The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) considers the intent of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) $750,000 project assessing the North Coast private native forest north from Newcastle appears to be to identify private forests for loggers to target for sawlogs as supplies from public lands continue to rapidly decline.
DPI surveys of both millers and logging contractors attest to the degraded nature of north-east NSWs public and private forests due to over-logging, with supplies of high quality sawlogs rapidly declining across the forest estate, according to Dailan Pugh, spokesperson for NEFA.
"Regrettably 80% of private landowners are reported as having little understanding or interest in the logging rules, with 67% of contractors believing most landowners are only interested in maximising short term income.
"The Government needs to do more than just help loggers identify and flog the best stands remaining, they have a responsibility to identify and protect oldgrowth forests, the habitat of threatened species, endangered ecological communities and other special values. These too need to be mapped.
"This time the NSW Government is targeting the best Koala habitat left on private land for intensified logging, with the promised Koala strategy nowhere to be seen.
"There is nothing sustainable about forestry as currently practiced, and the Government's current proposals to increase logging intensity while slashing the few protections for threatened species and stream buffers on both public and private lands will just increase its unsustainability.
"For those landholders who want to do the right thing the Government should be providing incentive payments for management of forests to protect threatened species, improve stream quality, enhance rainfall, and store ever increasing volumes of atmospheric carbon as they age. This is to the benefit of all of us.
"For those landholders that don't care the Government needs to ensure that the logging rules for private lands are improved to limit the ongoing degradation, introduce meaningful protection for threatened species and improve protection for streams." Mr. Pugh said.
On the far north coast the principal areas targeted for logging are: in Byron Shire Upper Main Arm, Goonengerry and Broken Head; in Ballina Shire the high quality Koala habitat near Wardell and Coolgardie; in Lismore Shire the Mackellar and Koonorigan Ranges; and in Tweed Shire around Mount Warning and Doon Doon.
To the west and south the areas targeted are more widespread.
Of the millers surveyed 24% considered log yields from State Forests will decline over the next couple of years, one commenting "FC been over logging for a long time. SF NSW- logs getting smaller & lower quality".
Most millers appear to be expecting major problems with declining supply from public lands after the expiry of their current allocations in 2023. One miller commenting "Very concerned - cliff coming needs addressing soon. Too many people chasing logs and in industry".
Most millers also considered the size and quality of logs from private properties to have declined over the past 10 years, one commenting "some of the properties been logged hard in past - been stuffed by previous harvest".
67% of PNF harvesting contractors believed that the majority to vast majority of landowners were only interested in maximising the income from their forest.
The contractors survey concluded:
Harvesting contractors noted that many landholders have forests that are unproductive and in poor health (e.g. degraded by high grading over many decades) and that EPA officers demonstrated that they have no interest in helping landholders improve forest health and productivity. On the contrary, the EPA Private Native Forestry Officers advocate for similar high-grading harvesting operations with little thought to promoting biodiversity or replenishing the site with vigorous regeneration.
The contractors' survey found that over half landholders don't want to promote the growth of a future crop trees.
Almost 80% of millers thought that the government should be encouraging landholders to manage their forests for timber production. As one miller puts it "Gain more access to bush".