NSW Forest Commission operated illegally
By Steve Painter
SYDNEY — The NSW government's proposed Timber Industry (Interim Protection) Bill amounts to an admission that the state's Forestry Commission has operated illegally for the past 12 years by permitting logging in state forests without environmental impact statements, says Sandra Heilpern of the Nature Conservation Council.
The issue came to a head as a result of timber industry opposition to the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act, passed last December by the Labor Party and independent MPs against the opposition of the minority Greiner government.
In a ploy that appears to have been cooked up with National Party conservation and land minister Garry West, the timber companies threatened on February 26 to stand down 6000 workers by June because the act made their operations impossible.
The government then introduced its bill, which in fact does not affect the fauna act, though the publicity surrounding it gives the impression that it does. In fact, the bill is intended to force the commission to comply with environmental impact statement requirements.
Jeff Angel of the Total Environment Centre points out that the fauna act only makes it clear that the Forestry Commission cannot grant licences for illegal activities, in particular activities not subject to an environmental impact statement, as it did in the Chaelundi and other cases. The requirement for environmental impact statements is contained in other, much older legislation.
In response to claims that jobs have been lost as a result of the act, Angel says there is no reason this should have happened: the National Parks and Wildlife Service had granted every request except one for interim logging orders since the fauna act was passed. The one exception involved a very small area of 58 hectares.
Democrat MLC Richard Jones says the Forestry Commission is operating in a time warp, and its policies have priced plantation timbers out of the market by undervaluing old-growth and regrowth forest.