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Deplorable! Figures reveal > 85% of South Coast forests burnt, yet logging continues

Independent NSW MP Justin Field has described as ‘deplorable’ plans by Forestry Corporation to ramp up logging on the North and South Coast to pre-fire levels after the release of new data showing the extent of fire damage to State Forests on the NSW North and South Coasts. 

The new data, revealed today in media reports, shows the total area burnt in each of the State’s timber supply regions on the North and South Coast. More than 60% of harvestable areas were burnt between Coffs Harbour to the Northern Rivers and 85% of the Batemans and Narooma havestable areas were burnt. 

The information is contained in letters (*1) sent to timber mills who hold wood supply contracts with the state Government by the state owned Forestry Corporation between November and February. The letters, obtained through Budget Estimates questions by Independent NSW MP Justin Field, are a formal notice from Forestry Corporation to contract holders that the fires across the state were a ‘Force Majeure’ event under their wood supply agreements “that may prevent FCNSW performing its obligations under the contracts at some point during the term.”  

Despite the massive impact of the fires, the letters make clear that Forestry Corporation intends to continue to log to meet contracted volumes, saying:

“Indications are that your Annual Delivery Plan (ADP) has been significantly affected. Based on information at the date of this letter, FCNSW remains optimistic it can meet your volume supply entitlements this year (FY20). However there is likely to be an impact on your usual species mix and possibly also log size.” 

Mr Field said, “This is deplorable. The NSW Coalition Government is acting as if the worst fires in recorded history never happened. 

“These letters show that despite the massive damage from the fires, Forestry Corporation intends to ramp up logging over the rest of the 2020 financial year to meet contracted volumes. 

“How, when 60% to 85% of some harvest areas were burnt can these volumes be met without there being an impact on the sustainability of the forest ecosystems? 

“No one can answer that question because there hasn’t yet been an ecological assessment of the impact of the fires or an assessment of the long term wood supply impacts. They are just flying blind and risking the long-term health of these forests.  

"Communities across NSW have been devastated to see logging return to burnt and unburnt forests and will be furious that Forestry Corporation is planning to ramp up logging to pre-fire levels to meet contracted volumes. 

"I can't imagine that local National Party MPs along the NSW North Coast are happy to see Forestry Corporation charging ahead and potentially cementing the local extinction of the Koala. It's time they put pressure on Forestry Minister and Nationals Leader John Barilaro on this issue.

Earlier this month media reported that 45 forestry sites across 11 State Forests in NSW had been given the green light by the State’s Environmental Protection Agency for so called ‘salvage logging’, accessing burnt forests under ‘site specific conditions’.

Mr Field said, "that the NSW Environment Minister and the Environmental Protection Agency in NSW have allowed this to happen shows the regulation of logging in NSW is broken. It's clear the State's logging rules are no longer fit for purpose after the fires. 

“There should be a moratorium on logging until a full assessment of the ecological and wood supply impacts is conducted and Forestry Corporation's licence reviewed,” Justin said. 

South Coast Region Fire Impact


(1*) The addressees on the letters have been removed. To see the background to the provision of these letters, see the transcript - pp56-58 from Budget Estimates, 17 March 2020)