EPA orders Stop Work on forestry operations in South Brooman State Forest
The NSW Environment Protection Authority has issued Forestry Corporation of NSW with a Stop Work Order to cease tree harvesting in part of South Brooman State Forest near Bateman’s Bay. It is the second time in less than a week that a Stop Work Order has been issued to Forestry Corporation. EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Carmen Dwyer said EPA investigations into operations in Compartment 58a of the forest had revealed serious alleged breaches of the rules that govern native forestry operations, in relation to the protection of trees that must be permanently retained. “Officers allegedly found 26 hollow bearing trees that were either felled or damaged, with many of these trees also not identified and mapped in the planning phase. “This area is known to be home to several threatened species that use hollow bearing trees. The Yellow-bellied Glider, the Glossy-Black Cockatoo and the Powerful, Masked and Sooty Owls are all listed as vulnerable species and may use hollow bearing trees for habitat,” Ms Dwyer said. “The importance of identifying, mapping and protecting these vital trees is a key requirement and there should be proper processes in place to ensure compliance.” After the recent Black Summer bushfires, the EPA imposed additional site-specific conditions on the existing strict environmental controls – called the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) – to mitigate the specific environmental risks caused by the bushfires at each site, including impacts on plants, animals and their habitats, soils and waterways. The site-specific conditions include the requirement to identify, map and permanently retain all trees with hollows, whether alive or dead. As a result of the seriousness of the alleged breaches, the EPA has issued a Stop Work Order under the Biodiversity Conservation Act to stop Forestry Corporation logging in the relevant compartment. The order ensures that no further tree harvesting takes place in the area where the trees were felled for 40 days, or until the EPA is confident that Forestry Corporation can meet its obligations to comply with the IFOA including the site-specific conditions. It follows a Stop Work Order issued for Wild Cattle Creek State Forest near Coffs Harbour on Saturday for felling two protected giant trees. “This is the first Stop Work Order the EPA has issued for breaches of the site-specific conditions put in place for burnt forests and is necessary because failure to properly map and retain hollow bearing trees could result in irreparable environmental harm,” Ms Dwyer said. The investigation into the matter is ongoing and non-compliance with the Coastal IFOA can attract a maximum penalty as high as $5 million. Independent NSW MP and South Coast resident Justin Field has welcomed the order to Forestry Corporation after multiple acts of illegal logging were identified by local residents and has called for the maximum penalty for the illegal action and a moratorium on all logging in burnt forests until a statewide ecological assessment of the potential impacts of post fire logging are understood.
Mr Field said "The stop work order was issued after evidence was found that 26 critical hollow bearing trees that are required to be protected under new post-fire logging rules had been logged".
"This is the second stop work issued by the EPA within the last week, after the agency found it had felled two giant trees in contravention of forestry rules.
"Forestry Corporation had been logging burnt areas within the South Brooman State Forest after being granted special conditions in February/March 2020. The rules specify that all hollow bearing trees are to be left standing (Clause 22). These hollows are critical habitat for many species recovering after the fires. Locals have documented and reported numerous incidents where these critical habitat trees have been felled, Mr Field said.
“This is unforgivable and unexplainable and the book needs to be thrown at Forestry Corporation. With as much as 85% of South Coast forests having been burnt in last season’s fires, every habitat tree is critically important for the recovery of native species.
“These hollows are easily identifiable. It is totally unforgivable that the homes for native animals have been destroyed and the recovery of the forests have been set back. It is difficult to see this as anything but a wilful illegal act that shows total disregard for the forests.
The Brooman State Forest Conservation Group with the support of Coastwatchers and Friends of the Forest (Mogo) have documented and made multiple breach reports to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority in June triggering an investigation into the potential logging rule breaches.
File photos: Gillianne Tedder