Details of proposed new logging rules for public lands (known as IFOAs, Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals) obtained by the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) and the North Coast Environment Council (NCEC), show the intent is to convert much of the north coast's public forests into 'quasi-plantations', reduce buffers on vital headwater streams and remove protections from most threatened animals and plants.
"We are calling on the Minister for the Environment, Gabrielle Upton, to honour the Government's promise that there will be 'no erosion of environmental values' by urgently intervening to stop the Forestry Corporation and the so-called Environment Protection Authority (EPA) doing a deal which will slash protections for streams and hundreds of plant and animal species, including the koala" NCEC vice-president Susie Russell said.
"It is clear from the documents that the EPA have basically allowed the Forestry Corporation to write their own rules. We don't comprehend how a body responsible for protecting threatened species can consider that it is acceptable to remove requirements to look before logging and to remove and reduce needed protections for hundreds of threatened species" NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
Endangered Fleay's Barred Frog currently requires pre-logging surveys and exclusion zones to be created around records, under the proposed rules it will lose all protection and existing exclusion areas will be opened up for logging.
"Protection of buffers on our headwater streams is vital for the health of our rivers and fish. It is grossly irresponsible for the EPA to allow headwater buffers to be reduced from a measly 10 metres to just 5 metres when the scientific evidence is that they should be 30 metres.
"The proposed changes remove the need to look for and protect most threatened plants and animals. Only 14 animal species and populations are to retain their current species-specific protection, 23 are to have their protection removed and 26 are to have their protection significantly reduced.
"Rather than being routine, pre-logging surveys will only be required for 17 threatened plant species at specific localities. Only 77 species and populations of threatened plants will retain their current protections, 326 are to lose all their current protections and 32 species will have their protections significantly reduced.
"It is the height of irresponsibility to open up existing exclusion areas established around records of threatened species for logging. For example not only will the Forestry Corporation no longer be required to undertake scat surveys to identify Koala High Use Areas, but all those identified over the past 20 years will now be able to be logged" Mr. Pugh said.
"The proposal involves the intensification of logging throughout coastal forests. The intent is to retain the Eden alternate coupe clearfelling regime and expand it to a new 140,000 ha North Coast Intensive Zone, where alternative coupes of 50-80ha are clearfelled at 5-10 year intervals" Ms Russell said.
"In a meeting we had with the EPA board the head of the EPA, Barry Buffier, described the North Coast Intensive Zone as creating 'quasi-plantations'. It is astounding that the EPA can condone removing environmental protections to allow thousands of hectares of complex native forests to be converted to simple quasi-plantations dominated by the logging industry's preferred timber species. There is plenty of cleared land where plantations can be established.
"Since 2013 the succession of Environment Ministers, Robyn Parker, Rob Stokes and Mark Speakman, have all assured conservation groups that the new logging rules would result in 'no erosion of environmental values'. It is now apparent that the EPA never intended to honour this promise.
"We are asking the current Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton, to ensure that there is a genuine independent review of the proposed logging regimes, riparian protections and threatened species provisions, tasked with satisfying her predecessor's promises that there will be no erosion of environmental values.
"Such a review must be undertaken by the best independent experts, without foresters, in an open and transparent process" Ms Russell said.
Further information is available at: http://www.nefa.org.au/.
The ABC have run an initial story: http://ab.co/2syCEEy
Endangered Narrow-leaved Melichrus is only known from Gibberagee State Forest, it currently requires pre-logging surveys and 50m exclusion zones around records, under the proposed rules it will lose all protection and 80ha excluded for this species in current logging in Gibberagee SF will be opened up for logging.