The North East Forest Alliance was formed in 1989 as an alliance of groups and individuals from throughout north-east NSW, with the principal aims of protecting rainforest, oldgrowth, wilderness and threatened species. NEFA has pursued these goals through forest blockades, rallies, court cases, submissions, lobbying, and protracted negotiations. Read the history of our first blockade at North Washpool in 1989.
After our second blockade of North Washpool and a court case we stopped logging of mapped rainforest on public lands in 1990. We managed to get rainforest more fully mapped and protected during forest negotiations from 1995-98. (see A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW)
After a blockade and court case over Chaelundi in 1990, and promises of more to come, we forced the NSW Government to establish moratoria over some 180,000 ha of oldgrowth forest until EISs were prepared. We managed to get oldgrowth mapped during forest negotiations from 1995-98, with mapped “high conservation value” oldgrowth protected. In 2003 we had protection extended to cover all mapped oldgrowth stands over 10ha on public land. Wilderness on public land was also protected as part of that process. (see A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW)
After our second and biggest blockade at Chaelundi in 1991, and another court case, we were successful in getting NSW’s first threatened species legislation, the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act. It took many more blockades, submissions and negotiations to get requirements for fauna and flora surveys and a comprehensive set of prescriptions for public land in 1996-9. Unfortunately they remain inadequate and poorly applied. (see The Battle to Protect Threatened Species)
It took NEFA’s 1992 blockade of a logging operation at Killekrankie in the New England Wilderness to halt horrendous logging and roadworks that were causing massive erosion, and a threatened court case, to force the Government to agree to adopt Pollution Control Licences for State Forests’ operations. Though a comprehensive suite of prescriptions to reduce erosion and protect streams wasn’t finally applied on public lands until 1996-9. Inadequate as they are, the Forestry Corporation was successful in having over 90% of their operations exempted in 2004. (see The Battle to Protect Soils and Streams)
For north east NSW, NEFA were also instrumental in getting the area of national parks and other conservation reserves increased from 968,335ha in 1989 to 2,033,227ha in 2011, an increase of 1,064,892 ha or 110%, with most of this being protected over the period 1995 to 2004. In addition to this, 311,615 ha of State Forest was incorporated into Forest Management Zones (FMZ 1, 2, and 3A) and Special Management Zones which are counted as contributing to the reserve system and protected from logging, bringing the total protected from logging to 1,376,507ha. The proportion of north-east NSW’s land area in reserves has increased from 10% in 1989 to 21% in 2011, with an additional 3% protected from logging in management zones. (see A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW)
There is still a lot to do, north east NSW still does not have an adequate reserve system, attempts to implement ecologically sustainable forestry have failed, forests are being over-logged, weeds and dieback are being spread through our forests, and their carbon stocks depleted.
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The (ancestors of the) Githabul people have lived in and around the lush forests of the ranges straddling the NSW-Queensland border for tens of thousands of years. In the 1840s they were brutally dispossessed by European settlement and the waves of pastoralists, gold diggers and timber cutters who wanted the riches of their land.
In 2007, 11 years after they lodged a claim, their native title rights were recognised over nine national parks and 13 State Forests.
After years of observing that logging was causing the forest ecosystems to collapse, in 2016 the Githabul blockaded a logging operation and stopped all logging in the 29,700ha of State Forests on their country.
In August 2018 representatives of the Githabul and NSW conservation groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together to get the care and management of these State Forests back into Githabul hands, and undertake rehabilitation of extensive logging dieback areas.
We need your help to make this dream a reality.
We're proud to announce our Githabul Film was an official selection for the Byron All Shorts Film Festival 2019 and won a Highly Commended: Stories of Consequence and Social Impact Award. You can watch the film below.
What you can do
Become a supporter of the Githabul Return of Country campaign:
Ask any groups you are a member of to join up in supporting the MOU
Contact your local State and Federal members of parliament, and candidates for the upcoming State and Federal elections, and ask them to support the Githabul being given care and control of the State Forests subject to their native title determination in accordance with the MOU.
