Bill aims to save south-east forests


By Fiona McCrossin

The south-east old growth forests of NSW in 1969 were the first large area of Australian forest to be allocated to export woodchipping.

Since then, national park gains in the region have been concentrated in the unloggable forests. Many high conservation value areas have been ignored time and time again.

The South East Forest Alliance (SEFA) regards the South East Forest Protection Bill, to be presented to state parliament in late February, as the best chance to save these old growth forests from another 20 years of clearfelling and woodchipping. It would create major new national parks in the region.

SEFA is urging people to write to key parliamentarians requesting them to support the Bill.

Recent research by the Australian Museum, staff of the University of New England and the National Parks and Wildlife Service shows:

  • Only 10% of the remaining eucalypt forest in Australia is old growth forest. Many species of animals are highly dependent on resources found only in old growth forests. These include arboreal marsupials, owls, cockatoos and many species of bats.

  • At least 30 species of endangered fauna are under direct threat from the continued logging of their forest habitat in the region. It is recognised that forestry operations endanger fauna species (this was the reason for the recent decision of the National Parks and Wildlife Service to place a stop-work order over a section of the Coolangubra State Forest).

  • Less than 5% of NSW state forest is classified as wilderness. In the south-east this includes the Coolangubra, Nadgee, Brogo and Genoa. None of these wilderness areas are fully protected, and the Coolangubra is under the greatest assault.

  • The region is rich in wild rivers, and new important Aboriginal sites continue to be recorded.

All high conservation values are threatened by the insatiable drive for woodchips by the Forestry Commission of NSW in concert with the multinational Harris-Daishowa.

The Commonwealth Resource Assessment Commission released an authoritative economic study of the region in December 1991. It concluded that the forests are not being managed sustainably, and if the current sawlog quota is maintained, the available old growth forests will be gone by 2012.

The study found that the cost of completely reserving national estate forests of NSW and Victoria would cost only $6.05 for every adult in these states. This figure includes a compensation package for workers. It also said that the economic returns of a world scale pulp kraft mill in the south-east are marginal at best and too low to justify the investment of over $1 billion (a figure which does not even include the environmental impacts of such a mill).

A review of employment in the south-east prepared by an independent consultant concluded that

the forest industry needs to shift to softwoods and the region to develop existing and more sustainable activities. By the end of 1993, an additional 185 jobs will be available in such areas, growing to 410 in 1998.

A special two-year employment package to create 100-120 jobs for displaced timber industry workers in sustainable areas would cost $10-12 million per year. Areas include rural infrastructure, tourism, soil conservation and softwood plantation thinning.

The bill would defer actual job dislocation until nine months after enactment. A special regional economic committee would further develop and implement the jobs package.

It is vital that people express their concern by writing to members of parliament asking them to support the South East Forest Protection Bill. The Greiner government no longer controls the numbers in parliament, and the ALP and independents can combine to save the forests.

The first priority is Fred Nile; and if time is available, write also to John Hatton and Pam Allan, shadow planning and environment minister. All at: Parliament House Macquarie Street, Sydney, 2000. Please act quickly as this is the best chance the south east forests have ever had. For more detailed information on any aspect of this issue, ring Fiona or James at SEFA, (02) 247 1737.

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