Welcome to the very first e-edition of the NEFA Leaf!
This is where you'll find your monthly fix of forest news, community campaigning, politics and ways to take action for forests across the North East Coast of Australia.
Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have questions about NEFA or looking for ways to get involved.
#SaveOurKoalas Day Of Action
The wet weather put a dampener on our Koala day of action, with only Murwillumbah and Lismore proceeding on the north coast, and Lismore greatly reduced.
In Murwillumbah, the Northern Rivers Guardians sponsored a peaceful, COVD-safe gathering of more than 100 in Murwillumbah as part of the #SaveOurKoalas Day of Action. The event at Knox Park was organised and MC'd by NRG member Lori Scinto and was joined and supported by Team Koala and the Caldera Environment Centre. Speakers included NRG President Scott Sledge, NEFA President Dailan Pugh, Tweed Shire Councillor Katie Milne, and Limpinwood resident and wildlife carer Susie Hearder.
“NRG’s message is simple - without immediate and urgent action to permanently halt government sanctioned habitat destruction on private and public land by individuals and companies with commercial vested interests, the Northern Rivers and NSW will lose its remaining koala populations, which have already been significantly impacted from ongoing and unmitigated habitat loss and the Black Summer bushfires” said Sledge.
Scott Sledge reminded the group that MLC Catherine Cusack crossed the floor of NSW Parliament in November to vote against critical legislation (dubbed The Koala Killer Bill) because of overwhelming response from her Northern Rivers constituents—11,000 emails in one week. Cusack served on the Upper House Committee that looked into koala welfare for more than a year and concluded that NSW koalas would be extinct in the wild by 2050 unless better management is legislated. That Committee made 42 recommendations. Only 11 have been accepted by the Coalition government. Sledge also noted that, thanks to the efforts of Tweed MP Geoff Provest, NSW will be purchasing land at Clothiers Creek Road to add to the Cudgen Nature Reserve, which will help to preserve koala habitat. Sledge said, "It is a small but significant step in the right direction, and I thank Geoff for it".
The #SaveOurKoalas Day of Action group in Murwillumbah (Jimmy Malecki)
Want to support? Email NSW legislators and tell them to:
FOLLOW the 42 recommendations from the "Koala Populations and Habitat in NSE" Report
SAY NO to logging koala habitat on private land
STOP the "grubby deal" made between Rob Stokes, John Barilaro, and Matt Kean—a reinvention of the Koala Killing Bill from 2020
How to Extinct Koalas
The Koala Wars erupted between the National and Liberal Parties last September, while the Nationals are claiming victory over the Liberals, it is the loggers that have prevailed over koalas and local councils.
Ironically the National’s declaration of war came after the bipartisan inquiry into ‘Koala populations and habitat in NSW’ released their findings in June 2020 that the regulatory framework for private native forestry does not protect koala habitat on private land, and that without urgent government intervention to protect habitat the koala will become extinct in New South Wales before 2050.
This appeared to inflame the debate about State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) Koala Habitat Protection 2019, which applied to private forests, home to more than 60% of NSW’s koalas. In early September the Nationals threatened to cross the floor unless the Liberal’s agreed to their demands to weaken protections for koalas. The Liberals surrendered.
The inquiry reaffirmed that fragmentation and loss of habitat poses the most serious threat to koalas in NSW.
We’ve known for decades that if we want koalas to survive, we first need to protect where they live.
A Petition with Koala grunt!
Lyn Orrego from koalapark.org.au
According to the NSW chief scientist, Koala populations fell by 30% in NSW and 50% in northern NSW over a 20 year period. NSW Koalas are predicted to become extinct in NSW by 2050 if the decline is not halted. Habitat loss and fragmentation through logging, land clearing and bushfires, are the primary cause of the koala’s decline. The only way to stop the decline is to stop the loss of koala habitat by protecting it in perpetuity.
The Great Koala National Park (GKNP) as proposed by the NSW National Parks Association would protect three nationally significant koala metapopulations, estimated to total 20% of NSW’s koalas, in a single network of national parks.
