Tuesday, October 4, 2022

EDO out to take a chainsaw to the forestry industry

Recent stories

Gordon Wilson and Kookaburra, ARR.News

The Environmental Defenders Office NSW acting for the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) issued a press statement on 4 August 2021.

The essence of the press release is that the EDO will file in the Federal Court on behalf of its client, the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA), alleging that the Prime Minister, when he signed off (with Gladys Berejiklian as Premier), the North Coast Regional Forest Agreement, did not pay due regard to key matters.

These key matters are the impacts of climate change, the state of old growth forests and endangered species.

If the action is successful, many in the forestry industry believe that this will have the practical effect of closing native forestry harvesting across all three States – NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

The ABC North Coast and the ABC network picked up the press statement.

There were also a couple of radio interviews conducted by ABC North Coast including one with Paul Morris from the EDO and another with Susie Russell from the North East Forest Alliance. Ms. Roberts was asked “What about the people who work in this industry?”.  The answer: “It is like whaling”.

Several issues need to be addressed.

Timber is a renewable resource.  If timber is removed from the domestic economy, what takes its place?  Imports from third world countries where there are nothing like the environmental controls that exist in NSW.  Or will timber be replaced with non-renewable replacement plastic products or manufactured products? Is there an alternative to these? If so, what are they?  Neither the EDO nor the North East Forest Alliance have an answer for this.

Native forestry products come from “working forests”.  These are forests determined to be suitable for harvesting and re-generation.

Source: Commonwealth Department of Agriculture.

Native forestry uses only a very small portion of Australia’s native forests. To put the dimension of forestry operations into perspective, reference should be made to the Australia’s State of the Forest Report produced in 2018.

The report estimated that Australia has 134 million hectares of forest. ‘Native forest’ – 132 million hectares, 98% of Australia’s forest area. ‘Commercial plantations’ – 1.95 million hectares, 1.5% of Australia’s forest area. Other forest’ – 0.47 million hectares, 0.4% of Australia’s forest area, and comprising mostly non-commercial plantations, and planted forests of various types.

The extent of native forest that is available and suitable for commercial wood production was 28.1 million hectares in 2015–16. This was a decrease from 29.3 million hectares in 2010–11.

This area of 28.1 million hectares includes 21.8 million hectares on leasehold and private tenure. However, much of this area is rated as low commerciality (on the basis of its suitability for commercial wood production), is isolated from markets, and harvesting is not financially viable, and is therefore used predominantly for grazing or for other purposes.

This area of 28.1 million hectares also includes 6.3 million hectares of multiple-use public native forests, much of which is located in the higher rainfall areas of south-west, south-east and eastern Australia.

When additional exclusions and restrictions to managed on-wood values are taken into account, this available and suitable area of multiple-use public native forests is further reduced to a ‘net harvestable area’ of 5.0 million hectares. This is a decrease from 5.5 million hectares in 2010–11.

The decreases in this area measured from 2011–12 to 2015–16 mostly resulted from transfer of areas of multiple-use public native forest to nature conservation reserves, as well as increases in areas to which harvesting restrictions apply.

The average annual area of multiple-use public native forests harvested in Australia in the period 2011–12 to 2015–16 was 78 thousand hectares. Within this area, the proportion harvested by clearfelling systems decreased to 9%.

This is a 24% decrease from the annual average of 102 thousand hectares for the period 2006–07 to 2010–11, which in turn was a 21% decrease from the annual average of 129 thousand hectares for the period 2001–02 to 2005–06.

The total area harvested on multiple-use public native forests in 2015–16, 73 thousand hectares, is 1.5% of the net harvestable area of public native forest, and 0.75% of the total area of multiple-use public native forest.

Across the period 2011–12 to 2015–16, the annual average proportion of harvested multiple-use public native forest that was effectively regenerated, as assessed against stocking standards, was 79% in New South Wales, 100% for Queensland, 95% for Tasmania and 92% for Victoria. For Western Australia, the level of regeneration was assessed as adequate.

Native forests are not under threat from forestry operations.

Source: Commonwealth Department of Agriculture

Native flora and fauna co-exist with forestry. It should be no surprise that these forests offer a mosaic of vegetation within native forests that support native fauna, including koalas. 

Environmentalists and the NSW State Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s (DPIE) Environment, Energy and Science Division (EES) have not done the field work or research to conclude if this is correct.  However, it has been a long-standing view of foresters who have been in the field.

The EES does desk top methodology.  Look to the story on the GIPA, which disclosed the methodology of working up a brief to Minister Kean: The new form of science or just bad government.

Yes, selective logging residue will increase fire risk for 7 months after harvesting over a 40 – 60 year cycle.  In the Red Gum Forest in Southern NSW, there is no increased fire risk after harvesting.  Why? Because there, the EPA has not banned clearing up harvest residue, as they have elsewhere in NSW.

To be cynical about the true motivation behind the push to close native forestry, it should be noted that the bushfires in 2019 and 2020 created an extraordinary flow of cash into environmental groups.  Look at the balance sheets registered under the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Association Commission Governance Requirements (ACNC) for registered environmental charities.  Pushing for the close of native forestry facilitates calls for further donations.

Then, if you have time, look to the size of the bureaucracy which some of these organisations carry.  The Nature Conservation Council of NSW has over 26 people on the payroll, and this is not counting volunteers.

It pays to dig and dig.

There are a plethora of peer reviewed scientific papers that put pay to what the EDO apparently seeks to have a court uphold.

Why, might you ask, is this not in the public domain?  The government grants are awarded to environmental groups.  How does this occur?  Check back to the previous employment of key people working within the NSW EES, for example.  You will find a trail of volunteerism for environmental groups leading to to a highly paid policy position.

Indeed, accompanying the announcement of the Federal Court filing is a fundraising page launched with the press release seeking $50,000 which raised $11,000 in a few hours.  Big, sophisticated business. 

The word out on the streets is that these funds are not for the court proceedings which are funded already by the EDO (https://www.edo.org.au ).  Have a look at the annual accounts of the EDO and see how much taxpayer money is provided in government grants.  It would appear that the money being raised in the fundraising page is to support awareness raising activities such as protest marches to be run in conjunction with the Federal Court proceedings.  To convince the Judge? No, a far better strategy is to raise not only awareness but also more money!  Yes, it really is a big, sophisticated business with income tax exemption.

The old fashioned, hard-working scientists who are experts in their field do not stand a chance.

You wonder, why is this so? Well, it is having the inside running in what is becoming a bureaucracy that does not give fearless and impartial advice.  A system aided and abetted in NSW by the moderate Liberals, one of whom is the Minister for the Department of Planning Industry and Environment and the other the Minister for Energy and the Environment.

For all regional and rural readers, this might help you understand why these city folks are so out of tune with what you witness and know about good old mother nature.

Related stories: NSW forest logging agreement faces legal challenge over climate, biodiversity; IFA/AFG welcomes paper reviewing the role of timber harvesting in the Black Summer bushfires

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