• 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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Public can have no confidence in so-called logging ‘trial’

“The public can have no confidence that anything beneficial for the forests will come from Forestry Minister Niall Blair’s logging ‘trial’”, claimed NCEC spokesperson Susie Russell.

“As always, with State-run forestry, this process lacks transparency and scientific rigour. We believe the whole process is solely aimed at intensifying logging and cutting costs, mainly jobs.

“We call on the Minister to release the ‘trial’ conditions and the exact locations where it will take place before logging commences. This will at least provide some opportunity for independent scrutiny, as we have learnt from long experience that neither the Forestry Corporation or the EPA are effective at identifying breaches of logging licence conditions.

“The reference to ‘coupes’ suggests that what is being planned is clearfelling as practiced by the Forestry Corp around Eden, where the forests have been fed to the woodchip mill and now there is hardly a koala to be found. We are deeply concerned about what this means for the endangered species managing to keep a toe-hold in State Forests,” Ms Russell said.

“The ‘trial’ was not mentioned in the stakeholder consultation process. We have now been provided with a list of 66 potential areas where the trial could take place, and yet our analysis shows that logging had commenced in 43 of those areas before this announcement, so 65% of them are presumably ruled out.

“Of the remaining 21 that are on the logging schedule (2 are not), the average net logging area is 77 ha. So we think the Minister’s claims that not more than 200 hectares will be logged as part of the trial is misleading, and will certainly be attempting to keep him to that figure of 200 hectares.

“Allowing more intensive logging so the very wealthy can have solid blackbutt floorboards should not be the prime concern of Governments in 2015. They would be far better looking at the benefits accrued to the public by allowing our forests to recover from decades of mismanagement. We will be seeking a meeting with the Minister to discuss these issues,” Ms Russell said.

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NSW Government rules out logging in North Coast National Parks

The NSW Government’s long-awaited response into the Public Land Inquiry has finally ruled out logging in northern NSW National Parks in order to make up timber shortfalls.

“This is a decision for common sense and we are pleased that Premier O’Farrell has decided to quell the speculation,” said NCEC President Susie Russell.

“There is little doubt that the Government has seen the support and love that National Parks enjoy from a wide spectrum of the community. There has been overwhelming opposition to his decision to allow hunting in National Parks. Logging was clearly a bridge too far.

“We know that there were some inside the Government who actively promoted the Inquiry’s recommendation for ‘tenure swap’ : swapping logged State Forest for unlogged National Park; as a means of shoring up the logging industry. By clearly rejecting that proposal the Premier has taken action to rein in some of the more anti-environment forces that inhabit the Government benches,” Ms Russell said.

North East Forest Alliance spokesperson, Dailan Pugh said that now that the timber industry’s proposal to open up a million hectares of north-east NSW’s national parks for logging has been rejected, the NSW Government must urgently slash timber commitments from State forests down to a sustainable level.

The timber industry has been intentionally logging north east NSW’s public forests well in excess of the identified sustainable yield for the past 15 years. They have been cutting out the future of their own industry.

If the NSW Government wants a hardwood sawlog industry in north east NSW in 10 years time it must immediately reduce logging quotas down to a sustainable level. We expect this will require cuts of more than 50%. The longer the Government waits the deeper the cuts will have to be.

The Government must come clean with the public by releasing last year’s timber review and acting urgently to stop the gross over-logging of publicly owned lands” Mr. Pugh said.

ONE STOP CHOP REPORT- DAMNING SNAPSHOT OF NSW FORESTRY

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A national report on Australian forestry “One Stop Chop: How Regional Forest Agreements streamline evironmental destruction”, released today, makes it clear that State Government forestry agencies, including in NSW are not managing Australia’s forests for the long-term.

The report, was prepared by Environment Defenders Offices in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW, and edited by Lawyers for Forest.

“The current regulatory system for management of NSW’s public forests is clearly inadequate” said NCEC President Susie Russell. “Cumulative impacts are killing the possibility of much of our unique wildlife surviving into the next century. The regulations are no protection because they aren’t followed anyway. There is little auditing and virtually no monitoring of impacts.

The Mining and Coal Seam Gas industry is running an advertising blitz calling for environmental decision-making, assessment and regulation to be taken away from the Commonwealth and handed back to State Governments. The Regional Forest Agreements are and example of all the problems with that approach.

