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.
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.
- Damning report: Clearing Koalas Away.
- Read our media release
- ABC coverage here
- Changes to the Koala Logging Prescription
- Proposed Threatened Species logging rules
Explosive documents reveal Government's secret logging agenda: click here to see ABC news story
The coastal forests will be divided into 3 zones. In northern NSW:
The 140,000ha Intensive Zone will see the alternate coupe clearfell logging practiced in Eden, extended all the way along the coast from Taree to Grafton. Coupes for clearfelling are proposed to be 50 to 80 ha. The current legal limit for clearfelling in northern NSW is 0.25 ha!
The regrowth zone will allow intensive logging but will have some tree retention requirements spread across the net logging area.
The non-regrowth zone, will have slightly less intensive logging and a few extra trees retained.
The requirement for pre-logging surveys for most species will be scrapped. For example 326 species of threatened plants will lose their current legal protections and 32 will have their protection areas significantly reduced. Only 77 species and populations of threatened plants will retain their current protections.
Grevillea quadricauda photo by Hugh Nicholson
Similarly, the requirement to survey before logging for most threatened animal species will also be scrapped. 23 animal species are to have their protection removed and 26 are to have their protection significantly reduced. Only 14 will retain their current species-specific protection.
Eastern Blossum Bat photo by David Milledge
Streamside protection in the upper catchment headwaters will be more than halved (from 10m to less than 5), and other stream protections decreased, when all the evidence is that they should be increased to 30m. The current requirement for streamside logging exclusion buffers, is that they are measured from the top of the stream bank. Under the new rules, they will be measured from the middle of the stream. This means that for many streams, logging will be able to occur right up to the edge of the bank and for all streams will result in seriously diminished protection.
Most areas protected over the last 20 years because of the presence of a threatened species, will be opened up for logging. This includes all the Koala High-Use Areas that have been identified to date.
There will no longer be a requirement to search for koalas prior to logging and exclude logging from the areas they are actually using. Thus areas with active koala populations will be logged.
The areas of greatest logging intensity coincide with the areas the Government has identified as the best koala habitat.
Wood supply contract negotiations with logging companies based on the new logging rules are in process. The government remains committed to enter new wood contracts sometime soon: 'in the middle of 2017'.
All of the above is occurring with the Government promising there will be 'no erosion of environmental values'. They must think we are all idiots.
The destruction has got to stop.
We need your help, can you inform your friends and colleagues?
Authorised by Daniel Peterson for the North East Forest Alliance
at 115 Molesworth Street, Lismore, 2480
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
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.
See also the report immediately below which formed the basis of a submission to a Commonwealth Senate Inquiry into Threatened Species.
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
It is proposed to create the 2,100 ha Sandy Creek National Park in the headwaters of the Richmond River south-west of Casino. The proposal is comprised of two parts, including part of Royal Camp State Forest (compartments 13-16, 1,500ha) and the whole of Carwong State Forest (600ha). These forests are primarily proposed for protection for their exceptional importance for Koala conservation in an area where populations are in decline and in danger of extinction.
NEFA have been particularly focussed our efforts on the conservation of Koalas since we caught the Forestry Corporation illegally logging Koala High Use Areas in Royal Camp State Forest in 2012.
We are gravely concerned that Koala populations on the north coast have crashed by 50% over the past 20 years, and that the increase in land clearing and reduction in logging rules will likely see them made extinct in the wild within the next 20 years.
Within a given area Koalas will firstly select feed trees based on species, and secondarily on size, preferring trees over 30cm diameter, with use increasing in line with tree size. They also utilise understory trees for shelter on hot or windy days. In good habitat they have stable home ranges, with a male overlapping a number of females. Logging is targeting the mature trees preferred by Koalas for feeding, with less feed trees there are less Koalas and social systems can break down.