Contact the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
Through her website: https://www.nsw.gov.au/contact-us/contact-the-premier/
Through facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gladysnsw/
Githabul Campaign Background
North-east New South Wales is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots with both its rainforests and eucalypt forests being identified as of World Heritage value. Its forests and their inhabitants date back for tens of millions of years to the lost continent of Gondwana.
Humans settled the region tens of thousands of years ago and for millennia lived in harmony with the environment. The first custodians of some 4,400 km2 in the upper Condamine, Logan, Clarence and Richmond River valleys, amongst the Border Ranges (separating Queensland and New South Wales), were the Githabul Tribe. They adapted themselves to the environment, with their culture and beliefs interwoven with the land, waters and wildlife. They derived their law and customs from the Nguthungali-garda (spirits of our grandfathers) which reside in significant landscape features and had many sites (jurbihls) of spiritual significance.
Their lives rapidly changed with the movement of European squatters down from the New England Tablelands in the 1840's, who forcibly and sometimes violently appropriated the land from the Githabul for their stock. Resistance was overcome. Retribution was brutal with indiscriminate killings of men, women and children, including by giving them arsenic laced flour. By 1846 most suitable country was occupied by squatters and their sheep. Their population decimated by fatal plagues of measles and smallpox, the Githabul became outcasts on their own land. Some worked for the squatters as cooks and stockmen.
Starting in the late 1850s there was a massive influx of thousands of diggers in a series of gold rushes.
In 1908 Aboriginal Reserves, termed "homes", were established at Stoney Gulley near Kyogle and at Muli Muli, near Woodenbong. There the Githabul were expected to live "on their own land" and were reported as being treated by "blundering officialdom in a callous inhuman manner", made to live in windowless and leaky "hovels" on poor rations. For a while the Githabul persisted in maintaining camps throughout the region. In 1936 the Aborigines Protection Act allowed any Aboriginal to be removed by court order to a reserve. Managers were installed, and "heathen practices" (such as corroborees) and speaking their language prohibited. In some instances families were rounded up with stockwhips. In 1940 Stoney Gulley was sold by the Welfare Board to local farmers and the Githabul moved to Muli Muli.
Initially land clearing and logging was associated with the squatters. In the 1840s Red Cedar-cutters began working their way up the rivers from the coast in search of the "red gold". Logging extended into the Border Ranges in the 1880s as Red Cedars became scarce elsewhere. Sawmills were established in the region in the early 1900s to log Hoop Pine and select rainforest species. State Forests began to be established in 1909. As Hoop Pine became scarce the Urbenville Reafforestation Project was launched in 1939 with the aim of clearfelling of rainforests on the basalt plateau and converting them into Hoop and Bunya Pine plantations. Forest clearing and logging intensity rapidly accelerated as settler populations increased, farming practices changed and technologies advanced.
In 1995 the Githabul People lodged a native title claim over 140,600 hectares of their country. It took over 11 years for the Githabul's native title rights in nine national parks and 13 state forests to be recognised by the Federal Court in 2007. An indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) between the Githabul People, the Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation and the NSW Government was signed in 2007. It was largely a symbolic recognition, with non-exclusive rights to hunt, fish, and gather for traditional purposes, protection of culturally significant areas, a say in management of national parks and 4 indigenous persons positions with NPWS. They were granted ownership of 102 ha of their former lands.
The ILUA only provided the Githabul with an opportunity to be consulted about the management of the State Forests. Regrettably in the wake of repeated and intensifying logging, weeds (notably lantana) have invaded and the ecological processes in large areas of the remnant forests are in collapse. The lantana smothers the understorey and stops the trees regenerating, while the altered ecosystem has favoured the native Bell Miners, allowing them to proliferate and aggressively exclude most other native species. This in turn has allowed sap-sucking insects, called psyllids, to proliferate to the point where they are draining the life out of the surviving eucalypts. Large areas of these precious forests are now in terminal decline, with seas of lantana overtopped by dead and dying trees spreading like cancer. Each logging event compounds the problems.
As logging continued and dieback expanded it became too much for the Githabul and in 2016 they blockaded a logging operation and stopped all logging in 29,700ha of State Forests on their country. They are now in dispute with the NSW Government over their ILUA.
