Independent NSW MP Justin Field joins environmental campaigners and the community in welcoming the long-awaited decision by the NSW Government to cancel a process that would have allowed currently protected old growth forests to be opened up to logging.
The decision to cancel the old growth remapping process was announced today by the Natural Resources Commission who determined that the project could no longer be implemented, largely as a result of over 60% of old growth forests on the North Coast being severely impacted by last season’s bushfires.
The program was initiated in November 2018 when Premier Gladys Berejiklian requested the Natural Resources Commission to undertake a 'Cabinet-in-confidence' process of remapping old growth forests in an effort to quel wood supply concerns being raised by the native timber industry. At the time, this was met with significant community opposition driven by concerns about the loss of high conservation value old growth forest.
Mr Field said, "It’s a relief that the NSW Government will no longer be pursuing the remapping and logging of currently protected old growth forests inside North Coast State Forests.
"I welcome the redeployment of the funding from this process into the NRC’s the Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program.
"Logging protected old growth forests should never have been on the table and it is disappointing that it took devastating bushfires which affected over 60% of these protected old growth areas to see this process stopped.
"The proposal for old growth remapping demonstrated an existing structural problem with wood supply for the native forest industry in NSW and that can only have been made worse by the fires. With a significant volume of North Coast wood supply contracts expiring in 2023, now is the time for the Government to be planning a fair transition out of native forest logging to ensure the long-term sustainability of the timber industry in NSW and to improve the recovery of the state’s native forests.
"There has still not been any statewide assessment of the impact of the fires on state forests, including biodiversity and wood supply impact assessments, but Forestry Corporation has been allowed to recommence logging at near pre-fire rates in 65 state forests areas.
"There remains serious questions about the adequacy of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) approval process for these bushfire affected logging sites and how the fires have affected wood supply forecasts into the future.
"No new bushfire affected logging approvals should be granted until the Natural Resources Commission has undertaken this wood supply assessment and the EPA can demonstrate no negative impacts of wildlife and forest recovery.”