“In the 21st century with our rivers, oceans and forests all suffering from over-extraction and pollution, and our iconic plants and wildlife under increasing threat, it is not the time to minimise environmental oversight. This Report sounds a warning and if we don’t heed the message we will repeat all the mistakes,” Ms Russell said.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said the Commonwealth has used the Regional Forest Agreement as its excuse for doing nothing, as the NSW Government has removed and ignored protections for federally threatened species.

The Commonwealth did nothing when the area required to be protected around records of the nationally endangered Hasting River Mouse was slashed from a maximum of 200ha down to 12ha, despite this being in contravention of the federally adopted Hastings River Mouse Recovery Plan.

The RFA has been the Commonwealth’s excuse for refusing to improve logging prescriptions for the nationally vulnerable Koala, or to do anything when existing requirements are routinely ignored.

The Regional Forest Agreement should not be an acceptable excuse for the Commonwealth to ignore its obligations to protect nationally threatened species”, Mr. Pugh said.

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Some quotes from the report: The report’s findings state that “the site-specific and unforeseen cumulative environmental impacts of logging within areas covered by RFAs are never assessed and managed.” p.13

And “There are serious concerns that the oversight of forestry activities is not effective as there are historic and ongoing breaches of forestry regulations.” p.14

It also suggests major problems with threatened species management, “There is an inherent conflict of interest in State forestry agencies having a significant role in implementing threatened species regulations at a site-specific, on-the ground level, without the requirement for government approval. State forestry agencies, who all have commercial objectives, seek to maximise the resource they are able to exploit and thereby maximise their returns. This objective is in direct tension with environment and threatened species regulations, which limit the amount of forest that can be cleared.” p.17

and “There is considerable evidence in both NSW and Victoria of systemic failures to comply with prescriptions designed to protect threatened species.” p.27

The report quoted a recent judgement of the NSW Land and Environment Court about the Forestry Corporation “Given the number of offences the Forestry Commission has been convicted of and in light of the additional enforcement notices issued against it, I find that the Forestry Commission’s conduct does manifest a reckless attitude towards compliance with its environmental obligations.” p.25

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 .

CONSERVATION GROUPS ASK MINISTERS TO INTERVENE AS NEW EPA FAILS ITS FIRST FORESTRY TEST

Conservation groups have written to the NSW Minister for the Environment and Minister for Primary Industries asking them to take urgent action to stop illegal logging of Rufous Scub-bird habitat in Styx River State Forest, east of Armidale, and instigate an independent inquiry.

The Rufous Scrub-bird is a small secretive understorey bird of highland wet forests in north-east NSW. It is a living fossil with a lineage dating back 97 to 65 million years but is now listed as vulnerable to extinction, with burning and logging recognised as primary threats.

North East Forest Alliance Spokesperson Dailan Pugh said that in 2007 a Forests NSW ecologist saw Rufous Scrub-birds at 7 locations in compartment 502 of Styx River State Forest.

“Forests NSW identified these records as extremely reliable and they were included in NSW’s Wildlife Atlas.

“Forests NSW’s Threatened Species Licence requires that all suitable habitat within 320 metres of such records must be protected from logging and management burns.
“When a local conservationist inspected the area in March he was shocked to find that Forests NSW had burnt the bird’s habitat and were in the process of logging it. When he checked their logging plans he found that all the records of the Rufous Scrub-birds had been deleted” Mr. Pugh said.

North Coast Environment Council President Susie Russell said she had met with the regional forester about the issue. “I was told that when planning the current logging Forests NSW questioned their ecologist about his records and decided that he had erroneously identified a common bird for the Rufous Scrub-bird.

“In an astounding move, apparently without undertaking new surveys, Forests NSW then attempted to delete all records made by their ecologist and proceeded to ignore both the records of the Rufous Scrub-bird and the mapped habitat in their planning process.

“We know that Forests NSW are desperate for timber and it seems they are prepared to go to any length, including breaching their licence conditions, to obtain it” Ms Russell said.

Clarence Environment Centre spokesperson, John Edwards, said that in response to Forests NSW’s claims that no suitable habitat existed in the area, he organised a visit to the area by two experienced ornithologists.

“Contrary to Forests NSW’s claims, both experts agreed that there are extensive areas of ideal habitat for the Rufous Scrub-bird and that it appeared that logging areas would have been good habitat prior to being trashed.

“Conservationists are dismayed that despite it being over a month since blatantly illegal logging of the habitat of a threatened species was reported to the new Environmental Protection Authority they have failed to undertake a proper investigation and refused to stop the logging.

“We have therefore appealed to the responsible Government Ministers to immediately stop the logging while an independent inquiry into this sordid affair is undertaken” Mr. Edwards said.

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