Showing posts with label Berejiklian Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Berejiklian Government. Show all posts

Thursday, 26 November 2020

KOALA FACING EXTINCTION IN NSW: “I live on NSW North Coast, and our whole community is in uproar and distress.”


No trees, no me
IMAGE: Koala at Iluka in Clarence Valley, supplied

The Sydney Morning Herald, opinion piece, 22 November 2020:

Sorry, what, Premier?

Our farmers deserve certainty,” you and your Deputy Premier John Barilaro said in statement after one of your own, Catherine Cusack, crossed the floor on Thursday afternoon to thwart what would have been yet more devastating land-clearing legislation hastening the extinction of koalas.

And what, pray tell, do our koalas deserve, Premier? Who speaks up for them? Premier, as you know better than most, for 240 years since colonisation this continent has wiped out habitat after habitat, eco-system after eco-system, species after species. In recent years – even as the consequences of environmental devastation have been realised – the ongoing land-clearing has been justified on the reckoning that we just need a few more developments, a few more swathes of trees gone, another election or two won, and then we can stop. But we are getting near the end of the line. If it is not our generation that stops the endless clearing to protect the koalas and other species, which generation is it? If it is not a Premier with your smarts and former reputation for integrity that will stand up for what you know is right, then which one? For you know how bad this legislation is! When two-thirds of NSW koalas live on private property, you seriously want to defend legislation that allows owners to wipe them out at will? But you still backed down anyway to John Barilaro who refers to koalas as “tree rats” and put out a press release with him blathering about how the farmers deserve better.

The hero of the piece is Lib Catherine Cusack who crossed the floor to stop the legislation, and she makes the point to me that you and yours do the NSW farmers a serious disservice.

The claim that farmers want this,” she told me, “is overwhelmingly false. They love koalas and do not defend the minority cowboys and corporations. I really believe farmers share community values and wielding them as an excuse defames farmers. I live on NSW North Coast, and our whole community is in uproar and distress. The councils up here asked for greater power to protect habitat and the bill removes them.”

That bill is a disgrace, and you know it, Premier. This time Ms Cusack has stopped it, but it needs more Libs and Nats of integrity to also speak out and say what needs to be said, to support her – or at least kill it off in the back rooms. We are looking at you, Rob Stokes and Matt Kean for starters.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Barilaro, the stealthy empire builder in 2020

When Liberal MP for Willoughby Gladys Berejiklian was sworn in as Premier of New South Wales on 23 January 2017, Nationals MP for Monaro John Barilaro (left) had already been Deputy-Premier under Bruce Baird for 38 days.

On 30 January 2017 Berejiklian made Barilaro Minister for Regional New South Wales. Twenty-six months later Berejiklian expanded this ministerial portfolio into the Minister for Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade.

On the same day Barilaro’s regional portfolio was expanded, Berejiklianestablished the new Department of Regional NSW to better coordinate support for communities, businesses and farmers in the bush.

The new department headquartered in Queanbeyan acts as a central agency that brings together functions from the Department of Planning Industry and Environment cluster and, is being led by Secretary Gary Barnes, formerly the Coordinator General, Regional NSW, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

The departmental workforce is expected to eventually reach around 5,000 employees, according to its Linkedin entry.

John Barilaro said the department will bring together Primary Industries, Local Land Services, Resources and Geoscience and regional coordination across government… is imperative we have a government designed to properly support every corner of this State.

What this means for regional communities is that Barilaro has gathered into his ministerial portfolio the processes for carrying forward increased land clearing, increased native timber logging on private and Crown land, as well as further exploration and mining in regional NSW. 

Water security has also been included in this portfolio - which would cover planning for future water storage and water diversion.

Based on Berejiklian Government promotional material for the Department of Regional NSW it is clear that Barilaro now sits atop a portfolio which holds in its departmental domain an est. 40 per cent of all NSW residents, in around 99 local government areas which produce approximately one-third of the total NSW gross state product.

Barilaro has gathered his own party members as minsters with responsibilities within the department - Nationals MLA for Northern Tablelands and Minister for Agriculture and Western New South Wales Adam Marshall and Nationals MLC and Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor.