Despite this the NSW and Commonwealth Governments are now intent on issuing Regional Forest Agreements, and Wood Supply Agreements to mill owners, to lock in logging of these publicly "owned" State Forests for the foreseeable future - ignoring the Githabul Tribe's hopes and aspirations, while guaranteeing more decades of gross mismanagement by the Forestry Corporation.
In 2018 a consortium of the Githabul Tribe and NSW Conservation groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the intent of:
Transferring care and control of 29,700ha State Forests for which Githabul Native Title rights are recognised, from the NSW Government to the Githabul Tribe.
Preparing a comprehensive Plan of Management to safeguard conservation and cultural values and prioritise rehabilitation works.
Obtaining State and Commonwealth funding for a comprehensive 15 year rehabilitation plan to arrest and repair forest dieback on Crown lands as part of a Githabul Caring for Country program.
Creating more NPWS positions and training for Githabul Working on Country in National Parks in the Kyogle area.
Transferring the care and control of Crown lands around the Tooloom Falls Aboriginal Place to the Githabul Tribe.
Assisting in the establishment of a Githabul Cultural and Tourism Centre on their land at Roseberry Creek.
Obtaining World Heritage Listing for qualifying National Parks in the region.
We have written to the NSW and Commonwealth Governments, and various aspiring politicians, asking them to support this initiative, which is more fully outlined in our letter to Premier Gladys Berejiklian
The community fought hard in the late 1970s and early 1980s to protect rainforest and in the late 1980s and 1990s to protect oldgrowth forests. These were mapped in the Comprehensive Regional Assessment under the supervision of all agencies and key stakeholders in an open and transparent process involving an Old Growth Expert Panel in 1998.
Those oldgrowth forests on State Forests, above high thresholds for a combination of ecosystem, fauna, flora and Centres of Endemism reserve targets (called 'summed irreplaceability'), were identified as High Conservation Value (HCV) Oldgrowth and included in informal Reserves as part of the Comprehensive Adequate and Representative reserve system in 2000. They were counted as contributing to reserve targets for oldgrowth, forest ecosystems, and national estate in the 2000 Regional Forest Agreement.
Mapped HCV oldgrowth forests in the Upper North East are also legally protected as a heritage item under the NSW Heritage Act 1977. An additional 20,000 ha of oldgrowth was included in Special Management Zones in 2003.
As part of their new Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) the NSW Government is intending to subject mapped oldgrowth forest and rainforest protected for the past 20 years to a review process that is intended to make large areas of oldgrowth and rainforest on State Forests available for logging. They have changed the criteria and methodology for identifying oldgrowth and rainforest.
The outcome from these multiple revisions is that of the 103,000 ha of protected oldgrowth on State forests, in the order of 58,600ha (57%) may be wiped from the map and made available for logging, with some narrow strips and patches retained within these areas. Of the 81,567ha of mapped rainforest in the order of 50, 571 hectares (62%) of mapped rainforest could be opened up for logging.
The justification for this is a claimed shortfall of 8,600 cubic metres of high quality sawlogs per annum on the north coast. This is fraudulent as the contribution of hardwood plantations to yields was removed from the calculations, turning a claimed surplus into a deficit. The claimed need to log rainforest and oldgrowth protected for the past 20 years is based on a lie.
Forestry Corporation's yield projections are so grossly and deliberately over-stated that once oldgrowth logging resumes, claims of yield shortfalls will be used to log ever-increasing areas of oldgrowth to avoid compensation claims. This does seem to be the deliberate intent.
NEFA intends to focus on this issue in an effort to stop oldgrowth and rainforest being opened up for logging.
Mapping of Oldgrowth and Rainforest on the chopping block to be logged.
Githabul Tribe and Conservation Groups Reach Historic Agreement
The Githabul Tribe, Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Githabul Elders and representatives of conservation groups today launched their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the management of Githabul Native Title Lands in the upper Clarence and Richmond Rivers.
On 29 November 2007 the Federal Court of Australia made a consent determination recognising the Githabul People’s Native Title rights and interests over 1120 sq km in 9 National Parks and 13 State Forests.