The GKNP won’t just benefit koalas, it will benefit all animals that like mature forests and big trees – threatened species like spotted-tail quolls, powerful owls, glossy black cockatoos and greater gliders. Removing logging will allow forests to grow older and trees to grow bigger, which will increase carbon stores and help fight global heating. And it can become a playground for humans with long bushwalks, secret swimming holes and mountain bike tracks.
The bushfires of 2019-20 burnt over 1.6 million hectares of the north east NSW bioregion (39% of region’s native vegetation), destroying over a quarter of the prime Koala habitat. It is estimated that thousands were killed, with many populations now on the verge of collapse. The Great Koala National Park is needed more urgently now than ever.
It's a no-brainer!
The proposed Great Koala National Park would be an economic boon for Coffs Harbour region.
In February 2021 The University of Newcastle’s economic study of the proposed Great Koala National Park (GKNP) was released. It found that the Park would generate additional regional economic output of $1.18 billion over the next 15 years and $1.7 billion in biodiversity value.
Over the 15 year period the region would benefit from:
- the creation of 9,135 net additional full-time equivalent jobs
- investment in the region of $145 million in capital expenditure
- investment in the region of $128 million in operating expenditure
- a boost to the regional visitor economy of 1 million visitors who would spend $412 million/yr.
And the environmental benefit of added biodiversity value of:
- Around $530 million for the NSW population
- Around $1.7 billion for all Australians
(Based on the peer-reviewed “willingness to pay” methodology.)
Camp Nunguu (Golden Kangaroo Camp) - Newry State Forest
Action is amping up again on Gumbaynggirr Country (near Bellingen) with Forestry Corp having finished roading at Newry State Forest.
Earlier in the month an Emergency Town meeting was called by the Bellingen Environment Centre to discuss the proposed loss of 657 hectares of public native forest in the koala hotspot and culturally significant area of Newry SF.
A large crowd of over 150 residents from across the region braved the rain to attend and listen to 6 key speakers who talked of the significance of this forest. Mayor Dominic King introduced the night with Uncle Bernard Kelly Edwards giving a Welcome to Country and Uncle Roger Jarrett calling on all of us to work as one family to protect sacred, cultural sites in Gumbaynggirr forests and to care for Country.
Uncle Roger Jarrett at the emergency town meeting (Maddie Stephenson)
Since the floods, Forestry Corp has been in the forest every day preparing the site. Predictably, the heavy rain has caused erosion and run-off from the roading and fed sediment into nearby waterways.
In rapid response the community has set up a camp in the forest, begun ecological surveys and had dozens of people attend non-violent direct action trainings.
The camp has been named by Uncle Bud as Camp Nunguu - the Golden Kangaroo Camp. On April 10th 10am there will be an opening ceremony where the Elders will welcome us onto the land. There will also be dancing, music and food.
Locals out at the #StandUpForNewry town meeting (Maddie Stephenson)
Bulga Forest Walk
The Bulga Forest Walk and koala scat hunt planned for March 21, got well and truly washed away. A truly awesome amount of water fell from the sky. It's had a devastating impact on people and livestock in low-lying areas. As well there has been massive damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges, some of which will take months to repair.
We know that an increase in extreme weather events is a sign of climate change. Last year it was extreme fire, before that extreme drought and now extreme rainfall. What was once a 1 in a 100 year event is now a 1 in 50 year event. In another 25 years it will be a 1 in 25 year event - and that was the prediction of climate scientists in the 1990s. In NSW, a warmer climate will lead to more intense rainfall events.
As I watched a mind-boggling amount of water pass by down the Ellenborough River I pondered how the forests were faring in the downpour. Just as forests of older, larger trees are more resilient to fire and less flammable, older trees play a key role in holding together the soil and absorbing water during heavy rain.
It's well known that older forests have more permeable soils. This is for many reasons including a greater number of small mammals, birds and invertebrates that turn over the leaf litter and assist in vegetations decomposition, making humus. That's why older forests act as a water reservoir, storing water in the soil.
But as our forests get converted to younger and younger regrowth, that sponginess dries out and forest is less permeable. This means in an extreme weather event the water rushes down slope into the gullies and creeks and eventually creating flooding rivers. As well, the water rushes down logging roads and tracks taking massive amounts of soil with it. The ruts and gullies that result from logging can erode for many decades.
