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.
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.
The allocation of Crown land for conservation dates back to 1866 in NSW, with the first National Park created in 1879. Since then it has been a slow and tedious process to construct an effective reserve system in north-east NSW. NEFA was instrumental in achieving a doubling of reserves (See: A Short History of Reserves in North East NSW).
Reserves have been established for recreation, scenic qualities, heritage values, and flora and fauna conservation. It has been community agitation that has been primarily responsible for public land being set aside for conservation, with destructive uses such as logging, mining and grazing generally excluded.
Vested interests have led the fight against reservation of crown land for conservation. Historically they were successful in largely limiting reserves to the least productive areas with limited commercial potential.
In 1992 the National Forest Policy committed all Australian Governments to establishing Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative reserve systems for forests based on explicit national reserve targets (See: CAR Reserves). This was meant to be a way forward to ensure that reserves encompassed representative samples of all ecosystems and species while being of adequate size to maintain viable populations of flora and fauna into the future.
The process leading to the 2000 Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) for North East NSW did result in a significant increase in the reserve system in north-east NSW based on sound data and targets. Though unfortunately politicians once again bowed to pressure from vested interests and intervened to stop the promised CAR reserve system from being established (See: CAR Reserves).
Despite north east NSW’s forests being one of Australia’s and the world’s biodiversity hotspots, the reform process still left us with one of the worst forest reserve systems in Australia, and many of the national reserve targets unmet. There remains an urgent need to expand north east NSW’s reserve system to achieve the basic requirements of a CAR reserve system, particularly in light of the accelerating impacts of climate change.
Due to the conservation of more productive lands in recent decades, the vested interests are now campaigning to have reserves opened up for logging and grazing. The pretence is that they need to be logged for “ecologically thinning” and grazed for fire protection.