The NSW Government response to the 21 thousand signatories of the petition to end native forest logging has been released today and has failed to recognise the considered calls for a transition plan that makes economic and ecological sense. This response has come on the same day as the tabling of the report into the Long term sustainability and future of the timber and forest products industry. The response from the Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders is embarrassing in light of the report that was tabled today. It relies on questionable facts and disregards the legitimate social and scientific concerns about the future of the industry and all of the workers and communities that currently rely on it.
Greens NSW MP and spokesperson for the environment Sue Higginson said “The Government response to this petition has completely failed to address the looming and unavoidable end of public native forestry in NSW. The claims made by the Minister about the sustainability and lifespan for native forest logging are misleading and run completely contrary to community experience and independent science.
“The Minister has claimed that he is balancing the interests of more than 7 million NSW residents in disagreeing with the petition but that claim falls flat when the true interests of residents are considered. From a purely fiscal perspective NSW residents pay $441 per hectare of native forest that is logged, this added up to $20 million in 2021 alone. The likely cost of the native hardwood industry is much higher as the destruction of native forests has a significant effect on downstream water quality and the agricultural and fisheries industries.
“Although only 1% of state forests are logged each year, this adds up to 30% of the public native forest estate being logged on a recurring basis that permanently degrades the ecology and sustainability of these environments. These areas are vital for biodiversity and recurring logging operations diminish the number of species in logged areas, permanently reduce the number of habitat trees and leave vast areas vulnerable to catastrophic bushfires.
“Forestry Corporation is clearly failing to comply with their operating conditions with multiple successful prosecutions against them by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for logging critical habitat in the last several years. The record number of species added to the threatened species list is further evidence that the public native forest estate is not being maintained for the core purpose of providing habitat and abating the extinction crisis.
“The claims by the Government that public native forest logging is providing climate change mitigation through carbon abatement is absurd. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that forest carbon stocks should be maintained or increased in order for managed forests to mitigate climate change; in NSW, Forestry Corporation is degrading native forests in the long term without increasing capacity for the forests to capture carbon. More than1 third of logged native forest in NSW is exported to be burnt for energy in other countries, increasing the emissions from native forest logging rather than reducing.
“Around 1000 people are directly employed by the native forest logging industry in NSW, the petition is calling for a transition plan that allows for these people to remain in work while the industry transitions to a truly sustainable model. The governments of Western Australia and Victoria have both taken steps to ensure that workers and communities are taken care of as the industry is phased out. The NSW Government is more committed to sticking their heads in the sand meaning that communities will be left without a plan and with no work.
The report into the Long term sustainability and future of the timber and forest products industry found that:
The NSW Government has failed to substantially deliver on the four priority pillars outlined in its NSW Forestry Industry Roadmap:
· Regulatory modernisation and environmental sustainability
· Balancing supply and demand
· Community understanding and confidence
· Industry innovation and new markets.
The report has recommended that:
That the NSW Government provide long term support to workers in the timber and forest products industry transitioning away from native forestry to other parts of the sector with access to worker transition services, training and retraining support, relocation support, and counselling, and
That the NSW Government consider the impact of a transition away from public native forestry on communities where native forest logging currently occurs and provide investment and incentives to encourage new economic opportunities in publicly owned forests.
“The Minister’s response shows just how out of touch he is with the reality for the forestry industry in communities. Workers, their families and those that do business with them are calling for the Government to intervene and help them plan for the future after public native forest logging comes to an end. This report directly contradicts the marketing spring that the Minister has taken part in as part of his response.
“The Government response to this petition is insulting in the extreme to the more than 20 thousand NSW residents that have asked for the Government to prepare for the future and to protect our native forests as a valuable natural resource. The legitimate concerns of many NSW residents have been completely disregarded by the Government in this response. It is clear that the Minister and this Government are not up for the job of taking us into the future,” Ms Higginson said.