Showing posts with label environmental vandalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environmental vandalism. Show all posts

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Calls to halt new logging in bushfire impacted areas in New South Wales are not going away


Matters are not going exactly to plan for NSW Deputy-Premier, Minister for Regional New South Wales and Nationals MP for Monaro, John 'Barracuda' Barilaro.

With only another four weeks to the end of 2020 his timetable for legislative and regulatory changes, allowing farmers and developers to commence virtually unregulated clearing of native trees and vegetation before state parliament and local government return from the two-month holiday break, is now seriously behind schedule.

Neither mainstream nor social media has let go of the idea that it is environmentally destructive to be logging already bushfire-impacted forests and clearing what remains of koala food and shelter trees in the face of a looming extinction crisis and increasing climate change.

And when it comes to the Premier, despite his best efforts Barilaro hasn't managed to weaken her enough to cause a parliamentary leadership challenge in the NSW Liberal Party.

He is not yet the kingmaker he so obviously wants to be, even though he is casting less than subtle hints across the paths of journalists that Gladys Berejiklian is off her game, tired, making mistakes and that "A break would do her good" .

These are two examples of regional and national media articles published last Friday.....

Echo NetDaily, 27 November 2020:

More than 60 per cent of North Coast forests and 80 per cent of South Coast forests were burnt in the 2019–20 black summer fires. Since that point issues around the management and logging of these and other forests have been highlighted and ‘the Guardian has revealed that the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will likely be engaged to conduct a review to “consider the standards that should be in place for forestry operations after bushfires.”,’ said Independent NSW MLC Justin Field.

Mr Field has called on the NSW government to give an undertaking to NSW coastal communities that new approvals for logging in the state’s badly burnt public state forests will not be approved until a review by the state’s Independent NRC is completed.

It’s one year to the week since the devastating Currowan fire took hold on the South Coast. The community always understood business as usual wasn’t possible after the fires but the politics has been slow to move and a lot of damage has been done,’ said Mr Field.

This review is a political fix to try to find a circuit breaker in what has been an escalating public conflict between John Barilaro’s department and the NSW EPA. The NRC are effectively being asked to be the arbiter in this disagreement.

Logging breaches

In part this review is in response to numerous EPA stop-work orders and investigations into breaches by Forestry Corporation under the burnt forest logging rules.

I am seeking an undertaking from the Government that new approvals for logging in bushfire affected forests will not be granted until we’ve seen the outcome of the review,’ Mr Field said.

The review comes after a public dispute between Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s Department of Regional NSW and the NSW Environment Protection Authority over the ‘site specific operating conditions’ the EPA had put in place to minimise environmental damage of burnt forest logging,’ says Mr Field.

The dispute had led to the EPA warning Forestry Corporation that plans to move back to logging under pre-fire conditions would likely breach the NSW Forestry Act which requires ecologically sustainable forest management practices. ‘

Local Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith told Echonetdaily that, ‘The Greens oppose logging in native forests on a good day, let alone after catastrophic bushfires and the subsequent destruction of wildlife and biodiversity on an unprecedented scale in NSW last summer.

I and thousands of environmentalists begged the government to send in ecologists after the fires last summer not loggers, but they did any way.

The idea that with 1.7 degrees of global warming already locked in that logging of native forests is even on the table is the kind of environmental vandalism that future generations will study as pivotal to sealing a fate of extinction for koalas and platypus and countless other species,’ said Ms Smith…...

The Guardian, 27 November 2020: 

NSW’s EPA has issued stop-work orders to the state-owned Forestry Corporation for breaches 
of its licence in bushfire-hit forests on the north and south coasts. 
Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

The New South Wales government is planning a review of forestry operations in bushfire-hit coastal regions as tensions mount between the environment regulator and Forestry Corporation. 

The review, which is still to be formally commissioned, will probably be carried out by the state’s Natural Resources Commission (NRC), government sources have told Guardian Australia. 

The state’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued the state-owned Forestry Corporation with a series of stop-work orders this year for breaches of its licence in bushfire-hit forests on the south and north coasts. 