There does not seem to be a NSW Liberal Party politician within cooee of the new regional department.

Five months after becoming New South Wales regional czar, John Barilaro began to flex his muscles with threats to destabilise the Berejiklian Government and the political koala war briefly erupted.

One cannot escape the suspicion that Barilaro is not seeking to raise the profiles of those mere 18 National Party members in the 134 member NSW Parliament, but is intent on creating an alternative state government situated in regional New South Wales. 

Reading Mr. Barilaro's personal and political history as played out in the media, it is evident that he is a moderately wealthy former local government councillor & businessman, unashamedly ambitious, erratic, a dogwhistler since the beginning of his political career, willing to resort to threats and name calling, flouts the road rules at will, has long been happiest pulling the house down around the ears of government agencies in the name of  'reform', is willing to put his bootheel on the neck of north-east NSW and, apparently intends to keep pushing Gladys Berejiklian until she breaks.


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

The NSW Native Vegetation Regulatory interactive map was last updated on the 1 November 2020 and shows land on which native vegetation regulations may be weakened or removed by the Berejiklian Government before 26 November 2020


This is the Native Vegetation Regulatory (NVR) Map which was last updated on the 1 November 2020.

This is an interactive map which community researchers can access at:

The mapping covers:

Category 1 – exempt land – native vegetation clearing is allowed without approval from Local Land Services. Category 2 – regulated land – authorisation may be required from Local Land Services for native vegetation clearing. This may include clearing under the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2018. Landholders also have a range of allowable clearing activities available to them for use without approval from Local Land Services. 

Category 2 – vulnerable regulated land is designated as steep or highly erodible lands, protected riparian land or special category land. Use of the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2018 and allowable clearing activities are restricted in these areas. 

Category 2 – sensitive regulated land is designated as environmentally sensitive. Clearing under the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2018 is not permitted in these areas, although there is a limited list of allowable clearing activities available. Excluded land is managed outside the land management framework. Other clearing controls may exist in these areas. 

Category 2 – vulnerable regulated land is displayed on the NVR map as Orange

While Category 2 – sensitive regulated land is displayed  as Pink

In some circumstances, Category 2 – sensitive regulated land and Category 2 – vulnerable regulated land exist on the same land. If these two categories overlap, they are displayed as Brown on the map.

Excluded land is displayed as Grey

Category 2 – vulnerable regulated land can include: 

steep and highly erodible land: land with a slope >18 degrees and/or where soil characteristics, slope and rainfall erosion present a high erosion risk 

protected riparian landland within 20 meters of the bed or bank of a named natural watercourse or waterbody. This land filters runoff into streams and provides habitat for many plant and animal species and, in many cases, are the only remaining natural corridors in the landscape. 

special category land: exists over some areas of NSW considered to be at particular environmental risk and includes land vulnerable to soil erosion, salinity, sedimentation and/or landslip. 

Environmentally sensitive land defined as 'special category land' could include the following: 
  • Aboriginal site protection 
  • coastal dune protection 
  • erosion hazards 
  • flora and fauna protection 
  • geological/geomorphological site protection 
  • habitat protection, 
  • scenic values 
  • mass movement areas, and 
  • saline areas. 

Category 2 sensitive regulated land includes a wide range of land including: 
  • Old growth forest 
  • Rainforest 
  • Critically endangered ecological communities 
  • Critically endangered plants 
  • Core koala habitat 
  • High conservation value grasslands or other groundcover 
  • Areas of outstanding biodiversity value 
  • Ramsar wetlands within the meaning of the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 
  • Land described as Coastal Wetlands in the Coastal Zone referred to in the Coastal Management Act
  • Land described as Littoral Rainforest in the Coastal Zone referred to in the Coastal Management Act 
  • Land is subject to an approved conservation measure that was the basis for other land being biodiversity certified. 
As well as land that is under various official conservation agreements or set aside for other conservation, offset or remedial undertakings.


