Greens MP Dawn Walker visits Bellingen to call for an end to Native Forest logging.
Greens MP Dawn Walker visits Bellingen to call for an end to Native Forest logging. Contributed

Hated new plan for native logging could spark 'forest wars'

A NORTH COAST Greens MP has warned the State Government's controversial new plan for native forests on the north coast threatens to unleash protests unseen for three decades.

The NSW Government's new draft Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) has been uniformly slammed by conservation groups as unacceptable.

The new plan has designated 18,000ha of State Forest to become reserves, a move the North Coast Environment Council has labelled "a trick".

"What hasn't been announced are which areas of protected forest will be made available for logging, what new logging rules, and how much money from the Environment funds will be thrown at the logging companies to sweeten the deal," said NCEC Vice-President Susie Russell.

The NCEC has cited the track record of the government created 11,000 ha of reserves near Bega on the South Coast in 2016, it lead to more intensive logging in other parts of the region and "$2.5 million handouts to the logging industry".

NSW Greens MLC Dawn Walker said the Coalition's agenda was to let "chainsaws rip into some of the best forests left in NSW", killing precious native wildlife in the process.

"Their plan to intensify logging on the NSW North Coast by introducing clear-felling methods to forests between Grafton and Taree would be a bonanza for chainsaws and decimate vital habitat for koalas and greater gliders," Ms Walker said.

"These changes to rules overseeing NSW forestry operations will directly result in the deaths of many of NSW's most threatened animal species, including parrots, frogs, possums, wombats, quolls and koalas.

"They will result in more wombats buried alive in their burrows and koalas cut out of their feed trees.

"They threaten to reignite the 'forest wars' of past decades and create unnecessary conflict.

The North East Forest Alliance's Dailan Pugh has said the plan would open up protected areas because the logging industry had almost stripped the public forests allocated to them 20 years ago.

"Continuing to prop up this rapacious industry for a bit longer is coming at increasing environmental costs as species are driven to extinction, logging spreads dieback through our forests, and stream flows and water quality decline," Mr Pugh said.

Mr Pugh labelled a review process proposed by the government was "discredited" and intended to make "large areas of these protected oldgrowth forests available for logging" in order to meet a shortfall in north coast wood supply agreements of 10,000 cubic metres per year.

"The community fought hard in the 1990s to protect old growth forests," Mr Pugh said.

"These were mapped under the supervision of all agencies and key stakeholders in an open and transparent process involving an Old Growth Expert Panel in 1998 and made part of the Comprehensive Adequate and Representative reserve system in 2000.

"It is outrageous that the intent is to remove current requirements to look for and protect occupied habitat of the most threatened species ahead of logging, while opening up habitat protected over the past 20 years for logging."

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said old-growth forests had exceptional value for conservation.

"Removing old-growth classification through the remapping project could make thousands of hectares of previously protected high-quality wildlife habitat available to the timber industry," Ms Smolski said.

"This is a major attack on our native forests and the conservation movement will vigorously oppose these changes at every opportunity."

According to the NSW Government, the IFOA is updating the rules for native timber harvesting in NSW coastal state forests.

The official objectives of the IFOA remake are to reduce costs, "improve clarity and enforceability" of environmental protection , and "deliver a contemporary regulatory framework that is fit for purpose."

"The objectives of the IFOA remake will be met with no erosion of environmental values and no net change to wood supply," the government claims.