For the past 20 years the Forestry Corporation were meant to thoroughly search for Koala scats (faecal pellets) ahead of logging. Where small numbers of scats are found token feed trees (5 of any size per ha) were required to be retained. Where there were abundant scats they were required to protect small areas around the scats as Koala High Use Areas. Because the Forestry Corporation normally refused to do thorough searches, and because of the minimal protection when found, only some 13 hectares of Koala habitat were protected in any year, and they are allowed to log these next time around. On private land there are few records of Koalas and no need to look before they log, so most Koala habitat is indiscriminately logged.
The Government has decided to remove the need for the Forestry Corporation to look before they log and are instead protect 10 Koala feed trees per ha over 20cm diameter in modelled high quality habitat and 5 per ha is medium quality habitat. The EPA recommended that it should be 25 feed trees per ha over 25cm diameter in high quality habitat and 15 trees per hectare in moderate quality habitat. The NRC over-rode the EPA to support the Forestry Corporation.
The 2018 OEH submission to the IFOA laments that there will "be a reduction in protections offered to koalas", with Koala feed tree retention rates "less than half those originally proposed by the Expert Fauna Panel", noting:
"The increased logging intensity proposed under the draft Coastal IFOA is expected to impact Koalas through diminished feed and shelter tree resources. Animals will need to spend more time traversing the ground as they move between suitable trees that remain, which is likely to increase koala mortality".
It is outrageous that 43% of the high quality Koala habitat on State Forests identified by DPI-Forestry is in the North Coast Intensive Logging Zone where clearfelling will be the norm.
On the north coast Koala populations have crashed by 50% over the past 20 years because they generally prefer the more productive forests left on the coastal floodplains and foothills, the forests that have been most targeted for clearing, logging and urbanisation. If Koalas are to be given a chance it is essential that all remaining colonies be identified and fully protected.
It is evident that the Forestry Corporation can not be trusted to provide the required protection for core Koala habitat and have instead been routinely logging it. In order to provide Koalas with the protection they need the National Parks Association have recently proposed the Great Koala National Park and a series of smaller Koala Parks throughout north east NSW. (see A Blueprint for a Comprehensive Reserve System for Koalas on the North Coast of NSW).
The North East Forest Alliance has proposed that the 2,100 ha Sandy Creek National Park be created over an important Koala population in Royal Camp and Carwong State Forests, south-west of Casino.
We are seeking the protection from clearing and logging of all resident Koala populations across the north coast of NSW.
NEFA President Dailan Pugh, OAM presentation at the
Nature Conservation Council (NCC) Koala Forum in Lismore December 12th, 2018
You can find NCC's Koala campaign here: https://www.nature.org.au/koalas
Koalas and Logging of Public Lands
Koalas and Loggers prefer larger trees. Koalas preferentially select individual trees of preferred species for feeding. They prefer larger and older trees because they: provide more forage have less toxins are more stable and comfortable. You can read Dailan's powerpoint presentation here:
Koalas and Logging of Public Lands.
As a result of documents obtained under Freedom of Information it's now clear that the NSW Government ignored it's own scientist's advice when deciding on the koala reserves. Not only did it choose areas that were already protected and where there were few or no koala records...it DIDN'T choose the areas that have been identified as Koala 'Hubs'.
You can read an analysis of the information obtained in this new report by Dailan Pugh for NEFA. September 2018
Dailan Pugh, NEFA. June 2018
The NSW Government announced there would be 12 "new" Koala Reserves as a keystone of its Koala Strategy:Creating new reserves for koalas and protecting habitat corridors is a key pillar of the Strategy. More than 20,000 hectares of state forest on the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, North Coast, Hawkesbury and Hunter with koala habitat will be set aside as new koala reserves. Over 4000 hectares of native forest with koala habitat will be transferred to the national parks estate.
It is fraudulent for the NSW Government to pretend that these are new Koala Reserves. Ten of the 12 Koala Reserves are already protected as part of the informal reserve system (as FMZs 2 and 3). Four have no records of Koalas, and only 2 have "contemporary" records. Only 3 of the north-east reserves have high quality Koala habitat identified within them, and 2 of these have no "contemporary" records to substantiate the models... (View full PDF document)
If there is a genuine desire to stop the slide of NSWs Koalas into extinction then the primary requirement is for the current NSW Premier to direct her Ministers and their agencies to implement the intent of current legislation. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to make what we have work better.
