The North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) has accused the NSW government of trying to keep the public in the dark over its proposals for public forests.
NCEC vice president Susie Russell said the plan to increase logging intensity, zone 140,000 hectares for clearfelling, remove the need to look for and protect threatened species, reduce stream buffers and open old growth forest up for logging has raised some serious concerns.
The NSW government announced plans for new Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA).
NSW Forestry Minister Paul Toole revealed changes to the Coastal IFOAs that include merging the existing four timber harvesting zones zones into one that covers the entire NSW coast, and also starting a new mapping exercise "to gain a better understanding of key state forest sites".
The draft Coastal IFOA and related documents will be available for public consultation for a period of six weeks and submissions should be submitted by 5pm on June 29.
Environmental groups say the remapping posed a "serious new threat" because it could result in mature forests losing their current high protection levels to make up for logging contracts lost in koala reserves.
Alix Goodwin, chief executive of the National Parks Association (NPA), told Fairfax Media the proposed changes would lead to forests between Grafton and Taree being "subject to a massive increase in harvesting intensity with patches of forest of 45 hectares open to clear-felling”.
Ms Russell said the weakening of the logging rules are destructive and will have long-term impacts on the north coast environment.
“The Government is trying to hide their intent by holding no public consultation. So the NCEC, North East Forest Alliance and local conservation groups are collaborating in organising public meetings across the region to explain what is proposed to interested community members,” Ms Russell said.
The first meeting will be on Wednesday, May 30 in Port Macquarie from 6.30pm at the CWA Rooms in Horton Street.
Other meetings are planned for Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Kyogle, Byron Bay, Murwillumbah and Nimbin.
When it comes to forestry in NSW and across Australia, we are going backwards. We are seeing more intensive logging for lesser value products. This is the modern equivalent of whaling.Susie Russell
“While the government has documents open for comment, we know the destructive outcomes are already pre-determined,” Ms Russell said.
“Conservationists were explicitly barred from being able to provide information or comment to the Natural Resources Commission during the drafting phase. And now, unlike the fanfare about the koala strategy a few weeks ago, there is minimum publicity being sought by government ministers about the weakening of the logging rules.
“If the proposed rules are implemented, every population centre on the north coast will see its water yields drop as intensive land clearfell logging dries out the catchments.
“There will be increased erosion and sedimentation of streams from decreased stream buffers. The extinction cliff for many of our native animals and plants will be reached faster as there will no longer be a requirement to look for them prior to logging.
“The carbon storage capacity of our forest estate will be greatly diminished as logging intensity increases and the dense, young regrowth is more flammable than the mature forests it replaces.
“When it comes to forestry in NSW and across Australia, we are going backwards. We are seeing more intensive logging for lesser value products. This is the modern equivalent of whaling. Only a social movement will stop them,” Ms Russell said.