Last month, the EPA started five prosecutions against Forestry Corporation in the land and environment court for alleged breaches of its licence in a forest near Coffs Harbour. 

Because of the destruction caused by the bushfires, the EPA had set stricter standards for logging operations covered by the coastal integrated forestry operations approval (IFOA). 

The EPA’s application of the post-bushfire rules has frustrated the industry and the Department of Regional NSW wrote to the agency in September to say forestry believed environmental protections set out in its approval remained adequate after the fires. 

But MPs and residents of coastal NSW have been dismayed at the logging of fire-affected habitat given the scale of disaster and its effect on threatened plants and animals, including koalas. 

The planned review will consider the standards that should be in place for forestry operations after bushfires and try to chart a path back to the use of the coastal IFOA. 

The NRC provides independent advice to government and was the agency that delivered the report on the Barwon-Darling water-sharing plan, which found the riverine system was in crisis. 

The independent MP, Justin Field, who is based on the south coast, asked the forestry minister, John Barilaro, about the “now-public dispute” between the EPA and regional NSW and what the government was doing to ensure forestry operations were ecologically sustainable. 

Field told Guardian Australia the NRC “will effectively be the arbiter in the disagreement between Forestry Corporation and the EPA over what logging could sustainably happen in burnt forest”. 

“This is in response to numerous EPA stop-work orders and investigations into breaches under the burnt forest logging rules,” he said. 

“I welcome this review. The public has recommended that business as usual after the fires is not possible.” 

He said an independent assessment of the impact of logging on burnt forest and wood supply was appropriate. 

“I hope this leads to a conversation about a transition away from public native forestry to plantations and private land forestry.” A spokesman for Barilaro would not confirm a formal review......

Friday, 20 November 2020

The loggers are already planning their new advance on North-East New South Wales

Echo NetDaily, 16 November 2020:

Bungabbee Forest near Bentley under threat from logging. Photo supplied.

Bungabbee Forest sits midway between Lismore, Casino and Kyogle – right near Bentley. Bungabbee is a little known environmental gem of the Northern Rivers.

Bungabbee is home to many threatened species. It forms part of the Mackellar Wildlife Corridor, connecting to the World Heritage Border Ranges. It is an area of outstanding biodiversity value in an extensively cleared landscape.

If this place is so wonderful, why is the  NSW Forestry Corporation are planning to conduct logging here in April 2021?

Twenty-seven threatened species

Twenty-seven threatened species have been previously recorded from this vicinity, including Koalas, Glossy Black Cockatoos, Powerful Owls, Yellow Bellied Gliders, Squirrel Gliders, Greater Gliders. Parma Wallabies and Red-legged Pademelons. As well as the critically endangered Scrub Turpentine, and three endangered flora species: Rainforest Cassia, Tinospora Vine, and Native Jute.

The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) recently organised a weekend survey by botanists and zoologists that additionally revealed the previously unknown presence of two vulnerable animals – Long-nosed Potoroo and Marbled Frogmouth – and the Critically Endangered Native Guava, along with localities of 175 threatened plants.

NEFA Spokesperson Dailan Pugh said finding a large unknown outlying population of the regionally endemic Marbled Frogmouth is exciting. ‘This is one of only a handful of species that the Forestry Corporation is still required to protect additional habitat for, though in this case there is no requirement to look before they log.

‘Luckily we did.’

Scrub Turpentine and Native Guava unlikely to regenerate

Mr Pugh said that it was particularly disturbing to find significant populations of the Critically Endangered Scrub Turpentine and Native Guava. ‘The very survival of these species is threatened by the introduced fungus Myrtle Rust, they are unlikely to regenerate and now the Forestry Corporation are intending to bulldoze over the survivors.

‘Our results clearly demonstrate the need for pre-logging surveys to identify the presence and locations of threatened species so they can be appropriately protected”

‘More surveys are required to identify other threatened species and their localities.’ 

Mr Pugh said that Bungabbee is of significant recreational value and is utilised by bush walkers, horse riders and mountain bike riders. ‘The proposed rail trail passes within a few kilometres of Bungabee, which would provide a cluster of trails perfect for those seeking more challenging cycling experiences,’ he said.