She needs to direct that the agencies immediately identify and protect remaining core Koala habitat and habitat linkages across all tenures. This will require the allocation of significant resources to undertake the required mapping of core Koala habitat and to provide financial incentives to private landowners to conserve core Koala habitat in perpetuity. There is also a need to rehabilitate degraded habitat and to replant essential habitat linkages.
North East Forest Alliance, Revised March 2017
It is proposed to create the 2,100 ha Sandy Creek National Park in the headwaters of the Richmond River south-west of Casino. The proposal is comprised of two parts, including part of Royal Camp State Forest (compartments 13-16, 1,500ha) and the whole of Carwong State Forest (600ha). These forests are primarily proposed for protection for their exceptional importance for Koala conservation in an area where populations are in decline and in danger of extinction. The proposal is comprised of inadequately reserved ecosystems, includes 2 Endangered Ecological Communities, and incorporates the known habitat for the Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater, 3 Endangered plants, one Vulnerable plant, and 17 Vulnerable animals. There is the potential to improve its long term integrity by voluntarily acquiring intervening freehold land which has also been assessed as being of high value for Koalas... (View full PDF document)
Clearing our Koalas Away is a damning new report by Dailan Pugh that puts together intensive logging maps recently obtained via Freedom of Information, and the EPAs new koala habitat model.
The principal findings of this review are that:
Within the 103 State Forest compartments currently being actively logged on public land in north east NSW there are 4,663 ha of modelled high quality Koala habitat and 357 Koala records.
The identified protection for Koalas in current logging entails 2 Koala High Use Areas totalling 1.2ha from which logging is excluded and the identification of 15% of the high quality habitat as "Intermediate Use Habitat" where 5 feed trees of any size are required to be retained per hectare. This is mere tokenism.
Thirteen of the 20 current logging areas with >17% high quality Koala habitat are being targeted for logging intensities (regeneration and heavy Single Tree Selection) involving up to 60-86% basal area removal in blatant contravention of the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA's) limit of 40% basal area removal.
During the period when it was practiced from 2000-2010 over 10,000ha of forests in the Lower North East region were allocated to Australian Group Selection patch clearfelling, incorporating 6,460ha of high quality Koala habitat, despite a prohibition on the use of AGS in "intermediate" Koala habitat.
Since 2006 in the Lower North East region. the Forestry Corporation have subjected 74,906 ha to the unlawful logging practices of 'medium', 'heavy' and 'regeneration' Single Tree Selection involving 41-100% basal area removal. This is comprised of 23,742 ha (32%) of high quality Koala habitat and 717 Koala records.
Of the unlawfully logged area, 23,340 ha has been subjected to 'heavy' and 'regeneration' STS, comprised of 39% high quality Koala habitat, in what amounts to clearing and conversion to quasi plantations.
Over the past 10 years the Forestry Corporation have progressively and unlawfuly converted half of the logging area of the proposed North Coast Intensive Zone in the Lower North East Region to "quasi plantations", with the proposed zoning to give retrospective approval.
There have been no records of Koalas from 41% of the current logging areas encompassing high quality Koala habitat, and no records for at least the past 9 years in 12% of the areas. Records over the past 20 years indicate that Koalas are in decline across State Forests.
There needs to be an urgent intervention to stop the accelerating degradation of Koala habitat in north-east NSW. Surveys need to be urgently undertaken to identify all areas containing remnant Koala populations. Identified areas, along with sufficient additional areas of potential Koala high quality habitat and habitat linkages, need to be fully protected to establish viable populations across the landscape.
Authorised by Daniel Peterson for the North East Forest Alliance
at 115 Molesworth Street, Lismore, 2480