Article written by Kyogle Environment Group
Amidst a climate crisis and the looming threat of species extinction, logging native forests faces growing public opposition. Safeguarding these forests from industrial logging has become paramount, especially with the anticipated decline in log supply from public lands and the increasing prevalence of private forestry operations, as evidenced by the constant presence of heavy haulage log trucks on our roads.
Under the Private Native Forestry (PNF) framework, landowners must submit a PNF Plan for approval by Local Land Services (LLS). These plans have a 15-year lifespan. In the 2021-2022 period, 13 Forestry Management Plans were approved alongside PNF Plans. The year 2022-2023 saw a substantial surge in private forestry, with 311 plans approved state-wide, of which 253 are located in the Northern NSW. This translated to a remarkable expansion from 1,947 hectares in 2021-2022 to a staggering 2000% increase in 2022-2023 to 44,383 hectares.
The Northern NSW private forestry activities dwarf those in any other region of the state by a significant margin, underscoring the magnitude of the issue. (For more details, visit www.lls.nsw.gov.au/help-and-advice/private-native-forestry/reporting)
A disconcerting incident in September raised community concerns regarding the management of PNF operations and the public’s right to access details of approved plans, particularly concerning ecologically sensitive areas, threatened species, forest landscapes, ecosystems, and water catchments. Over a two-week period, residents observed 30 logging trucks transporting hardwood from a property west of Kyogle.
In June 2022 logging was exposed just a short walk from the entrance to the Border Ranges World Heritage Listed National Park.
The cumulative impact of these private forestry operations on koala habitat and biodiversity management is substantial. Unfortunately, the Local Land Service’s Public Register remains shrouded in secrecy, and does not permit public access to information about the location and scale of PNF operations in their neighborhoods.
Transparency is notably lacking in an industry that should adhere to principles of accountability and public participation, as outlined in the Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management (ESFM) mandate within the Private Native Forestry Code of Practice.
While we frequently witness penalties imposed on Forestry Corp for harming koala habitats in public forests, questions arise about the effectiveness of monitoring and compliance on private lands. Logging, an inherently impactful activity, contrasts with numerous smaller-scale projects that necessitate public exposure of proposals, enabling neighbours and the broader community to voice concerns, objections, and critiques. Shockingly, there isn’t even a requirement in the PNF Code to conduct koala assessments before logging.
To rectify this situation, enhanced availability of public information regarding PNF activities is imperative. This would foster community awareness and understanding of these operations and, importantly, demonstrate that PNF activities undergo the same level of evaluation and public scrutiny as other developments on private lands.
Recognising the urgency of the situation, Kyogle Council took a significant step in September by passing a motion to urge the Local Government NSW (LGNSW) to advocate for increased funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Local Land Services (LLS). This move was driven by concerns that neither LLS nor EPA possesses sufficient resources to proactively enforce compliance within the realm of Private Native Forestry, often reacting only after environmental damage has already occurred.
Our forested landscape in the Northern Rivers region is a precious resource that demands protection not exploitation.
This article first appeared in the October edition of the Nimbin Good Times and is reproduced here in full with permission.