Weed expert Frances Pike is so concerned with the NSW Government’s logging practices she has quit her job in Sydney to travel the east coast and raise awareness of what she calls “environmental slaughter”.
Frances came through Lismore this week in her ute with a ‘nativerules.org’ logo and forests painted on the car (and a large Shrek doll on the roof) in an effort to catch people’s eyes and gain media attention around the issue.
She believes the logging practices Forests NSW are employing to meet its quota of sawlogs promised in Wood Supply Agreements (WSA) with Boral are borderline illegal and will decimate the habitat of wildlife and render regeneration of native forests after logging impossible.
“We are already in an acknowledged weed crisis and when I began researching I found that over 20 years of my work, and that of every other environmental land manager or group, is being sabotaged by a state agency,” Frances said. “The effects are already almost irreversible and each month it continues it gets worse. We’re talking about the destruction of our carbon sinks, of habitat and biodiversity, of waterways, threatened species and entire ecosystems.”
Frances has worked for many years in invasive species field work, both marine and terrestrial, and in the 1990s founded TENTACLE (The Environmental Network Training Against Lethal Endproducts) to train people in cradle-to-grave sustainability.
Frances said when she first heard about Forests NSW practices in March last year, she headed out to a logging site in the Mid North Coast’s Kerewong State Forest to see what was happening with her own eyes.
“When I first went to the forest to see what was being harmed, I found all these camphor laurel seedlings; they have removed too many trees and had changed the amount of light in the forest. If we lose any more canopy in many of our native forests we will have an epidemic of camphor laurels,” she said. “I also found creatures being actively evicted from their homes as logging took place, which makes them prey for feral animals, and they have no habitat to return to. I’m trying to make people aware of the need for a state/federal buyout of wood supply licences before these forests are damaged beyond repair. I believe this is more important than any other single issue.”
Frances pointed to the 2009 NSW Auditor-General’s report on ‘Sustaining Native Forest Operations’ that indicated Forests NSW would face difficulties managing supply in the future especially for large, high quality sawlogs.
It also states that in a WSA signed in 2003 the NSW Government waived its rights to reduce commitments without compensating industry for any loss, which removed Forests NSW’s ability to better manage supply risks by adjusting commitments.
“To meet wood supply commitments, the native forest managed by Forests NSW on the North Coast is being cut faster than it is growing back,” the report stated.
The report said this was forcing Forests NSW to use plantation hardwood and look for new sources of hardwood timber to meet existing commitments from private property and leasehold land. However, this is where Frances believes Forests NSW is using tricky tactics to continue meeting its WSA quotas with native forest timbers.
“What we’re seeing is giant bulldozers and cutting machines, highly industrialised logging, instead of people with chainsaws selecting logs ready for harvest,” she said. “Under Integrated Forestry Operations Approval, which Forests NSW must comply with, the licence says they are not meant to take more than 40% of wood that has a diameter of 20cm or more. However when they do a forest plan they often include a whole section of forest that is not part of the actual logging site, which might not even be ready for harvest for another five years, but because it’s on the harvest plan it boosts the amount of harvestable wood they are claiming they can fell. It’s a massively flawed compliance system and it’s leading to virtual clear-felling.”
She said whilst researching in Kerewong State Forest the amount of timber leaving the forest was staggering.
“In Kerewong I counted in excess of 40 trucks a day each carrying 120 logs from one sub catchment alone, for seven to eight months. I also noted multiple breaches of their own licensing conditions during that time,” she said. “I have interviewed Forests NSW workers and they believe the wider agenda for NSW is the conversion of native forests to single species plantations to ensure supply to a multinational.
“Ecologists have said if this continues there will be localised extinctions across NSW. It’s the definitely the greatest crisis NSW forests and wildlife has ever faced.”
Frances is planning to be back in Sydney next week to raise awareness there before the state election. You can find out more about her crusade and what you can do to support her campaign at www.nativesrules.org.