We'll get back to Bulga Forest soon and resume our koala search, but the downstream legacy of forest destruction will be felt for quite some time to come.
Why is Forestry Corporation bulldozing rainforest in a National Park?
During the 2019 wildfires the Forestry Corporation undertook widening of a track around a Hoop Pine plantation in Beaury State Forest (west of Urbenville in the upper Clarence River valley), in the process damaging 5-6 ha of subtropical rainforest, mostly within the Tooloom National Park. The plantation had been established in the late 1970s by being “cookie cut” out of a large stand of subtropical rainforest, which was subsequently made into the National Park, and then assessed as qualifying for World Heritage listing.
NEFA’s assessment in March 2021 found they indiscriminately bulldozed hundreds of whole trees (up to 70 cm diameter) out of the ground, with crowns being pushed over 33m into the surrounding rainforest, in the process pushing loose soil into the rainforest and damaging standing trees up to 2.5 metres diameter, killing many of them. In total some 5-6 ha of rainforest was affected, with over 4 ha of this being in the National Park. The Forestry Corporation say they did it under the emergency fire provisions, NEFA considers it an unjustifiable act of environmental vandalism and has written to the Environment Minister asking him to investigate.
Redbank is not verdant, nor sweet.
Dailan Pugh & Susie Russell
NEFA & No Electricity From Forests held an action outside Redbank last month
Redbank was the dirtiest polluting power station in Australia until it was mothballed a few years ago. But in the last year or so a consortium of sorts has been pulling together a proposal to re-open and burn wood instead of coal.
The paper trail of companies involved is complicated... there is Hunter Energy, which appears to be changing its name to Verdant Technologies. Then there is the Sweetman Sawmill that has now set up several companies such as Sweetman Renewables and Sweetman Biomass. They are obviously seeing dollar signs in the 'burning wood is renewable energy' project.
There are variable claims of powering 200,000 to 250,000 houses, which based on the Forestry Corporation’s 2017 study would require 1-1.25 million tonnes of biomass per annum. Burning these volumes of wood will release 1.8-2.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the logging and transport even more. This is classed as renewable energy, with no carbon emissions, on the grounds that at some future time regrowing trees will take up the released carbon. This at a time when we urgently need to leave trees standing to reduce atmospheric carbon, not release more.
This is based on burning biomass “from industrial wood based waste, end-of-life timber products, sawmill and wood processing residues, and low-quality forest resources, not suitable for timber product manufacturing”. The concern is that, like in Eden, 80-90% of trees taken from north-east NSW’s forests will be classed as residues – not suitable for sawlogs. This will herald a dramatic intensification of logging and is why logging intensities were recently increased and 140,000 ha from Grafton to Taree zoned for clearfelling. The Forestry Corporations estimates that the maximum obtainable annually from the whole of north-east NSW is 400,000 tonnes from State Forests and 600,000 tonnes from private forests.
From an expression of interest sent out - if you live within 400km of Singleton your forests could be under threat.
It remains confusing as to what is going on as the EPA haven’t yet given them approval and the Forestry Corporation are saying they have no intention to provide them with timber, yet they are saying they have a supply agreement with Sweetman’s Timber Pty Ltd, plan to get going around the middle of this year, and now intend to use the electricity to manufacture liquid hydrogen.
NEFA and No Electricity From Forests had our first action at the power-station this month - we encourage others to do the same! We will need a concerted effort to stop this going ahead.
New North East Forest Campaigner!
We are happy to announce that NEFA has supported the creation of a new Forest Campaigner position to help boost regional capacity to stand up for forests.
This new position will help us:
- hold regular creative actions to keep forests on the political agenda and build pressure on key decision-makers;
- have more conversations and organising in regional communities to activate more people from all walks of life to stand up for forests
- do more research, surveying and reports that holds FCNSW to account
- build a larger, more diverse network of forest protectors across the North East Coast
Our forests are under threat and we need all the support we can get.
We would love to extend this position if we can find some extra donations. We are 100% community funded and work on a shoestring budget. If you are able to chip in to support this position - it will go a long way. You can do that here.
Forest Campaigner Sean O'Shannessy speaks at the Lismore Koala Day of Action (Jimmy Malecki)
We thank you for your support, solidarity and care for the forest!