• 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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KOALA PROTECTION COULD BE A MONEY SPINNER

koala_shazz101Conservation groups are calling on the federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, to contribute funds from the Federal Government’s $2.55 billion carbon emissions reduction fund to protecting the Great Koala National Park.

This comes after revelations (The Age 21.1.15) that federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, commissioned a report which found that ending logging in the highland forests north-east of Melbourne, would save about 3.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year which could reap Victoria $30 million a year and achieve 5 per cent of the emissions cuts needed to meet Australia’s carbon reduction target for 2020.

North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh said that “Koalas prefer larger trees for feeding, these are trees that have been taking up and storing carbon in their wood for decades or centuries.

If allowed to remain these trees will continue to provide food for the Koalas while taking up increasing amounts of carbon the older they get. Protecting these trees is not just good for Koalas, it is part of the solution to climate change and of direct benefit to all of us.

We have just had the warmest year on record and the increased temperatures are already having profound affects on our forests, our wildlife and us. For all our benefits urgent action is required to curtail our emissions by increasing the carbon take-up and carbon storage in our forests. We can do this just by stopping logging and protecting Koalas,” Mr Pugh said.

NCEC Vice-President Susie Russell said “NSW taxpayers are currently paying $8-15 million a year to subsidise logging of public forests, in return for this the logging is threatening the future of numerous species, causing erosion, silting up our rivers, decreasing stream flows, spreading weeds and causing dieback of our publicly owned forests.

We can turn this massive loss into a profit simply by stopping logging. If the Federal Government invests in avoiding emissions from logging, taxpayers stand to make a fortune just from protecting Koalas, and we can invest some of this into providing meaningful jobs in restoring degraded forests and increasing their carbon take-up and storage.

This can be a win-win for the community and Koalas, while helping to redress our burgeoning carbon emissions.

We call on Minister Hunt to urgently investigate the carbon benefits of protecting the Great Koala National Park and identify what the Federal Government would be prepared to pay to avoid the carbon emissions from continued logging”, Ms Russell said.

Photo by Sharon McGrigor

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

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.

NCEC Call for Urgent Action on Pine Creek Koalas

The North Coast Environment Council has called on the NSW Government to make an immediate response to the release of an Australian Museum study that shows a serious decline in the Koala population in the Pine Creek area, south of Coffs Harbour.

North Coast Environment Council vice -president Ashley Love said The Pine Creek Koala population has long been recognised as is part of one of the three remaining Koala strongholds in coastal NSW .The report also comes following a recent report of a serious decline in the Koala population in the Tweed valley
The North Coast Environment Council has called for an immediate assessment of the remaining Koala population and a halt on any further logging or clearing in Pine Creek State Forest until the assessment is completed.

The Australian Museum Study, whilst not a population assessment , indicates that there has been a serious decline in the Pine Creek Koala population since the last assessment was undertaken in 2000. The report identifies logging on Pine Creek State forests as a likely contributing factor to the decline in Koalas.
The Aust Museum study identifies that there were 65 koala road mortalities from 2000 to 2010. Over the same period the clearfelling of over 1000 hectares of flooded gum plantation in Pine Creek State forest has removed the home range area large enough for at least 20 koalas Mr Love said.

A recent NSW Government proposal to abandon a Pine Creek Koala Plan of Management has also come under strong criticism from local conservationists .
The Pine Creek Kola Plan of Management was the first and only Koala management plan prepared by Forests NSW and involved many hundreds of hours of volunteer community input in the plan preparation Mr Love said.

In 2003 with transfer of parts of Pine Creek State Forest the Koala plan effectively became a plan covering a number of land tenures and a model for the planning process taken up in 2008 in the NSW Governments statewide Koala Recovery Plan.

Now it looks like the real reason the NSW Government wants to get rid of the Pine Creek Koala Management Plan is that it is not saving the local Koalas, Mr Love said.

Further information: The Aust Museum report is available on http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadprojects/projects/pac_hwy/documents/ambs_final_koala_report_nov11.pdf .

Ministers must intervene to save koalas

Two NSW Government Ministers have been requested to urgently intervene and stop the imminent destruction of Koala habitat in Boambee State Forest, near Coffs Harbour.