Renata Phelps has been working with a team of locals to share information and organise future actions. ‘The local community is strongly opposed to the logging and are taking a pro-active stance lobbying against the proposed actions,’ she said.

Residents feel a residual sense of affinity to Bentley

‘Bentley is an area that many Northern Rivers residents feel a residual sense of affinity to, after our iconic community win against CSG drilling in 2014.

‘With an increased emphasis on local tourism post COVID, Bungabbee is far more valuable as a forest, accessible to the public, than as wood chip. We should focus on enhancing the environmental, recreational and tourism potential of this area, not destroy it.

‘Recent bushfires, drought, and land clearing have greatly impacted our region. Now, more than ever before, it is essential we preserved key wildlife habitats such as Bungabbee,’ said Ms Phelps.

A Petition against the logging can be signed online at 

or in person at the Lismore Environment Centre, Goolmangar and Cawongla Stores, Rock Valley Post Office, Night Owl in Lismore and other locations.

Fore more information you can contact Dailan Pugh on 0400 711 054 or Renata Phelps 6629 3226.

Interested persons are also encouraged to join the Facebook Group, “Bungabbee Forest Friends”  or subscribe to the email list at

NEFA’s Preliminary Assessment on Bungabbee can be read online at

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.....

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Tweets of the Week




Friday, 13 November 2020

NSW Nationals Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous Bill 2020 pulled in NSW Legislative Council after what appears to have been a Liberal revolt


Local government and community reaction to this bill has seen it removed from the list of Current Government Bills before the Legislative Council on Thursday, 12 November 2020.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party lodged amendments yesterday morning which did nothing except confirm the worst features of this bill.

The war to protect both koalas and forests continues.......

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

Concerns Raised By The Intent And Wording Of Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020

Draft copy of a letter sent as an email by two Clarence Valley residents to 24 members of the Legislative Assembly, so that none of these honourable members can plead ignorance in the future if they pass this piece of environmental vandalism into law.

The letter was not sent to Liberal and Nationals members of the Upper House given it concerns a government bill originally presented to NSW Legislative Assembly by their confederates there and, therefore were thought not inclined to lend an ear to residents from affected regional areas. 

Members of the Legislative Council

Parliament of New South Wales

Macquarie Street

Sydney NSW 2000

8 November 2020


Mark Banasiak MLC, Robert Borsak MLC, Abigail Boyd MLC,

Mark Buttigieg MLC, Anthony D’Adam MLC Greg Donnelly MLC,

Cate Faehrmann MLC, Justin Field MLC, John Graham MLC,

Courtney Houssos MLC, Emma Hurst MLC, Rose Jackson MLC,

Mark Latham MLC, Daniel Mookhey MLC, Tara Moriarty MLC,

Fred Nile MLC, Mark Pearson MLC, Peter Primrose MLC,

Rod Roberts MLC, Adam Searle MLC, Walt Secord MLC,

Penny Sharpe MLC, David Shoebridge MLC, Mick Veitch MLC.

Dear Members,

Re: Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020

SUMMARY: Passing bad law does not produce good outcomes. It is not in the public interest to extinguish state protection of the Koala from the bulk of public and private land in New South Wales. Neither is it advisable to extinguish on those same lands the protections afforded to persons and native wildlife by other existing state legislation.

On or about 10 September 2020 the media reported that the NSW Parliamentary National Party was strongly opposed to that version of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 in force on 3 September 2020.

However, within a matter of weeks an agreement had been reached with the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party that this state environmental planning policy would be amended to ensure that the policy did not impinge on the rights of farmers “to farm without encumbrance from new koala planning laws”.

This was how changes to NSW koala habitat protection policy was consistently put to the state electorate by government spokespersons at the time.

Indeed, State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 was amended on 16 October 2020.