Sunday, 15 November 2020

NSW Forests War: State of Play November 2020

NSW Greens and a NSW Independent in the state parliament upper house placing the concerns of many ordinary people in regional New South Wales on the record.

Legislative Council Notice Paper No. 67—Thursday 12 November 2020, excerpt:

163. Remapping of old-growth and high-conservation-value public forests: resumption of the adjourned debate (8 August 2019) of the question on the motion of Mr Field:

(1) That this House notes that:

(a) the Government is planning to allow logging in thousands of hectares of old-growth and high-conservation-value public forests on the North Coast that have been off limits for decades,

(b) these forests are rare and important ecosystems which provide irreplaceable habitat for many threatened species, such as koalas, gliders, quolls, frogs and owls,

(c) they have been protected as part of the nationally agreed reserve system for decades and have been granted state significant heritage protection for their historical significance, including to Aboriginal people, aesthetic significance, research potential, rarity and valuable habitat,

(d) this process is being driven by a desire to access more timber, based on a Forestry Corporation calculation that new rules under the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (CIFOA) to protect koala habitat and threatened ecological communities could result in a small timber supply shortfall of up to 8,600 cubic metres per year,

(e) despite advice from the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) that this wood supply shortfall “represent[s] the worst case scenario and may never be realised”, the Premier requested the NRC consider remapping old growth forests and rainforests to meet this shortfall,

(f) a pilot study of 13 areas of state forest found that remapping could open up 78 per cent of protected old growth forest to logging, despite all sites having vitally important habitat,

(g) the Government has committed over $2 million to this remapping process, despite this cost far outweighing the $1.5 million value of buying back the contracts for the maximum claimed timber shortfall,

(h) the funding is being provided by the Government despite the NRC recommending that any remapping and rezoning should be paid for by Forestry Corporation as the beneficiary, and

(i) remapping on private land has already opened up over 29,000 hectares of previously protected old growth forests to logging in recent years.

(2) That this House agrees that remapping old growth forests:

(a) breaks the Government’s commitment to no erosion of environmental values under the new CIFOA,

(b) is based on timber supply impacts that are not verified and probably do not exist, and

(c) is a subsidy to logging which exceeds the value of the extra wood supply.

(3) That this House call on the Government to:

(a) end the remapping and rezoning of old-growth and rainforest on public and private land,

(b) ensure no areas of forest currently protected will be opened up to logging, and

(c) conserve native forests to protect biodiversity, store carbon and provide new tourism and recreational opportunities—Mrs Maclaren-Jones. (15 minutes)

Debate: 1 hour and 45 minutes remaining.


749. Ms Faehrmann to move—

(1) That this House notes that:

(a) the National Party has threatened to blow up the government in the midst of bushfire recovery, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis over the new Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) that aims to strengthen protections for koala habitat,

(b) the new Koala SEPP will have little impact on the majority of farmers across the state as it is only triggered at the point of development consent, and

(c) since the 2011 state election the NSW National Party has had ministerial responsibility for water, agriculture and regional New South Wales which has resulted in:

(i) a dramatic increase in the clearing of native vegetation and threatened species habitat with the winding back of native vegetation laws,

(ii) increased logging of koala habitat after the 2019-2020 bushfire season which saw 24 per cent of koala habitat on public land severely impacted and up to 81 per cent of koala habitat burnt in some parts of the state,

(iii) the gross mismanagement of the Murray Darling Basin including selling out downstream communities on the Lower Darling by over-allocating water to their corporate irrigator donors turning a blind eye to ongoing water theft in the Northern Basin including and pushing the Barwon-Darling River system into hydrological drought three years early,

(iv) incompetent management of regional town water supplies that saw multiple regional centres coming close to day zero, in some cases having to rely on bottled water, over the summer of 2019-2020.

(2) That this House acknowledges that the NSW National Party cannot be trusted to manage our land, water and environment and calls on the Government to strip them of their portfolio responsibilities and end their coalition agreement.

