Independent MP Justin Field has welcomed a decision by the NSW Government this week to put on hold plans to open up protected old-growth forests in the state’s North to logging while Forestry Corporation verifies its claims around the impacts of changes to forestry rules last year.
On Tuesday, the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) announced that public exhibition of a draft framework to remap old growth forest, potentially opening the door to logging of previously protected areas, ‘has been temporarily placed on hold’. The pause will require Forestry Corporation to provide evidence on how changes to the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA) in 2018 would impact on wood supplies, before the remapping process is able to proceed. Claims of a shortfall in timber as a result of the changes have been strongly challenged by environmentalists who are opposed to currently protected areas being opened up for logging.
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field said, “The Government has listened to the serious concerns of conservation stakeholders about this process and have now recognised there are doubts about the assumptions underpinning the whole process. We’ve never accepted claims of a wood supply shortfall as a result of the Coastal IFOA changes and while there is no independent verification of a shortfall, this whole exercise is a waste of time and resources. We expect that an independent review will show there is no shortfall in wood supply.
“The Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade, John Barilaro, confirmed with me in writing the Government’s position that they ‘will only consider rezoning… for harvesting if a wood supply shortfall from implementing the Coastal IFOA has been independently identified and verified’. I expect the Government and the Deputy Premier to keep this commitment. Campaigners who were involved in the detailed consultations over 20 years ago, that led to the protection of many of these old growth forests, have been shocked that this process has had no formal engagement with the conservation community. They consider that any move to try to log these protected areas as completely unacceptable and a significant breach of faith of previous decisions.
“This process has always been driven by a desire to gift some of our most precious native forests to the loggers and the community is not buying it. No credible argument can be made for opening up high conservation value forests, protected for decades, to the timber industry,” Mr Field said.