak environmental protection measures that apply to logging.

“The timber supply crisis in NSW can only be dealt with by reducing contracted volumes, and reducing taxpayer liability. The biodiversity and climate crises can only be dealt with by protecting habitat, carbon stored in large trees, reserve connectivity and water catchment integrity.

“The way forward is less native forest logging not more… Victoria is certainly marching backwards under Bailleau,” Ms Russell said.

1.http://premier.vic.gov.au/images/stories/documents/mediareleases/2011/111213_Timber_Industry_Action_Plan.pdf