The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) has claimed to have uncovered additional breaches in logging operations at Doubleduke State Forest near Coraki that they believe could see Forests NSW fined over $16 million if they were prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Dailan Pugh and botanists inspected Doubleduke last week where they found 46 trees that had been felled, as well as another 1387 trees and shrubs that had been killed or damaged, within an Endangered Ecological Community (EEC) as a result of the logging activity. Mr Pugh said under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, Forests NSW could be fined $220,000 for the illegal logging and $11,000 “for every plant picked or harmed”.
“That just goes to show the seriousness of the breaches that parliament has imposed that level of penalty,” he said. “Why should a forest agency get away with it?”
NEFA first made complaints about logging operations at Doubleduke in June when they identified 20 breaches to licence conditions including the failure to identify food and roost trees for threatened species within the logging area, and logging within an Endangered Ecological Community. The Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) then set up an independent inquiry into the complaints that has apparently failed to find any additional breaches.
Mr Pugh said NEFA didn’t accept “their failure to find anything reflected reality” and found breaches within five minutes of re-entering compartment 145 (the section of forest where breaches had previously occurred) in October.
Mr Pugh and other NEFA activists re-entered the logging area at Doubleduke last Friday to ensure that legal requirements were being complied with. They were given an assurance from Forests NSW that logging operations would cease on Saturday until they had an opportunity to sort out their differences, however, when Mr Pugh returned on Monday operations were still underway.
One of the issues to be resolved is whether an area within the proposed logging area contains an area of old growth forest, as it is marked on maps from the Regional Forest Agreement in the late 1990s. Mr Pugh said, although the terrain was difficult to access, they did confirm at least some of the mapped old growth is indeed old growth, with some giant trees estimated to be over a thousand years old.
A spokesperson from the DECCW said they were continuing their investigations into these alleged breaches.
“DECCW treats all allegations seriously, and investigates all matters to ensure a fair and transparent outcome for all involved parties. DECCW can confirm that it has identified breaches of Forests NSW logging licenses, both as a result of NEFA’s and DECCW’s own proactive audit work. DECCW has not finalised its regulatory response to these issues, and is working to do so as a matter of priority,” the spokesperson said.
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