(Notice given 15 September 2020—expires Notice Paper No. 73)



The O’Farrell Coalition Government corporatized state-owned Forests NSW on 1 January 2013 and renamed the organisation Forestry Corporation of NSW. The company is headquartered at West Pennant Hills in metropolitan Sydney, New South Wales.

It is one of the largest forestry companies in Australia today and produces around 14 per cent of the timber harvested in Australia.

This corporation manages est. 2 million hectares of state forests, along with around 200,000 hectares of softwood plantations and 35,000 hectares of eucalypt plantations.

Est. 30,00 hectares of state forest are harvested for timber each year by more than 100 contractors who undertake harvesting and haulage and other aspects of its operations on behalf of the Forestry Corporation.

The combined take from state forests and plantations is around 50 million tonnes of timber annually.

Nominally all individuals and groups in the state are considered potential stakeholders in the Forestry Corporation of NSW. Except that all regional residents get for being stakeholders is an ongoing loss of both wildlife habitat and forest trees in the districts in which the Corporation operates.

The Corporation’s native timber harvesting is focussed on north east NSW and it is looking to forestry plans on private land and logging in currently protected forest areas to supply it with native timber into the future.

In October 2020 the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) commenced five prosecutions against Forestry Corporation of NSW in the Land and Environment Court for allegedly felling trees in protected areas in northern NSW, including trees in core koala habitat in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest.

This is not the first time the Forestry Corporation has been caught allegedly breaching the terms of its licence and I suspect it will not be the last.

Commercial logging is not the only issue of concern. So is land clearing generally.

According to the NSW Valuer-General’s Office, on 1 July 2019 there were 2,603,793 individual property lots in New South Wales.

Of these 238,842 are private properties zoned rural and classified as either non-urban, primary production, rural landscape or rural small holdings.

The NSW North Coast contains 56,095 or 23.4% of all these private rural property lots, the North-West contains 14,143 lots, Northern Tablelands 11,864, Murray 10,353, Hunter 15,950, Hunter Coast 6,357, Central West 20,688, Central Tablelands 18,972, Riverina 17,924, South Coast 18,974, South East Regional 20,164, Sydney Central 3, Sydney Coast South 11, and Sydney Coast North 1,208. 

Currently owners of those private rural properties which are situated near bushland in 10/50 Entitlement Clearing Areas have an almost unfettered right to clear trees within 10 metres of their house and farm sheds, as well as underlying vegetation under trees for a further 50 metres, as a bushfire protection measure.

However, in addition to this proven effective bushfire measure, now the Berejiklian Government is also progressing another amendment introduced to the Legislative Assembly on 10 November 2020 - this time an amendment to the Rural Fires Act 1979 titled Bushfires Legislation Amendment Bill 2020.

This amendment if passed will allow the owners of all 238,842 of these private rural properties in New South Wales to clear trees and vegetation within 25 metres of a property’s boundary with adjoining land and, lays down processes so that these landowners can ensure their immediate neighbours do the same - thus making the land clearance in effect 50 metres wide.

A specific measure that does not appear to be included in recommendations found in the Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry dated 31 July 2020.

A potential 50 metre open space on all four sides of up to 56,095 private rural properties on the NSW North Coast from the Mid-Coast to the Queensland border represents a significant tree cover and habitat loss.

Of course after 232 years of land clearing this degree of native vegetation clearing is no longer required on a great many properties because barely a tree stand survives in some districts.

This is an aerial view of a section of the Moree Plains showing its typical landscape in 2020:

According to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, by mid 2018 bulldozing of bushland nearly tripled around Moree and Collarenebri after safeguards which existed in Native Vegetation Act 2003 were repealed by the NSW Baird Coalition Government, with 5,246 ha of Koala habitat destroyed at a rate of 14 ha per day in 2017-18.

Moree has a history of opposition to any checks on the ability to clear land. In 2014 this sadly led to the killing of an Office of Environment and Heritage compliance officer and the later conviction of a prominent landowner for murder with a sentence of 35 years imprisonment.

The Guardian, 27 March 2020:

Land-clearing approvals in New South Wales have increased nearly 13-fold since the Coalition government relaxed laws in 2016, according to a secret report to the state cabinet by its Natural Resources Commission.

