Logging in koala habitats must stop, conservationists say
CONSERVATIONISTS are calling for a moratorium on the logging of any potential koala habitat areas following years of "indiscriminate" logging by the Forestry Corporation of NSW.
The push has been prompted by a parliamentary inquiry into logging in Royal Camp State Forest south of Casino which revealed "serious deficiencies" in industry regulation.
The NSW Nature Conservation Council yesterday joined calls by the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) and the NSW National Parks Association to impose the blanket moratorium.
"The government's own reports have finally caught up with what we've been saying for years," said Ashley Love, president of the Coffs Harbour branch of the National Parks Association.
NEFA's Dailan Pugh said the Forestry Corporation was caught red-handed after wrongly claiming it had found no evidence of high-use koala habitat in Royal Camp and proceeded to log it several times.
"You don't look, you don't find, you don't protect," Mr Pugh said.
Currently the maximum fine for such a breach is $300, but the parliamentary inquiry recommended the fine be increased to $15,000. NEFA said that was not enough.
"We think Royal Camp proves the point that they can't be trusted," Mr Pugh said. "It's been a problem for 15 years... they are unrepentant.
"We can't go on into some time in the future where they maybe or maybe not increase the fines, they maybe or maybe not map the core habitat."
If not koala numbers would continue their decline, he said.
"We need to concentrate on public land. That's where their long-term surivival is best guaranteed," Mr Pugh said. "It might not be enough to maintain the viability of the whole population, but if we can get some of those core areas protected now, we can give the koalas a chance."
NSW Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said the east coast koala population had fallen by more than 40 per cent between 1990 and 2010.
"Even a species as iconic and beloved as the koala is at great risk of extinction in parts of the State, including on the North Coast, if urgent action is not taken to reduce threats to its survival."