Environmentalists, farmers at loggerheads

President of the North Coast Environment Council, Jim Morrison, is calling for a logging moratorium as the NSW Government goes back to the drawing board on its Private Native Forestry Draft Code of Practice effectively shelving it until after the state election.

The draft code placed restrictions on native forest logging on private land to protect biodiversity, keep sediment out of waterways and ensure sustainability into the future.

Mr Morrison said delays in adopting the code in the name of further consultation would lead to open slather on high conservation value forests, as panic logging continued.

He said paid timber lobbyists had been whipping up a fear campaign about what the code of practice would mean, with talk of a 60 per cent reduction in the amount of trees that could be logged.

A government report had found that the real figure was around 11 per cent.

He said he personally knew of one farmer who had undertaken extensive and intensive logging in the last few months because he had been told the code would prevent all logging in the future.

The signal being sent is if you want to clear sensitive areas youve got another 12 months, he said. Everything we lose between now and then is gone for good.

However, Hurfords Group general manager Andrew Hurford said he was pleased the government had listened to the concerns of the timber lobby and allowed extra time for consultation, and denied there was any panic logging going on. He also said there had been no logging of rainforest in NSW since 1980.

Mr Hurford said there was currently a well-documented building downturn which had led to Hurfords cutting an entire shift at its South Lismore sawmill making 10 workers redundant.

Weve got less staff cutting wood and less logs coming in, he said. So I dont know where these panic logs are going. The market for building materials is quiet, and thats the major market for North Coast hardwoods.

Mr Morrison said he had genuine sympathy for farmers and felt they deserved some kind of compensation for access to timber they might lose through the new code of practice.

What Im against is logging and flogging, he said. People buy a block of land, log the hell out of it and flog it off. And then they buy an adjacent block of land and do the same thing. They are not farmers, they are speculators.

Meanwhile, a group of scientists, conservationists and industry representatives from Southern Cross University are proposing an alternative to the draft code, where landowners would be given cash incentives to manage native forests on their own land.

Professor Jerry Vanclay, chair of forestry at Southern Cross University and a key member of the group, said their two-tier proposal would cost around $200 million a year less than policing the draft code.

The first tier would provide an incentive payment per square metre to encourage more forest and bigger trees on private land. The second tier would encourage stewardship of endangered species and ecological communities.

Anyone who has raised children or trained pets knows that incentives are more effective than punishment, Professor Vanclay said. We need to work with people who are prepared to find common ground, and to build solutions on that.

The National Resource Advisory Committee which had members from both sides of the debate has now been given the task of developing a new draft code of practice that everyone can agree on. Something Mr Morrison says will be fraught with difficulties.

Its like trying to get Japanese whalers and Greenpeace to agree, he said.

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