Battle for NSW forests continues

Issue 

By Lisa Macdonald

SYDNEY — An alliance of peak environment groups released a Forest Reserve Plan for NSW on July 10. It was submitted to the state government as part of the public consultation phase of the Carr government's forest policy.

The plan was compiled in response to the release last month of a government report which presents the results of 12 months of discussion between it, the environment lobby and the timber industry.

According to environmentalists, that report was inadequate. It admitted to gross deficiencies in information and assessment, and the options it contained varied considerably in the extent to which they met conservation goals.

The environmentalists' plan proposes that around 1.2 million hectares, roughly half of native state forests east of the Great Divide, be protected from logging — 860,000 hectares to be placed in a moratorium for further assessment and 340,000 hectares to be made into national park and wilderness areas immediately.

Responding to concerns about timber industry jobs, environmentalists point out that the small number of jobs in the native forest timber industry could readily be replaced by jobs in the rapidly growing plantation sector if the $120 million already allocated by the NSW and federal governments for timber industry restructuring is used to transfer the industry base and jobs to plantation timber.

The NSW executive director of the Forest Products Association, Col Dorber, condemned the forest reserve plan outright, claiming that the industry would not survive a reduction of their resource.

The timber industry's attempts to pre-empt the negotiation process and obtain immediate resource security and increased woodchip quotas is being backed by the state Minister for land and water conservation, who also condemned the forest reserve plan.