The MoU proposes:
- · Transferring care and control of 29,700ha State Forests for which Githabul Native Title rights are recognised, from the NSW government to the Githabul Tribe.
- · Preparing a comprehensive Plan of Management to safeguard conservation and cultural values and prioritise rehabilitation works.
- · Achieving an adequately funded comprehensive 15 year rehabilitation plan to arrest and repair forest dieback as part of a Githabul caring for country program.
- · Creating more NPWS positions and training for Githabul Working on Country in National Parks in the Kyogle area.
- · Transferring the care and control of Crown lands around the Tooloom Falls Aboriginal Place to the Githabul Tribe.
- · Promoting the establishment of a Cultural and Tourism Centre at Roseberry Creek.
- · Obtaining World Heritage Listing for the National Parks in the region.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
- Logging Dieback
- Climate Change
- Cable Logging
- Logging Prescriptions
- Forest Slaughter
- Old Trees
- Logging Industry
- World Heritage
- Impacts of Grazing
Chaelundi 30 years on
- Recollections of legal and political efforts here
- Academic Papers here
- Chaelundi in the Commons Library "Blockades That Changed Australia"
- Great Album of Photos here
Conservationists meeting over the weekend at Bellingen agreed to support calls by Australian Solar Timbers boss Douglas Head, for an inquiry into Wood Supply Agreements for public lands in North East NSW.
The North East Forest Alliance and the North Coast Environment Council have serious concerns that the people of NSW have been misled on the wood contract issue.
"When the then Minister Katrina Hodgkinson announced the decision by the NSW Government in 2014 to buyback 50,000 cubic metres of sawlogs a year from Boral Timber for $8.55 million she said 'we have focused on reducing demand rather than trying to increase supply'", NCEC Vice-President Susie Russell said.
"Nowhere in the media announcements was the information that while the contracts had been reduced between 2015 to 2023, they had also been extended for a further 5 years, to 2028.
There is a new threat to our public native forests: an extreme clear fell logging proposal.
The new logging licences currently being negotiated by the Forestry Corporation and the Environment Protection Authority, known at the IFOA or Integrated Forestry Operations Approval, are a major step backwards for our forests. They want to zone 150,000 hectares of public forests from Grafton to Taree into an intensive logging zone where clear felling is the norm. North of Grafton and south of Taree the plan is for a massive intensification of logging.
Only a few trees will be required to be protected. This would turn these public native forests into pseudo-plantations, drying up streams and devastating wildlife habitat. The koala and 32 other animal species that are threatened with extinction will be seriously affected.
In the Clarence and Richmond catchments the proposed new rules will see thousands of hectares of stream side forest and threatened species habitat become available for logging.
Dailan Pugh has done a detailed analysis of the impacts. The full report can be found here:
We now need to spread the word about this. Standby for campaign actions and be ready to write submissions opposing it when the new IFOA is put on public exhibition.
ROW OVER MASSIVE CLEAR-FELL ‘TRIALS’ CONTINUES
Assurances by NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) that ‘all is well’ in the region’s native forests have been rejected, as “not believable, nor based on reality”, North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Mr John Corkill, said today. The comments are the latest in a major public dispute over the EPA’s support for proposed logging “trials” at massively increased levels of intensity.
NEFA makes submissions to the NSW Government on a wide range of issues affecting our forests. These detailed submissions can be found using the hyperlinks to the relevant topics below.
NEFA Submission on the Local Land Services (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill
Here is a short extract from our submission. Prepared by Dailan Pugh, February 2021
So here we are, in Koala’s darkest hour we are back to discussing how disgracefully the Government intended to treat them, while they explore other avenues to remove protections and hasten their extinction...
For the future of Koalas, NEFA hopes that you can make a difference in this life and death struggle. We hope this submission will help.
NEFA considers that the intent of SEPP 44 to identify and protect “core Koala habitat” was the right way to go. We have already wasted 25 years and thousands of Koalas’ lives as the Government has dithered and actively frustrated this intent. It is more urgent than ever that we identify and protect “core Koala habitat”, and prepare Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management (CKPoMs), though Koalas will be extinct in the wild before we achieve this if we continue in this way.
