Fire hazard leads to fury: locals describe NSW Forestry Corporation logging practice as ‘reckless and dangerous’.
Eurobodalla residents are furious about the amount of debris left by the Forestry Corporation of NSW after recent clear-fell logging of Benandarah State forest along the Princes Highway to the north of Batemans Bay.
“We’re angry and afraid, and with good reason”, said Mr John Perkins, Convenor of Friends of Durras. “The waste from State Forestry logging activity is spread over hectares of land. There’s a carpet of logs, branches, twigs, loose bark and leaves left behind after NSW Forestry’s taken the desirable timber, and in places it’s knee-deep and more.
Above: John Perkins, Convenor, Friends of Durras, knee-deep in logging debris
“It’s also so dry it literally crackles underfoot. It’s like the setting for a gigantic bonfire - all it takes is a stray spark, or a cigarette tossed out of a car window, and this hillside would explode into flames.
Above: ‘So dry, it crackles underfoot’ - detail of logging debris.
“With a westerly wind, which is the prevailing wind direction here, the fire would leap the Princes Highway into Murramarang National Park in minutes, placing numerous small coastal communities and holiday makers at grave risk.”
This is not the first time that NSW Forestry Corporation has been criticised for failure to remove debris after logging State forests on the South Coast. For example, in late 2015, the RFS raised concerns about the bushfire risks of logging debris left by the Corporation in the Nullica State Forest [near Eden]. On this occasion, the RFS also challenged the efficacy of the Forestry Corporation’s proffered ‘fire containment measure’ - a perimeter around the affected area, assessed as being unlikely to mitigate significant risk. Most recently, the NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann noted in early November that logging waste from Forestry Corporation activities had been left against old habitat trees in the Tantawangalo State Forest [near Merimbula], describing this as a breach of fire safety regulations.
“The effects of climate change are resulting in longer bushfire seasons and increased intensity of fires when these occur”, said Mr Perkins. “At a minimum, you’d think the Forestry Corporation would be aware of how critically important it is to ensure that its activities don’t contribute to an already high level of fire danger.
“This doesn’t seem to be the case. Although there are pretty words on the NSW Forestry website, claiming the Corporation puts ‘a great deal of effort into preparatory and preventative measures to protect communities, neighbouring properties and State forests from bushfires’, there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that any effort to protect communities and properties from bushfire has been made in this case.
“Things have actually got worse over time. In the past, NSW Forestry used to hide evidence of logging from public view by leaving a buffer zone of untouched trees along the roadside, and at least this was an indirect acknowledgement that aspects of its logging behaviour were not generally acceptable.
Above: Logging devastation is clearly visible to drivers on the Princes Highway
“This time, the destruction brought about by logging activity is clearly visible from the highway, and it’s obvious that NSW Forestry doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks of its behaviour. It’s as if it’s gone rogue. The evidence of reckless and dangerous practice is here, right before our eyes. The NSW Forestry Corporation needs to address this immediate error of judgement before a tragedy occurs, and at the same time to radically rethink the way it conducts operations in the future,” said Mr John Perkins, Convenor of Friends of Durras