Unnatural devastation

Upsalls Creek Rd, Lorne
Upsalls Creek Rd, Lorne

ONCE upon a time the road to Swans Crossing in the Camden Haven hinterland was a leafy drive through lush forest.

It’s now a picture of destruction and according to local environmental scientist Frances Pike.

“Australian tax payers are funding the permanent destruction of NSW wildlife and carbon sink to subsidise the profits of a multinational. It needs to stop now,” Ms Pike said.

Concern is growing on the Mid North Coast that Forests NSW’s 20 year agreement with Boral could lead to the end of biodiversity in local state forests and destroy the saw log industry for the next 50 to 100 years.

The Auditor General’s Report in 2009 into sustainable native forest operations found evidence to suggest Forests NSW is having difficulty meeting supply obligations and as a result native forests are being cut down faster than they can grow back. Forests NSW are obliged, under its own Regional Forest Agreement to maintain the historic biodiversity of state forests. As a public trading enterprise within the Department of Primary Industries they also need to be profitable. The NSW government, in 2003, reviewed a 20-year timber supply agreement for the North Coast. The government waived its right to reduce the timber supply commitments and is financially liable if unable to provide the required timber.

Ms Pike said the shift to industrialised harvesting is not sustainable and will mean the loss of native flora and fauna for good.

She said the former practice of selective logging is not occurring, instead virtual clear felling is taking place with machinery capable of clearing up to 25 hectares per week.

“What we are witnessing on the ground is the almost complete destruction of non-merchantable species with only Blackbutt seed trees being retained,” Ms Pike said.

“Soon we will be left with pseudo-plantations of Blackbutt the preferred species for wood chip and some other more industrialised uses.”

Ms Pike said local loggers and conservationists agree that if Forests NSW does not stop this logging now it will be the end of the timber saw log industry.

Former employee of Forests NSW for 28 years, Pat Murphy felt that he could no longer work for the organisation once practices began to change several years ago.

“In the past few years harvesting practices have completely changed. What is happening now can only be described as rape and pillage from Bulahdelah to Coffs Harbour ,” Mr Murphy said.

According to a new report prepared by the Environmental Defenders Office of NSW, 70 per cent of Australia’s native forests are degraded due to unsustainable logging practices.

Justin Williams from Forestry NSW in Wauchope said that harvesting practices on the Mid North Coast are sustainable.

“All the natural regeneration processes of a forest that maintain biodiversity in the long term are supported by Forests NSW harvesting practices,” Mr Williams said.

“Natural regeneration of Blackbutt forest requires bare earth, adequate sunlight and a seed source. The current Forests NSW harvesting practices use either single tree selection or Australian group selection, both of which provide the best circumstances for regrowth,” Justin said.

Kathy Jones Regional manager, Central Region Forests NSW, said there are many protected reserves for headwater and stream protection, old growth and rainforest, threatened species of flora and fauna and special prescriptions for the retention of trees for wildlife.

“Timber removed from Lorne State Forests provides high value timber flooring, electricity poles, housing materials and bridge girders for the people of NSW” she said in a letter to the Manning River Times.

“Your readers who buy these local products can feel comfortable that they are from sustainably managed forests which regenerated in the 1960s from their last harvest and will do so again, with the next thinning for this area predicted for the mid 2020s.”

Ms Jones said up to 4000 trees per hectare of mixed species forest will be growing in Lorne State Forest within several months.

Francis Pike said she has spent hundreds of hours documenting forestry practices on the Mid North Coast and is working hard to bring her evidence to the attention of local politicians. Ultimately she would like to see commonwealth intervention in line with the government’s current carbon reduction agenda.

“My ultimate goal is to see the immediate buyout of the current contract - to stop the daily destruction of wildlife habitat, saw log resource and carbon-sink.

“In the longer term there has to be complete restoration of the shocking damage already done.

“Plantations should only be created on degraded weed infested land, away from waterways because of the need for herbicide.”

Information in this story provided thanks to The Manning River Times