Koalas on the NSW North Coast are threatened with extinction by proposed increases in logging intensity and imminent extensions of timber contracts, according to the North East Forest Alliance.
NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said: “In order to meet current wood supply contracts, the NSW Government plans to zone most of the coastal state forests for intensive logging and clearfelling, and to remove the already inadequate protection for core koala habitat.
“Our analysis shows that of the 6000 records of koalas in state forests in north-east NSW, 92% are in the 57% of forests proposed to be zoned for intensified logging, with the highest koala densities in the 140,000 hectares of state forest proposed to be zoned to allow clearfelling.
"Areas of state forests found in study after study to be core koala habitat, such as in Pine Creek, Royal Camp and Carwong, will be zoned for intensified logging and committed in contracts to the industry.”
The intensification of logging, which the Environment Protection Authority describes as "not consistent" with the laws governing logging, is already occurring. This increase, combined with a reduction in protection of threatened species, such as koalas, are being driven by 25-year wood supply contracts first signed in 1998.
Since 1998 the number of large trees available for logging has been reduced by 47% because the Forestry Corporation grossly overestimated the resources available. NSW taxpayers have paid loggers at least $13 million in compensation for the reduced amount of timber available for logging, which they were originally given for free. Millions more has been spent buying timber from private landowners to supplement supplies.
“Since 1998, Koala populations on the north-coast have crashed by 50%,” Pugh said. “Their demise is one of the costs of logging.”
According to the NSW Government Forest Industry Roadmap the government began negotiating new wood supply contracts late last year and intends to finalise them by the middle of this year. But most contracts do not expire until 2023 and the biggest contract, with BORAL, does not expire until 2028.
North Coast Environment Council spokesperson Susie Russell said: “We can't afford more of the same. New timber contracts covering core Kkoala habitat will signal the end for NSW koalas.
“If the people of NSW want koalas to exist in the wild, then the government will have to stop giving their feed trees and homes to the loggers. It's pretty simple really.
“We call on the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, to give a commitment that the Forestry Corporation will not be allowed to intensify logging in coastal forests and for her to give an assurance that trees and habitat needed by koalas will be excluded from logging, deducted from timber calculations and removed from contracts.”