MEDIA RELEASE 15 March 2022
The North East Forest Alliance is calling on Premier Dominic Perrottet to block the imminent 5 year extension of north coast Wood Supply Agreements because of the massive loss of resources in the 2019/20 fires, the increased need to protect fire refuges for affected Koalas, the need to restore hollow-bearing trees, and the urgency of protecting forests as carbon sinks to mitigate climate heating.
In the 2019/20 wildfires 49% of north-coast State Forests burnt causing the deaths of millions of trees and animals, yet contrary to their own evidence and advice the NSW Government is intending to continue cutting down trees and destroying animal’s homes as if nothing happened, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
“In response to a question from Justin Field the Forestry Corporation revealed they are in the process of extending Wood Supply Agreements for north coast public forests, issued in 2003 for 20 years, unaltered for a further 5 years (1).
“According to the Forestry Corporation’s own guesstimates across the north coast over 9.4% of sawlogs (trees >30 cm diameter) and 24.5% of future sawlogs (<30cm) were killed in the 2019/20 fires, with losses increasing to around 15% of sawlogs and 35% of future sawlogs north from Coffs Harbour (2).
“It is grossly irresponsible that the NSW Government is proceeding with these Wood Supply Agreements given that Forestry Corporation have yet to remeasure any of their 1,616 north coast growth plots in burnt forest to accurately quantify timber losses, as losses could be far worse than they guess (2).
“Well before the fires, in 2017 the Department of Primary Industries recommended that Wood Supply Agreements should be reduced by 15% (3). The cuts now need to be far deeper to accommodate fire impacts.
“The losses of Koalas have been even greater with DPI Forestry estimating all Koalas were eliminated from forests subject to high severity fires, and over half in forests subject to moderate severity fires (4). With the losses of so many feed trees the last thing Koalas need is to have what’s left cut down.
“The Natural Resources Commission recognised the crisis for the multitude of hollow-dependent animals caused by the loss of hollow-bearing trees in the fires, recommending to the Ministers for Environment and Forestry last June that they change the logging rules to more than triple the retention of the biggest trees so those almost old enough to develop hollows can become the hollow-bearing trees of the future rather than woodchips or flooring (5).
“No wonder Environment Minister James Griffin, and his predecessor Matt Kean, have refused for 8 months to implement this NRC recommendation, as if they protect the trees identified as essential for the future survival of hollow-dependent animals they won’t be able to give the same trees to loggers in Wood Supply Agreements.
“Even if his Ministers refuse to, Premier Perrottet needs to recognise that extending Wood Supply Agreements at pre-fire levels is clearly unsustainable in multiple ways as it will cause gross overcutting and run-down sawlogs, require removal of Koala feed trees in fire refugia needed to rebuild populations, and require the logging of older mature trees needed as recruitments for future hollow-bearing trees”
“Before committing public resources to private individuals Perrottet needs to ensure there is a full and proper assessment in an open and transparent process that accounts for fire impacts and wildlife needs”, Mr. Pugh said.
(2) Forestry Corporation 2020 ‘NSW Coastal Hardwood Forests Sustainable Yield Review’. Based on extrapolation from a few Eden plots to the north coast, the Forestry Corporation guesstimate in the 15% of State Forests affected by crown fires all trees <30cm and half the larger trees were killed, and for the 19% affected by hot fires the guesses are 50% <30cm killed and 10% larger killed. North from Coffs Harbour losses increase with 48% of forests affected by crown and hot fires. https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/1299388/fcnsw-sustainable-yield-report-2019-20-wildfires.pdf
(3) DPI 2017 ‘Review of Coastal Hardwood Wood Supply Agreements Final Report’. “GHD has reviewed the current North Coast supply commitments against delivery volumes by species and concludes that a buyback in the order of 15,000 m3 is targeted”. https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/720619/review-of-coastal-hardwood-wood-supply-agreements.pdf
(5) NRC (2021) ‘Final report Coastal IFOA operations post 2019/20 wildfires, June 2021’. Unpublished suppressed report to NSW Ministers for Environment and Forestry. The NRC effectively recommended at least tripling the retention of large old trees, from up to 8 hollow bearing trees per ha where they remain, to:
- if [the required 8 per ha] hollow-bearing trees are not available, then retain suitable substitutes, in priority order being, potential future hollow-bearing trees, the largest mature tree in the stand or a regrowth tree that is not suppressed
- retain two recruitment trees per retained hollow-bearing tree
NEFA’s A Chance for hollow-bearing trees has further information.
“As fires and floods increase in intensity and frequency due to climate heating it is more important than ever that we restore the essential roles of trees in taking carbon out of the air and storing it in their trunks and soils.
“Forests are also important in capturing and storing runoff, regulating its release to streams and reducing flooding.
“Our forests are already haemorrhaging trees due to droughts, fires and Bell Miner Associated Dieback, all being aggravated by logging.
“We cannot afford to continue to lose our trees, forests are worth far, far more to us being left to mature than being cut down” Mr. Pugh added.