The North East Forest Alliance is calling for an immediate 10% reduction in wood supply commitments to north-coast sawmillers from public forests because of the widespread death of trees due to the Black Summer bushfires, and a freeze on any new commitments until sufficient plots are sampled to accurately quantify remaining timber volumes.
The Forestry Corporation report ‘2019–20 Wildfires, NSW Coastal Hardwood Forests Sustainable Yield Review’ undertakes a preliminary desktop review of the likely impacts of the Black Summer wildfires on timber resources.
The Forestry Corporation estimate is that there has been a significant loss of trees across at least a third of the north coast’s State Forests (north from Gosford), with a loss of 10-50% of large sawlog sized trees over 30 cm diameter at breast height, and 50-100% of smaller trees, according to NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
“The worst affected stands were those logged in the previous 4 years where over 90% of trees were killed.
“Overall, across the north coast State Forests, the Forestry Corporation estimate there has been a loss of around 10% of sawlogs and 25% of smaller trees. North from Coffs Harbour these losses increase to 15% of sawlogs and 35% of smaller trees.
“It is bewildering how the Forestry Corporation can conclude from this data that there will only be a 4% reduction in high quality sawlogs from the north coast over the next decade.
“It appears the NSW Government intends to rely upon this simplistic review to sign new Wood Supply Agreements to replace the current 20 year agreements due to expire in 2023.
“What is most perplexing is that the Forestry Corporation did not remeasure any of their 659 field plots within the heavily burnt forests to obtain real data on impacts so that they can more accurately quantify impacts and future yields.
“The last 2 times the NSW Government gave sawmill owners guarantees for specific timber volumes in 1998 and 2003 they were found to be gross over-estimates and it cost NSW taxpayers over $12 million to buy back non-existent timber we gave to sawmillers for free.
“At the very least the Government owes taxpayers a full and proper assessment of the bushfire impacts before they consider repeating past mistakes.
“Though with bushfires and droughts increasing as climate heating accelerates, it is time we stopped logging public forests to increase their resilience and maximise their carbon storage” Mr. Pugh said.