The amended State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP):

  • Retains its new commencement date of 1 March 2020;

  • Doesn’t apply to - (b) land dedicated under the Forestry Act 2012 as State forest or a flora reserve. An exemption also contained in the previous 3 September 2020 version of this SEPP;

  • Only applies to 83 named local government areas out of a total of 128 local government areas and to - (a) in the koala management area specified in Schedule 1 opposite the local government area, or (b) if more than 1 koala management area is specified, in each of those koala management areas. Clauses also included in the previous version of this SEPP;

  • Only applies to land classified as core koala habitat which is over 1 hectare in size. This applied to land in the previous version of the SEPP as well;

  • Doesn’t apply to any land on which a development application has already been lodged, as was the case under the previous version of this SEPP;

  • Tightens the definition of core koala habitat so that a higher level of proof is required at this clause - “(a) an area of land which has been assessed by a suitably qualified and experienced person in accordance with the Guideline as being highly suitable koala habitat and where koalas are recorded as being present at the time of assessment of the land as highly suitable koala habitat”;

  • Made more land exempt from its provisions - “(c) land on which biodiversity certification has been conferred, and is in force, under Part 8 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016”;

  • Allows larger buildings or buildings on a different part of a post-bushfire residential lot by repealing - “(b) the replacement dwelling house is within the existing building footprint”.

The NSW Government decided to introduce a separate Bill which sought to go further than the amended SEPP and which the government members of state parliament misrepresented at the time as only removing that SEPP from farmland

This bill, Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020, seeks:

(I) to remove all local government areas from the protection of State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 with the exception of core koala habita in just 5 of the original 28 local government areas covered by the current version of the SEPP. These are Ballina, Coffs Harbour City, Kempsey, Lismore and Port Stephens;

(ii) to extinguish State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 on all public and private land in the state, with the exception of land within the NSW National Parks estate, declared wilderness areas, dedicated flora reserves, declared heritage land, land declared to have outstanding biodiversity, declared World Heritage properties and, certain dedicated or reserved lots of Crown Land;

(iii) to establish as law clauses in the bill which allow the commercial logging of native trees to continue unimpeded on private land and which extend the life of private forestry agreements to 30 years duration, thereby effectively circumventing a planned government review of the private forestry system;

(iv) such logging on private land to be constrained only by a private forestry plan whose conditions may be altered over time. The NSW Government has decided not to renew the NSW Forest Agreements for the Upper North East, Lower North East and Eden regions lapsed on 4 March 2019.;

(v) to define as “allowable activity land” suitable for native timber clearing as landholding which:

(a) is in an area of the State to which Part 5A applies, and

(b) is or was wholly or partly in a rural land use zone and the whole or part of which has been

rezoned as Zone E2, Zone E3 or Zone E4, and

(c) is used for primary production”.

(vi) to permit clearing of native vegetation for allowable activities specified in Schedule 5A even if there is no approval or other authority for the clearing required by or under another Act or if it is in contravention of a provision of another Act, including the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016;

(vii) to allow rural land zoned E2 (Environmental Conservation), E3 (Environmental Management) or E4 (Environmental Living) under an environmental planning instrument to be cleared of native timber, even if all or any sections of such land was previously protected under provisions in Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 or the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, provided the land owner/lessee asserts the land will be used for primary purposes; and

(viii) to allow clearing of native vegetation on land to which State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 would normally apply if under this bill such landholding is now classified as “allowable activity land”.

Concerns Raised By The The Intent And Wording Of Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020

The major concerns can be found in the NSW Parliament’s Legislation Review Committee report of 20 October 2020, which in itself appears to imperfectly understand the impact of logging of native timber on private land:

The Bill seeks to remove several requirements for land owners to obtain development consent under Parts 4 and 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the EPA Act).

In doing so, the Committee notes that the Bill would remove local councils' ability to assess development applications, engage with relevant neighbour and community stakeholders, and make recommendations regarding the proposed development changes. It may thereby impact on the rights of these stakeholders to participate in such processes and be consulted about issues that may affect them.

[My yellow highlighting]

However, the Committee acknowledges that these changes are to streamline the approval process of private and native forestry clearing for landholders, who are also required to obtain separate approval from Local Land Services. In the second reading speech, the Minister also noted that private native forestry is a low-impact activity occurring rarely on agricultural land and is not a permanent land use change. Under these circumstances, the Committee makes no further comment.”

