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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

More fines for Forestry Corporation NSW

Fines and costs totalling $285,600 have been levelled against Forestry Corporation NSW (FCNSW) after the Land and Environment Court found tree felling in exclusion zones had done “actual harm” to koala habitat in Wild Cattle Creek Forest near Coffs Harbour.

Fines and costs totalling $285,600 have been levelled against Forestry Corporation NSW (FCNSW) after the Land and Environment Court found tree felling in exclusion zones had done “actual harm” to koala habitat in Wild Cattle Creek Forest near Coffs Harbour. The Land and Environment Court handed down a fine of $135,600 and ordered FCNSW to pay the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA)’s legal and investigation costs of $150,000 after FCNSW pleaded guilty to four charges brought by the EPA. EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Carmen Dwyer said the prosecution sent a clear message to the forestry industry and operators. “All forestry operators have a responsibility to protect the environment and comply with the law when carrying out tree harvesting activities,” Ms Dwyer said. “Breaches of the forestry laws will be investigated and those responsible will be held to account.” The felling was carried out by FCNSW contractors in 2018. Two charges were for the felling of trees in protected rainforest areas, a third charge was for the felling of two trees in an exclusion zone around warm temperate rainforest, and the fourth was for felling four trees and other forestry activities in a Koala Exclusion Zone. The non-compliant activities carried out in the Koala Exclusion Zone attracted the largest fine of $60,000. Justice Robson accepted there had been harm to Koala habitat as a result of the non-compliant activities. “The felling of the large Eucalyptus trees and the construction or operation of snig tracks were highly likely to have had an adverse impact by reducing the size and the quality of the habitat available to the breeding female and offspring,” Justice Robson said. “As such, I accept the position adopted by the prosecutor and find that there has been actual harm.” The EPA commenced the prosecution in 2020 after a long investigation into FCNSW’s activities in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest in 2018. “Strict operating rules are in place to protect precious wildlife, such as the Koala. Exclusion Zones, which are a critical part of preserving the habitat of koalas to ensure their survival in this forest. “Disregarding the rules and harvesting trees in these areas can put animals under increased stress,” Ms Dwyer said. The offence relating to Koala Exclusion Zones carries a maximum penalty of $440,000, while the other three offences carry a maximum penalty of $110,000 each. “We welcome the court’s decision to apply this substantial fine and to award costs — Forestry Corporation must be made to pay for its environmental vandalism,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“Fines, no matter how large, can never replace critical koala habitat destroyed by Forestry Corporation.

“Regrettably, today’s fine is another instance of destructive and unlawful behaviour by a company entrusted with managing 2 million hectares of forest,”

“This is not an isolated instance — Forestry Corporation is a repeat offender, with six major breaches successfully prosecuted since April 2020.

“In March 2021, the EPA had 16 live investigations into alleged breaches by Forestry Corporation and its contractors.

“The government must establish a comprehensive independent review of Forestry Corporation to ensure it acts lawfully and sustainably.

“There is little evidence the corporation is meeting these basic standards under the existing arrangements.”


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