Koalas at core of protest

Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass and friend.
Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass and friend.

Locals including Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass took a trip to Grafton for World Forest Day on Monday to join a peaceful protest in front of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water office and deliver a letter to director general Lisa Corbyn.

North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh said they had been moved to protest because of continued frustration with DECCW’s administration of private forestry and threatened species licences for public forestry.

“We have particular concerns about the declassification of old-growth forest on private land and logging of core koala habitat around Coffs Harbour,” Mr Pugh said. “With public forests, we are concerned about the poor implementation of threatened species licence requirements and the paltry fines they issue when Forests NSW are caught doing illegal activities.”

Currently when any number of trees have been illegally logged within a compartment it is considered a single breach.

The letter to Ms Corbyn said, “DECCW has failed to enforce Forestry Licence conditions in State Forests. This has resulted in the illegal logging of old-growth, rainforest, Endangered Ecological Communities, stream banks and critical habitat for endangered species... Your department is charged with the care of wildlife and the protection of threatened species, though instead of fulfilling your responsibilities you are overseeing the destruction of irreplaceable environments and the extinction of our most vulnerable species.”

The letter contained demands from NEFA and the North Coast Environment Council that included removal of bio-certification for private native forestry, a return to the requirements of the seven-part test before granting Property Vegetation Plan approvals for logging, independent pre-logging surveys to determine site specific requirements for threatened species, cessation of all logging in core koala habitat and a revoke of all “old growth” reassessments which have recently released more than 8000 hectares from protection through incorrect declassification.

A spokesperson for DECCW said the reason for the reclassification was that the department had “strengthened old-growth forest assessment protocols for private native forestry following an internal quality assurance process”.

Mr Pugh said core koala habitat had been logged around Coffs Harbour.

“Coffs Council mapped core koala habitat and informed DECCW of 200,000 hectares but DECCW just ignored them. Council kept notifying them and DECC just kept on going,” Mr Pugh said.

The spokesperson for DECCW said “the protection of koalas, and all threatened species, is a specific feature of the Private Native Forestry (PNF) Code of Practice and a point of focus for DECCW’s monitoring and audit program”.

The letter also contained a demand that when illegal logging by Forests NSW has been identified that the areas be rehabilitated.

The spokesperson said “any Private Native Forestry operator found to be conducting activities outside the PNF Code of Practice is subject to the appropriate regulatory action which can include a Corrective Action or imposition of a Remediation Notice”.

“At the moment DECCW fines Forests NSW but they don’t have to fix it up, so you get ongoing degradation, so we want them to be required to rehabilitate it, and to require the protection of equivalent compensatory habitat and trees for each area and tree illegally logged,” Mr Pugh said. “We also want all relevant information publicly available on the internet instead of being hidden behind a veil of secrecy.”

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