The State Governemnt has said there is a shortfall in high-quality timber available in north-east NSW.
The State Governemnt has said there is a shortfall in high-quality timber available in north-east NSW. John Gass /TWE110112mill

Govt accused of 'fraudulent' north-east timber supply claims

UPDATE: THE Natural Resources Commission has hit back at claims from an environmental group its work was fraudulent.

The Commission has rejected claims it's advice to the State Government on logging in north-east NSW State forests is 'based on a lie', after the North East Forest Alliance accused it of fraudulently claiming a shortfall in high-quality timber available in the forests.

The Commission said its analysis did not include hardwood plantations because it was 'beyond the scope' of the proposed regulation changes.

Executive Director Bryce Wilde said the Commission found the changes reflected 'best practice' and would 'build on existing environmental protections'.

Mr Wilde rejected claims up to 58,600 ha of old growth forest would be available for remapping as logging zone in northern NSW.

"The Commission recommended a targeted, risk-based approach to remapping of less than 1 per cent of what is currently mapped as old growth in northern NSW."

He further added the NSW Government has 'ruled out' opening up rainforest for logging.

"It is important to note any suggested shortfall in wood supply will need to be verified before any area can be rezoned," he said.

Community consultation on the reassessment of old growth forests in north-east NSW will take place over the next 12 months.

3PM: THE NSW Government has been accused of 'fraudulently' claiming there's a shortfall in high-quality timber available in State Forests in north-east NSW, a new report claims.

Environmental group, North East Forest Alliance has claimed the NSW Government has 'concocted' the shortfall of timber in order to justify new law reforms.

These reforms have seen some environmental protections wound-back and could see the opening up oldgrowth forests, and previously protected rainforests, to logging.

NEFA said it has identified 'serious problems' with the State Government's yield estimations and allocations from the region over the past 20 years, that it will refer to the Auditor General.

"The most significant issue revealed is that the Government has removed hardwood plantations from yield calculations to concoct a yield shortfall to justify removing environmental protections, while apparently intending to reallocate plantation timber to low value products for export" report author Dailan Pugh said.

"According to the Government's data there is absolutely no need to log oldgrowth forests, or to remove other existing environmental protections to satisfy current timber commitments.

"The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) turned an identified surplus of 37,000 cubic metres per annum of high quality sawlogs from State Forests in north-east NSW over the next hundred years into a claimed deficit of 8,600 cubic metres per annum by simply excluding hardwood plantations from their calculations."

Mr Pugh said hardwood plantations already provide around 30,000, or 14 per cent, of high quality hardwood log commitments per annum, with yields projected to increase up to 75,000 cubic meters of logs per annum.

"NSW Taxpayers have spent $27 million since 2000 establishing hardwood plantations explicitly to provide high quality logs to take the pressure off native forests.

"It is outrageous that the Government has excluded plantations to concoct a shortfall in timber from State Forests in order to justify increasing logging intensity.

"The Government recently issued an Expression of Interest for 416,851 tonnes per annum of low quality logs from north-east NSW, of which 219,000 tonnes (53 per cent) is apparently to be obtained by downgrading all timber from the 35,000 ha of north-east NSW's hardwood plantations to low quality logs and committing them in new Wood Supply Agreements aimed at the export market."

A spokesperson from Forestry Corporation NSW, however, refuted the claims regarding its EOI.

"Forestry Corporation ran an EOI for was 416,000 tonnes of low quality wood that is either uncommitted or committed under an agreement that is about to expire. Low quality logs are those that are unsuitable for use as high quality logs, which are used for products such as flooring, decorative timbers and utility poles, due to log defects, size or other issues with the wood properties," the spokesperson said.

"However, these logs can be used for a variety of other important purposes such as sawing fencing and pallets, composite wood panels, paper and packaging.    

"In no way does this EOI relate to the High Quality Wood supply being considered by the government. Further, the assertion that the EOI relies on downgrading our hardwood plantation logs is completely incorrect.

"The Plantation logs that are part of this EOI volume are predominately from thinning operations - where we remove some trees from the plantation to help the remaining trees grow into taller, larger trees at maturity which can be sold as high quality sawlogs. So selling this material will actually allow us to increase the yield of high quality logs from plantations."

NEFA has called on the NSW Government to reinstate the 'intended role' of plantations in providing high quality sawlogs to take the pressure off native forests, and to use the timber surplus to reinstate environmental protections.