It is a significant concern that the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 will deprive local councils, ratepayers and residents of the ability to sustainably manage land development in rural and regional New South Wales.

It is noted that the Legislative Review Committee is reporting on the clearing of native timber aspect of the bill without commenting on the extinguishing of State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 on agricultural land and other land on which private forestry agreements exist or are sought.

It is also noted that although the Legislative Review Committee report states that approval for land clearing is required from Local Land Services it is not clear that the Review Committee took into consideration the number of exemptions from its provisions are provided to landholders under the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020.

This raises another very significant concern because clearing of such land when it exists within 100 -150 kilometres inland from the NSW coastline will in all probability represent a permanent change in land use.

Land in this area contains the entire estimated range of koala habitat land.

It also contains the bulk of land identified by Forestry NSW as suitable for logging under future private forestry agreements and all the exisiting timber mills in the state.

The land indentified as good logging land on the North Coast stretches for est. 286 kms from Coffs Harbour to the NSW-Qld border and up to 100-135 kms inland.

Extent of harvestable timber on private land and operating timber mills prior to June 2019

It is of some concern in a region where sudden torrential rainfall can occur to note that this map indicates that much of the harvestable timber is on higher sloping land. Given this timber is also spread across thousands of individual holdings this concern is amplified by the ability of Land Services or the Environmental Protection Agency to adequately police the level of land clearing and/or logging the Bill before the Legislative Council appears to allow.

Prior to the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020, the NSW 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, according to the NSW Dept. of Primary Industries (DPI).

Extent of forest cover in north-east New South Wales prior to 2019-2020 bushfires

Of the estimated 6.30 million hectares of North Coast forest which was thought to be standing in 2018-19 this is how much was impacted by fire:

Basemap from ArcGIS Online GEEBAM v3.0 (03/02/2020) © State Government of NSW and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment 2020

At least half the forest canopy overall was partially or fully affected in these fire grounds according a NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment report.

Mapping of bushfire affected forests and properties prior to these bushfires which had a ‘High’ to ‘Very High’ suitability for timber production are located within the same est. 286 kms long by 100-135kms wide area of north east New South Wales.

It is of great concern that both the depleted forest landscape and what might remains of harvestable timber both occupy the same land area clearly identified as koala habitat.

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

Koala Habitat

Koala habitat exists across much of North East New South Wales. It is of varying quality and quantity.

Core koala habitat is not consolidated. Pockets of core koala habitat are frequently scattered amongst non-core habitat.

Koalas travel between these core areas – often using non-core habitat as travel routes which supply shelter and feeding opportunities.

In North East New South Wales non-core habitat is also used by koala on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.

Local communities in the Clarence Valley, which is being removed form the protection afforded by the current Koala Habitat Protection SEPP by the proposed Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020, is a case in point.

Take Iluka on the banks of the Clarence River. It is fringed by and includes within the village area undeveloped open forest in a mix of Crown and private land.

Here are some of koala sighted there in the last 10 years:

Photograph supplied by Iluka resident Gabrielle Barto

Photograph of a koala in search of a tree at Iluka supplied

Another Lower Clarence area where koalas are easily found is the village of Lawrence and here are koalas snapped in 2019:

Photograph of Lawrence koala supplied

Photograph of koala mid-canopy & circled in black supplied

Elsewhere in the Lower Clarence in 2017:

We respectfully ask the twenty-four members of the Legislative Council listed at the top of this letter to consider the provisions of Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 in light of:

  • the shrinking boundaries of the forested landscape in North East New South Wales from Coffs Harbour to the NSW-Qld border;

  • the potential loss of local government control of significant aspects of development of forested land and the rolling impacts that may have on koala habitat and koalas numbers; and

  • the potential for local extinction of koala in the Clarence Valley because land in this local government area was deliberately removed from the protection afforded by the current Koala Habitat Protection SEPP under provisions in Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020.

In anticipation and appreciation of your assistance with this matter.

Yours sincerely,

[two signatures redacted]