Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has called on the NSW Government to give an undertaking to NSW coastal communities that new approvals for logging in the state’s badly burnt public state forests will not be approved until a review by the state’s Independent Natural Resources Commission (NRC) is completed.
Media reporting by the Guardian has revealed that the NRC will likely be engaged to conduct a review to “consider the standards that should be in place for forestry operations after bushfires.”
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field said, “It’s one year to the week since the devastating Currowan fire took hold on the South Coast. The community always understood business as usual wasn’t possible after the fires but the politics has been slow to move and a lot of damage has been done.
“This review is a political fix to try to find a circuit breaker in what has been an escalating public conflict between John Barilaro’s department and the NSW EPA. The NRC are effectively being asked to be the arbiter in this disagreement.
“In part this review is in response to numerous EPA stop-work orders and investigations into breaches by Forestry Corporation under the burnt forest logging rules.
“I am seeking an undertaking from the Government that new approvals for logging in bushfire affected forests will not be granted until we’ve seen the outcome of the review,” Justin Field said.
More than 80% of South Coast forests and 60% of North Coast forests were burnt in the black summer fires.
Justin Field said, “I welcome this review but it is clear that business as usual is not possible. The review needs to consider the wood supply impact from the fires and whether logging in public native forests is viable into the future.
“This issue is of significant public interest and the review needs to be open and transparent if it is going to be accepted by the community.
“I hope this review reignites the conversation about a transition away from public native forestry. We can reimagine a much more positive future for our public forests as critical ecological and recreational reserves and create a transition plan for the timber sector into plantations and private land forestry where that can be done responsibly.
The review comes after a public dispute between Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s Department of Regional NSW and the NSW Environment Protection Authority over the ‘site specific operating conditions’ the EPA had put in place to minimise environmental damage of burnt forest logging.
The dispute had led to the EPA warning Forestry Corporation that plans to move back to logging under pre-fire conditions would likely breach the NSW Forestry Act which requires ecologically sustainable forest management practices.