The report, marked “Cabinet in Confidence”, was commissioned by the government in January 2019 under an agreement between the Liberals and Nationals to review land clearing if applications exceeded 20,000ha a year. The commission handed it to the government in July, but released it only after the Independent MP Justin Field threatened legal action…..

The commission found more than 37,000ha were approved to be cleared last financial year, almost 13 times greater than the annual average rate across the decade to 2016-17. Approvals jumped more than 70% after the rules covering land clearing changed at the start of 2019, rising from 25,247ha in the final quarter of 2018 to 43,553ha in the first three months of the new year. 

The commission found the extent of the land clearing and what is described as “thinning for pasture expansion” was putting the state’s biodiversity at risk. The government had promised to protect between two and four times as much land as it cleared, but had failed to do that in the majority of the state. 

It also highlighted the lack of an effective monitoring and compliance regime to ensure laws were enforced. In a six-month stretch between August 2017 and January 2018 there was 7,100ha of unexplained land clearing. It was 60% of the clearing in that time.... 

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW said the report showed the National party was incompetent. Its chief executive, Chris Gambian, said it was a damning assessment of how the government had handled what was supposed to be a signature reform. 

“This report is alarming because land clearing is a key threat pushing most of the state’s threatened species towards extinction,” he said. 

“Koalas and other vulnerable species are being smashed from every direction, by bushfires, drought, logging and land clearing. Land clearing is one of the few threats we can tackle directly, but the National party is preventing this government from doing what is needed.” 

Gambian called on the government to release regulatory maps that were still not available two years after promised.....

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The NSW Nationals Minister for Nepotism, Double Bay and Killing Koalas, Bronnie Taylor, fails to answer a question concerning the deadly impact of exclusion fencing in northern New South Wales


Bronnie Taylor, NSW MLC & Minister in the Berejiklian Government having carriage of the Local Land Services Amendment Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 which will remove the Koala Habit Protection SEPP from the bulk of New South Wales land area.
IMAGE: Internewscast

NSW Legislative Council, 10 November 2020, Hansard excerpt:


The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:16:09): My question is directed to the Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women representing the agriculture Minister. I have been contacted by concerned wildlife

carers and kangaroo shooters who have observed trapped wildlife being killed or becoming very distressed and dying a long lingering death as a consequence of exclusion fencing being installed in 100-kilometre clusters by landholders in northern New South Wales. Is the Minister aware of the harm being caused by Local Land Services encouraging farmers to construct them under the New South Wales Government's Supporting Our Neighbours fencing funding program?

The Hon. BRONNIE TAYLOR (Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women) (16:16:52): I thank the honourable member for his question, which is addressed to agriculture Minister Adam Marshall in the other place and whom I represent in this place. It is always distressing to hear about any animals suffering for whatever reason. Local Land Services do a terrific job in this State and they have had a difficult time in recent years with a drought like we have never seen before. I know they would be doing everything they could to ensure that they were doing their job, helping farmers but also ensuring that animals are not suffering. There are really good people on the ground in Local Land Services, who are working hard to do the right thing. As the question contains quite a bit of detail about fences and particular incidents, I will take it on notice and get back to the member as soon as possible.

An example of exclusion fencing being sold in Australia:

IMAGE: Waratah Fencing


Tuesday, 10 November 2020

"You and your boof-headed party, Mr. Gulaptis, and the appalling anti-environment government which you are part of, will be responsible for the extinction of koalas in our region...."


Chris Gulaptis MP, the NSW Nationals & Koalas

Our local State MP Chris Gulaptis, the Nationals’ Member for Clarence, has claimed that he loves Koalas like every other Australian. The Grafton Nannas believe he has a very strange way of showing this recently-revealed affection.

Since 2011, when the Nationals came into government in NSW, they have been pressuring their Coalition partners to weaken biodiversity protection. This has resulted in significant weakening of both native vegetation legislation and State Forest logging regulations. Both of these changes have had serious impacts on biodiversity - including on koalas.

