A promise to return ‘third party’ legal rights, to allow “any person” to enforce the logging industry’s compliance with environmental laws, made by NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley today, has been welcomed by the North East Forest Alliance, as ‘a necessary measure’, due to what NEFA says is a major breakdown in the regulation of logging in publicly owned native forests in north east NSW.
“In the interests of better forest management we urge Premier Baird to match this promise. The NSW Forestry Corporation has repeatedly broken the rules governing logging, designed to protect streams, soils and threatened species, while the NSW Environment Protection Authority has ‘turned a blind eye’. Allowing independent enforcement is the only way to restore integrity to the system of environmental protection,” North East Forest Alliance spokesperson, John Corkill said today.
“Every time we audit logging operations we find serious breaches of logging approval conditions. The rule of law has broken down in our public native forests, as a result of expediency by the NSW Government in trying to find the logs to meet unsustainable timber quotas,” Mr Corkill said.
Mr Corkill said that environment groups are reaching the point of absolute frustration after many years of undertaking citizen audits and pointing out to the Government obvious breaches of the legal conditions attached to logging approvals, only to find that the inept responses are not resulting in behavioural change.
“Loggers and Forestry Corporation continue to routinely, and systemically flout environmental laws due to the EPA’s repeated failure to take effective enforcement action,” Mr Corkill said.
“Once, “any person” could bring proceedings to protect the environment from cowboy loggers, but now only the government can take legal action against the NSW Forest Corporation,” he said.
Mr Corkill said that in 1998 members of the public were excluded from taking legal actions to ‘restrain and remedy’ breaches of environmental protection laws in publicly owned native forests. Now, only a ‘relevant minister’ or the NSW EPA may bring proceedings or issue fines.
“The EPA have since proven that they are not an effective monitoring or enforcement agency for environmental protection. Lax enforcement and occasional paltry fines are obviously no disincentive to the logging industry or Forestry Corporation,” he said.
“A culture of widespread non-compliance by the logging industry, with what they call ‘green tape’, is the direct result of the EPA’s extreme reluctance to take legal action, and the removal of public rights to enforce environmental protection laws,” he said.
“We call on Premier Mike Baird to match Labor’s promise to “reintroduce third party appeal rights”, to allow ‘any person’ to enforce environmental protection laws during logging operations.
“Only the knowledge that ‘any person may bring proceedings’ will make the cowboys in the logging industry and Forestry Corporation worried about their environmental impacts and restore the necessary standards of compliance and enforcement in publicly owned native forests,” Mr. Corkill said.
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