As shared by Dominic King - Mayor, Bellingen Shire Council.
Last month (7/05/21), The Bellingen Shire Council Councillors and senior staff had the opportunity to meet with NSW Forest Corp (NSWFC) to discuss the continuation and increase of the industrial logging of some of the most biodiverse, intact, and unburnt Forests on the East Coast. There was some hope (at least from the three Greens Councillors and the community) that we would be able to get some up to date, accurate and easily accessible information on what is the degree of, past, current and future logging plans for the Bellingen Shire (the so-called wood bowl). We were also hoping for an improvement in the communication and engagement from FC to the Council, the community and other stakeholders that are impacted by their disruptive and destructive operations. Finally, that we would see some acknowledgement that things had to change in the management of public forests considering the increasing on-ground evidence that climate change is upon us and is a major threat to our way of life.
However, what we received was the same old spin via a self-congratulatory PowerPoint presentation that cherry picked the science and produced inaccurate facts about the impacts of industrial logging. They stated that Koalas and other endangered species were doing well in logged forests and kept referring to one scientific paper that has been regularly challenged as being too simplistic and far from inclusive. This paper went against all the independent science and the findings of the NSW Parliamentary enquiry that stated, we are seeing massive reductions in Koala numbers, with a 71% decline in Koala numbers in this state since the Black Summer Bushfires. The sad reality is koalas in NSW are in serious risk of going extinct by 2050.
It is also globally acknowledged that protecting the world’s forests are vital in stabilising the climate. We should in fact be increasing and protecting our forests as an essential solution to climate change if we are to keep emissions below the predicted 1.5 degrees. There was no mention of this or even a recognition that we need to do things differently now that we are in a climate emergency. There was no reference or acknowledgement of the impacts of large-scale forestry operation on the global fight to protect the remaining forests for their carbon storage capability and biodiversity values. No talk of adaptation, better practices, forward planning, better communication or changes to the way FC operates. No talk of innovation or alternative sources of fibre or structural timber, or even value adding. Just chatter of what the large companies do with the raw product before they sell it back to us for large profits. There was silence on the impacts their business-as-usual model has on water quality, erosion, roads, bridges, neighbours, and particularly the safety of adjoining residents. Zip about the industrial scale clear fell logging and its contribution to drying our moist sub-tropical forests. Or the impact on biodiversity from logging native forests after the most intense and destructive bushfires in recorded history. Bushfires that burnt over 21% of the forests on East Coast (compared to the usual 3-4%), that were hotter, burned for longer, were more intense and destructive than any other fires that had been seen before. Fires that cost human lives, wiped out billions of animals, burnt rainforests and ancient places that had not been impacted before, that destroyed homes and businesses, and devastated whole communities. Fires whose true impact on the mental and physical health of our residents is yet to be properly understood.
The meeting in short made me realise that it is pointless talking to NSWFC about trying to operate in a way that will ensure our forest are protected for future generations. They have short term vision and in fact are only actually enacting and carrying out the poor, outdated NSW State Government forestry legislation. Laws that allow them to continue to use destructive harvesting practices that have little to no oversite on the wider impact of these methods. It is also a waste of time for me to ask them to properly compensate the rate payers of this shire for the damage to our roads and bridges (paid for by our rates) because their masters (the NSW Coalition Government) have refused to acknowledge or accept our continual requests for fairness and accountability, despite there being no social licence for native forest logging in our community. It is also not worth asking for better communication and information as it continues to be sketchy, self-serving, and frustrating. So, it is clear to me that the only way we can achieve a better long-term outcome for our forests, biodiversity, infrastructure and our future is through the ballot box. We need to work to elect people who understand and support the latest scientific knowledge, that put people before profit and who recognise the value of our Forests and biodiversity in ensuring the survival of our future generations. We also need to let our friends; neighbours and the larger population know what is happening in the Forests in our regions. We can do that by attending rally’s, protests, workshops and supporting the community activist that continue to shine a light on what is really happening to our globally unique forests and ensure the finger is firmly aimed at the politicians that continue to allow this to happen.