We urgently need to change tack if we want to save Koalas. Most importantly the NSW Government needs to take on the task of undertaking a systematic scientific process to map Koala habitat within each Area of Regional Koala Significance (ARKS), with the output being the identification of feed trees, key Koala colonies, grades of Koala habitat, habitat links, drought refuges and long-term climate change refugia across all tenures within each ARKS. This then can be used to prepare KPoMs and feed into other processes to protect Koalas.
As identified by the Environmental Defenders Office:
Frankly, we can’t wait another decade to debate the wording of a new koala policy or guideline. We need to address the fact that our laws currently allow clearing of important koala habitat.
This Bill was the exact opposite of the law reform that is needed to save NSW koalas from extinction. And the decision to revert back to the former SEPP 44 is also a significant backwards step.
North East Forest Alliance Submission to NSW Bushfire Inquiry
Prepared by Dailan Pugh, April 2020
Due to climate heating bushfires are becoming more frequent and intense. As evidenced in 2019-20, droughts and heatwaves are drying forests out and making them more flammable. The fires were of unprecedented extent burning through 2.4 million hectares of north-east NSW with unprecedented intensity, as evidenced by the burning of 35% of rainforests. The fires likely killed in the order of 350 million vertebrates, leaving many species teetering on the brink of extinction. The situation is dire and urgent action is needed to stop further climatic deterioration and increase the resilience of forests.
To redress the unfolding calamity we need to move towards net zero emissions of CO2 as soon as possible, though we cannot limit climate heating to less than 1.5o or 2o C unless our forests remove excess carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their wood and soils. Clearing of native vegetation must cease, right now. Stoping logging of public native forests is a logical next step as the regenerating forests will store ever increasing volumes of carbon as they age and fulfil the essential role of immediately reducing atmospheric carbon - stoping logging of north-east NSW's State Forests will sequester 6.5% of NSW's annual emissions. By 2050 we need to have undertaken extensive regeneration and reforestation to draw down more atmospheric carbon. Huge gains can be made by rewarding landholders for the volumes of carbon they store in soils and trees.
We need our forests more than ever, not just because of their intrinsic worth and beauty, but for the ecosystem services they provide us, such as generating rainfall, cooling the land, calming winds, regulating streamflows, and capturing and storing the carbon we emit. With forests increasingly stressed by droughts and fires they are losing their ability to mop up our excess carbon - there is no time to waste if we want to avoid the worst of the climate catastrophe.
North East Forest Alliance Submission to Private Native Forestry Review
Prepared by Dailan Pugh, January 2019
It is evident that Private Native Forestry has never been undertaken on an Ecologically Sustainable basis because of political interventions, lack of political will, opposition from some landholders, failure to adopt best practices, refusal to adopt science-based prescriptions and consider relevant environmental research, refusal to require pre-logging surveys and apply mitigation measures for threatened species, inadequate retention and recruitment of old trees, failure to undertake assessments to identify ecosystems and features requiring protection, inadequate protection of streams and riparian buffers, failure to take into account forest degradation and require rehabilitation, failure to monitor the effectiveness of prescriptions and apply adaptive management, failure to undertake effective regulation, secrecy surrounding PNF operations, and contempt for genuine community concerns.
You can visit the LLS Government site here: https://www.lls.nsw.gov.au/sustainable-land-management/pnforestry/private-native-forestry-review-2018
See also the report immediately below which formed the basis of a submission to a Commonwealth Senate Inquiry into Threatened Species.
Compliance of Forestry Operations in North East New South Wales with Commonwealth Requirements for Threatened Species and Ecosystems September 2018
This report reviews the protection applied both in theory and practice to nationally threatened species and ecological communities in forestry operations in the North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement (NE RFA) area.
North East Forest Alliance submission to:
Photo: Dailan Pugh giving evidence to the Inquiry into the EPA's regulation of forestry practices at Royal Camp State Forest
North East Forest Alliance Submission to the Federal Inquiry into: The effectiveness of threatened species and ecological communities' protection in Australia, Prepared by Dailan Pugh for NEFA, December 2012
Sandy Creek National Park Proposal