Koalas have suffered from a range of impacts in recent years including climate induced drought and bushfires as well as dog attack, car strike and disease. But a major cause of their decline has been habitat loss. The NSW Nationals have had a big role in recent years in ensuring that habitat loss is accelerating.

In September we had the unedifying “dummy spit” drama where the Nationals threatened to withdraw from the Government because they objected to the Governments’ Koala SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) which had come into operation in March after being negotiated in late 2019. This SEPP was a slight improvement on the years-old model which had failed completely as a koala protective measure.

Chris Gulaptis was one of the prime movers in this melodrama.

Shortly after Premier Gladys Berejiklian called their bluff, the Nationals, many of whom did not want to lose their ministerial perks, backed down.

There was considerable speculation about why the Nationals had suddenly found the SEPP so intolerable after it they had had input to its development and it had already been on the books for around six months.

It seemed to boil down to lobbying by certain property developers, Nationals’ supporters who were worried they might have difficulty is pursuing their plans for rural subdivisions or residential development on urban outskirts because they would need to put in development applications to councils. This would then trigger the SEPP. So it appeared Nationals politicians like the prime mover Chris Gulaptis believed these interests should outweigh the protection of koalas which are on track to extinction in NSW by 2050 unless really effective measures are put in place to protect them and their habitat.

Following the Nationals’ backdown, there were behind the scenes negotiations between the Coalition partners that led to significant changes to the Koala SEPP. Unsurprisingly the Liberals caved in and the SEPP was watered down. For example the definition of core koala habitat became more restricted and developing a Koala Plan of Management was made more difficult for councils.

That was bad enough, but the extent of the Liberals’ spinelessness became more apparent with the appearance of the Local Land Services (LLS) Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020. It further limits any opportunity to protect koala habitat.

This Bill has since been passed in the Legislative Assembly.

The Grafton Nannas held a knit-in protest outside Chris Gulaptis’ Grafton office on Thursday.

In a letter to Mr Gulaptis which was delivered to the office, we expressed our disgust with him and his party.

Below is the text of this letter:

LLS Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020

When we wrote to you in September about your party’s koala protection dummy spit, we expressed our disgust at your determination to undermine koala protection at a time when it was urgently needed. At that time the Nannas thought it would have been impossible to be more disgusted with you and your party.

The changes to the Koala SEPP that followed the rapprochement of your party with the Liberals showed the Nannas just how weak was the Government commitment to ensuring koalas were protected and rescued from their slide towards extinction.

And then, just to show how unimportant biodiversity protection and the fate of koalas was, the Liberals pandered further to the Nationals with the LLS Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill which has now passed in the Legislative Assembly.

You and your boof-headed party, Mr Gulaptis, and the appalling anti-environment government which you are a part of, will be responsible for the extinction of koalas in our region, if not in all NSW.”


Leonie Blain

Grafton Knitting Nannas Against Gas and Greed

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Rural & regional NSW needs practical support with QR codes to accommodate customers without smart phones and businesses with poor mobile coverage


Office of Labor MP for Lismore, media release, 5 November 2020:

Lismore MP Janelle Saffin has called on the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government to do more to help small businesses establish Quick Response (QR) code check-in systems in country areas where telecommunications remain sketchy.

Ms Saffin said she agreed with the general policy of rolling out QR code check-in systems to support COVID safety plans, particularly in the hospitality industry, ahead of the busy Christmas-New Year holiday season.

However, I am fed up with city-centric policies that do not take account of the reality of life in the country, including the fact that the Federal Government has yet to provide full mobile phone coverage in parts of the Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands,” Ms Saffin said.

Many residents don’t own a smart phone but they still like to get out and socialise with family and friends at their favourite café, restaurant or pub.

These people might require a manual sign-in system and any statewide policy should be flexible enough to make some kind of allowance for this demographic.

The fact that the current policy is not inclusive makes the long-standing digital divide between city and country cousins even worse.”

Ms Saffin said the NSW Government should work with business owners in towns and villages located away from the coast to assist them to comply rather than wave a big stick by threatening them with fines or closure.