The North Coast Environment Council has written to the Minister for the Environment Robyn Parker and Minister for Primary Industry Katrina Hodgkinson requesting their urgent intervention to halt the logging of the core koala habitat. The call to the Ministers is consistent with the Coalition’s recent election policy to improve the conservation of Koalas, the NSW Koala Recovery Plan 2008 and the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval covering Forests NSW operations.

NCEC spokesperson Susie Russell said the measures announced last week by Forests NSW to assess Koalas in Boambee SF are their standard prescriptions for state forests on the North Coast. “The standard prescriptions have proved themselves repeatedly to be inadequate leading to the widespread destruction of Koala habitat,” Ms Russell said.

The limited Koala search and observe protocols do not account for periods when koalas are moving throughout the landscape, as they are now,” said Ashley Love from the Coffs Harbour-Bellingen National Parks Association.

The standard prescriptions do not take account of the strategic importance of core areas like Boambee State Forest to the conservation and replenishment of regional populations,” he said.

The Coalition were elected in March this year with an promise, backed by additional funding of $103m, for improving Koala conservation. Commitments were made by Coalition spokespersons during the election campaign to improve Koala conservation measures on Crown Land.

Environment Minister Ms Parker is being requested to activate the NSW Koala Recovery Plan 2008 and ensure Forests NSW cooperate in exchanging information and working across boundaries. Action 1.24 of The NSW Koala Recovery Plan requires Forests NSW to contribute to a plan that covers cross-tenure landscapes.

Ms Hodgkinson is being asked by the North Coast Environment Council to instruct Forests NSW to prepare a local Koala Management Plan before harvesting operations commence in Boambee SF.

The Threatened Species provisions of the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) which covers Forests NSW operations provides for the implementation of local koala management plans prepared with the approval of the Office of Environment and Heritage. Just as in the nearby Pine Creek State Forest logging operations are required to comply with a local Koala Management Plan.

The IFOA states that Forests NSW should initiate and maintain Community dialogue about Koalas at an early stage in harvest planning. The IFOA states that the dialogue should as a minimum include contact and exchange of information with neighbours, and local animal welfare and conservation groups. The North Coast Environment Council is not aware of the required consultation being carried out. We know of no local conservation groups that have been consulted,” she said.

Unfortunately, Forests NSW have a poor record of co-operation in Koala management in the Coffs Harbour area.

In the early 1990’s Forests NSW refused to participate with Coffs Harbour Council and the then National Parks and Wildlife Service in preparing the first Council Koala Plan of Management. As a result the 42% of the Council area then covered by State Forests was left blank, devoid of any koala conservation strategies in the plan.

Past approaches have clearly been inadequate,” Ms Russell said, “as major declines have continued in coastal Koala populations.”

COALITION KOALA POLICY : ALL FLUFF AND NO BACKBONE

2011 International Year of Forests
Media Release March 13, 2011

The Liberal- National Parties’ policy on threatened species and koalas in particular was all fluff but had no backbone according to NCEC spokesperson Lorraine Vass.

They are offering absolutely nothing to ensure that koalas and their habitat will be protected.

Their policy states:

The Department of Environment and Climate Change estimates there has been a dramatic decline in the Koala population in NSW with estimates of between 1,000 and 10,000 koalas only remaining. Most reside on the NSW North Coast and in Namoi region; however there are “pockets” around the state in fragmented and isolated habitats. The main threats to our koalas include loss of habitat; domestic dog attacks, road kill, high intensity fires and disease.”

They then go on to say they will increase the level of protection for a koala population near Sydney that is an already protected area – Dharawal State Conservation Area.

And that’s it. Nothing about North Coast koalas where development pressure is driving declines in koala numbers to the brink in some areas. No promise to make Local Governments do a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management. No promise to make core koala habitat off limits to logging. No reference to managing disease which is the number one killer of koalas brought into care on the Northern Rivers. Not even mention of the poor progress in implementing the state-wide approved five-year Recovery Plan. Zilch.

The situation is no better for the hundreds of other species on the NSW Threatened Species List, which will get a name change to the ‘Red List’.

The Coalition offers money to growers in the Sydney basin to fence out flying foxes and money to run a captive breeding program for Tassie Devils.

Nothing more. And it is already clear they are suggesting a win will be a mandate for their policies.
We need to put on the record that when it comes to the biodiversity of NSW and how it will be protected, the Coalition has no policy.