(Bills - Second Reading Debate, 6 June 2018, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
Our native forests are vital to life: They support threatened species and ecosystems, clean air, fresh water and fertile land, and are vital carbon sinks. Australia has a shameful record of biodiversity loss, with the highest rates of species loss among developed countries, and New South Wales has the worst world extinction record for middle-size mammals. We have already lost more than one-third of our native vegetation and almost all of our rainforests. Logging of our native forests is driving rapid declines in forest species and destroying large old trees, tree hollows, bush, and water supplies in forested catchments that support species.
The Forestry Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 is business as usual and will continue the devastation of our native forests.
The bill comes at a time when we urgently need to transition the forestry industry away from logging native forests. The timber industry's worth is declining and there are fewer jobs in forestry extraction. A creative and resourceful government would find solutions that protect the long-term future of forests and the biodiversity they support while establishing new sustainable opportunities for regional communities. Forest conservation and national parks bring tourism, and the Government could invest in sustainable plantations and promote industries like oyster farming.
Current forestry rates are unsustainable and have had to intensify because of a lack of timber caused by overcutting due to timber reserves being poorly estimated. The new Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals [IFOA] is driven completely by the need to supply timber and there are massive community concerns that logging will move into old-growth forests that have been protected for many years. The Government has indicated an intention to remap areas open for logging.
Initial feedback on the new IFOA highlights a dramatic intensification of logging statewide, particularly in North Coast forests, which are some of the most biologically diverse on earth. The extent of forest destruction from logging will depend largely on whether the enforcement regime has adequate resources and on the details of the rules and codes that set limits on extraction, such as IFOAs and the Regional Forest Agreements [RFAs], than the details of this bill. Notwithstanding, the bill should not exclude third parties from taking civil action associated with Crown forests. This undermines transparency and accountability and will result in less oversight of logging operations.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority [EPA] must be fully resourced to investigate illegal logging and impacts of logging activities on the environment. The Government's commitment to extend RFAs was a massive blow to environmental protection. A number of reports commissioned by environmental groups have demonstrated that the intensive logging permitted under RFAs has decimated forests, threatened species' habitats, ecosystems and vital carbon stores. The commitment came before the Government finished its consultation process on the agreements and it failed to undertake a scientific review as to whether the agreements have achieved their environmental objectives. Indeed, there has been no effective monitoring of soil, water and biodiversity conditions in native forests to support any assessment of the ecologically sustainable forest management principle enshrined in the bill. In reality, the principle is merely rhetoric aimed at hiding activities that are pushing our ecosystems to the brink of collapse.
The Government recently announced new measures to protect koala populations in the State. The beloved koala is listed as a vulnerable species but many conservation groups believe it should be upgraded. While I welcome these new measures that will add land to the national park estate, monitor species and open koala hospitals, they are mere window-dressing. We know that the key threats to koalas are habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, which are being driven by government policies to log our State forests and open private native bush to land clearing. Indeed, the new reserves announced by the Government are small, patchy and exclude the best koala habitat, which remains open to logging. The bill before the House is about prolonging environmental destruction until there is nothing left at a time when we urgently need a new approach to forest management that protects native flora and fauna, clean water and air, and carbon sinks. I cannot support the bill.
To read the speeches of other Members on the subject, click HERE
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