I have made representations to NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello on behalf of affected businesses in the Electorate of Lismore,” Ms Saffin said.

Business are trying their best to do the right thing so the Government needs to provide them with clear instructions, and in some cases, more hands-on assistance for those who are less tech-savvy.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Forests and Koalas: why the NSW Nationals are so willing to betray communities in the Northern Rivers region

Before the disastrous 2019-2020 bushfire season the NSW North Coast region comprised 9.7 million hectares of land, with 65 per cent of it forested. Over half (3.4 million hectares) of the region’s forests were in private ownership, spread across thousands of individual holdings, according to NSW Dept. of Primary Industries (DPI).

The north coast had a diverse array of forest types and most of the tree cover was estimated to be between >20 to <30 metres and >30 to <40 metres in height across an est. 20,706 square kilometres.

This is how the Berejiklian Government saw those forests within the Northern Rivers region before the mega bushfires came through:

Extent of forest cover in north-east New South Wales

Extent of harvestable timber on private land and operating timber mills

Again, according to the DPI in March 2019; Properties with native forests that generated ‘very high’ stumpage values (based on their yield association) were mainly located between Coffs Harbour and Casino. Properties with native forests with ‘high’ stumpage values were far more widespread extending in a broad band (50-100 kilometres wide) along the full length of the north coast.

Properties in early 2019 which had a ‘Very High’ suitability for timber production were located between 50km and 100km from the coast between Grafton and the Queensland Border, with ‘High’ suitability properties occupying a broader band that extended from Coffs Harbour to the Queensland border. At its widest point, west of Casino, this band is said to extend 130 kilometres inland.

Joint EPA-Dept. of Industry Forest Science Unit predictive mapping of remaining NSW koala habitat based on sighting records, vegetation, soils and climate

"Modelling koala habitat",  NSW EPA. July 2019

It is easy to see that most of the remaining Northern Rivers koala habitat falls within those areas with operating timber mills and land on which the NSW Forestry Corporation has cast its rapacious eye.

According to the NSW Forestry Corporation around 60 per cent of the net harvest area available for timber production in the Northern Rivers region was impacted by fires during the 2019-2020 bushfire season, but this corporation appears to view a coastal strip around 100kms wide and 216kms long - containing thousands of parcels of private  land - as able post-fires to supply it with commercial timber for years to come.

The forestry industry is actively lobbying government for access to more native timber citing increased employment as one benefit. 

Despite the fact that Australia-wide the forestry industry appears to only employ around 10,700 people in a potential 2020 workforce of est. 13.5 million (ABS September 2020) and, according to industry reports; The Forestry and Logging industry has performed poorly over the past five years. Industry output is projected to decline at an annualised 1.3% over the period, with downstream demand also weakening…..

Furthermore, lower demand from log sawmilling, and declines in residential building construction have contributed to several years of revenue declines. Industry revenue is expected to decline at an annualised 1.4% over the five years through 2020-21, to $4.7 billion.

What this all means is that stressed koala communities already competing with urban expansion, increased traffic, historical and recent habitat loss, are now being threatened by the business strategy of one of the largest forestry corporations in Australia, the financial self-interest of around 32 operating timber mills within the Northern Rivers region, as well as the political self-interest of 12 National Party members who sit in the NSW Legislative Assembly and 6 National Party members sitting in the Legislative Council.

This shared self-interest in encapsulated in the bill passed by the Assembly earlier this month and still to be voted on by the Council, the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020which extinguishes state koala habitat protection policy on most NSW land and seeks to (i) allow the commercial logging of native trees to continue unimpeded on private land by circumventing a government review of the private forestry system and (ii) to allow future clearing of native timber on farmland without the need for authorisation under other state legislationincluding the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. 

If any North Coast Voices readers have concerns about the fate of forests and koalas on the NSW North Coast I suggest that they phone or email members of the NSW Legislative Council before Tuesday, 10 November 2020, using the link below which takes you straight to the parliamentary web page which lists the contact details for all 42 members: