South Coast logging should stop immediately following NRC report into logging
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has described a leaked Natural Resources Commission report into post fire logging in NSW as ‘shocking’ and makes clear that business as usual for the native forest logging industry is simply not possible or acceptable in the aftermath of the 2019/20 fires. Mr Field said, “This report tells us what people who lived through the fires instinctively know, that the fires changed everything and business as usual is simply not possible or acceptable.
“In particular the report makes clear that there will be profound medium and long-term impacts on the South Coast where even the most optimistic assessment will see timber supply dramatically cut for at least 50 years.
“There is no fair analysis of this report's findings other than that ongoing logging of native forests is environmentally and economically unsustainable and we need a plan to transition out of native forest logging in NSW. “I’m calling for an immediate moratorium across the entire South Coast, which is identified in the report as either ‘extreme’ and ‘high’ risk, given the failure of the NSW Government to address the risk of “serious and irreversible” harm to the environment of continued logging in these areas.
The report, commissioned by the NSW Government in early 2021 was completed in June. The Government has resisted multiple efforts by the NSW Legislative Council to make the report public claiming ‘cabinet secrecy’. On Thursday 25 November, The Guardian Australia published leaked extracts of the report.
Mr Field said, “It is a slap in the face to the South Coast community that the Government fought so hard for almost six months to keep this document, paid for by taxpayers money, secret.
“The report called for an urgent response in June, including immediately stopping logging in some areas and putting in place significant additional protections in many others. Some of these areas, including at Mogo and Shallow Crossing are being logged today without those additional protections undermining forest recovery from the fires.
“This is another example, like the Koala wars, of the ongoing fights over natural resource management within the NSW Government, between the Liberals and Nationals, which end up in a political stalemate and policy inaction.
“The Government commissioned this report to mediate a dispute between Matt Kean and John Barilaro’s departments over post fire logging rules and then, either because they didn’t like what it said or because it is too hard to deal with, they’ve just tried to bury it.
“The failure of the Government to respond to this report in a timely fashion is unacceptable given the precarious ecological state of the forests and the ongoing uncertainty being felt across the logging and timber industry.
“The community and industry deserve to know the truth about the impacts and risks of ongoing logging in our native forests and to be part of the conversation about what should happen next.
“There needs to be an honest conversation with the community about an industry restructure to exit native forest logging and a plan to manage our state forests for ecological recovery, future fire mitigation and resilience. “Whilst this report will no doubt be devastating to some, it also presents an opportunity for long-term reform to reimagine our state forests as ecological and recreational reserves for the future, to unlock the economic opportunity for nature based tourism while managing the forests for their immense carbon potential as well as their intrinsic importance as critical habitat for wildlife increasingly under pressure from compounding climate threats.
South Coast conservation groups are calling for logging in all active logging compartments in the Batemans Bay, Nowra, Narooma and Eden management zones to cease immediately following the leaking of a Natural Resources Commission (NRC) report yesterday. 
The NRC report recommended:
Significant restriction of forestry operations in fire damaged forests on the South Coast.
Ceasing logging for three years in the Nowra and Narooma management zones, where logging was identified as posing an “extreme risk” to environmental values.
Protecting 75% of the forest in the Batemans Bay and Eden Management Zones, which were identified as ‘high risk’, through additional measures and restrictions for operations.
The Friends of the Forest (Mogo), the Forest Working Group of the Coastwatchers Association and the Brooman State Forest Conservation Group say logging in these areas should stop immediately.
Nick Hopkins, Friends of the Forest Mogo, said: “We need to tear up the existing harvest plans and re-write them so they align with the findings of the Natural Resource Commission. Surviving wildlife must have a chance to recover from the devastating Black Summer bushfires.
“We want to see forests in Nowra and Narooma immediately protected for three years and the targeted 75% of the forest saved by stopping logging in high-risk active compartments now.
“Forestry and the EPA have been overseeing operations in ‘high risk’ bushfire-affected forests where not enough forest has been set aside to meet this 75% target as the report has been kept secret.
“In practice, for example this would protect an extra 83 hectares in compartment 146 in Mogo State Forest being logged right now. This has meant these forests are being over-logged.”
Takesa Frank, Brooman State Forest Conservation Group said: “The Brooman/ Shallow crossing community protected their homes, forest and businesses in the 2019/2020 bushfires.
“Not long after the fires, NSW Forestry began logging the burnt and unburnt parts of the Brooman and Shallow Crossing State Forest.
“Not only has this had a devastating impact on the environment including our wildlife, it has also impacted local businesses and community. The leaked NRC report reinforces that logging in these fire damaged forests should not have continued.
“We want protection of forests currently on the chopping block, not theoretical protection in areas that are not planned to be logged in the next 15 years.”
Joslyn van der Moolen Forest Working Group Coastwatchers Association: “Private contractors have been logging steeply forested Currowan State Forest, west of the Kings Highway between Lyons Road and Western Distributor Road, from September 2021.
“Logging must stop at Currowan as to meet the target of 75% protected forest, an extra 115 hectares must be retained.
“Coastwatchers has also formally reported planned logging in this forest on slopes over 30 degrees, that is too steep to log, to the EPA.
“Logging contractors who need certainty, can turn to Cabinet, who have sat on this report for months, instead of taking this time to develop an Industry Plantation Plan.”
 NRC 2021, Final Report: Coastal IFOA operations post 2019/20 wildfires, P.51
Image: the current operation at Mogo State Forest Background information
FCNSW is currently logging Mogo State Forest compartment 146 without any of the additional measures recommended in this report for logging operations occurring in the Batemans Bay Management Zone. Compartment 146 is 174 hectares in total, but 127 hectares is being logged, meaning only 27% of the forest is retained. This is almost exactly the complete reverse ratio recommended by the NRC. If 75% is to be protected then only 44 hectares is to be logged and 130 hectares protected.
Forestry Corporation NSW (FCNSW) is also proposing logging operations in the Narooma Management Zone identified as extreme risk. Following this report, the
operations being proposed in Bodalla and Dampier State Forests must now be immediately withdrawn .
NRC has recommended 75% retention of each Local Landscape Area in the Batemans Bay and Eden Management Zones. A Batemans Bay Forestry Corporation spokesperson advised a community member this week, they are “setting aside a minimum of 50% of the Local Landscape Area (LLA) as a temporary exclusion zone. LLA’s are ~1,500 hectare units of land that contain a number of compartments.” This protection falls significantly short of the NRC recommendations for 75% protection. Instead of protecting 1,125 ha per LLA, Forestry Corp is protecting only 750 hectares, a shortfall of 375 hectares which is about the size of a logging compartment for every local landscape area.
Compartment 212 located in Shallow Crossing State Forest in the Shoalhaven has just had 354 of the compartment’s total 572 hectares logged. If 75% of this forest was protected, only 115 hectares would have been logged. An extra 239 hectares has been overlogged. As logging has been happening since June, it is too late for the wildlife in the unburnt pockets of the 106 hectares that could have been saved if the report had been released at the start of the year.
In the next 12 months twenty logging compartments are planned to be logged between Batemans Bay and Ulladulla. Compartment 211A is the next area in the Shallow Crossing State Forest to be logged and is expected to start mid December. This compartment was burnt in the Black Summer fires and is yet to recover. Logging this compartment and Compartments 210, 209, 208 right down to the Clyde River is going to have massive impacts on our flora and fauna. This borders Bimberamala National Park with the iconic Mogo Lookout with unimpeded 360 degree views. Compartment 211A along with the other 19 compartments supposed to be logged in the next 12 months should cease after the leaked NRC recommendation to protect 75% of forest in this area of the NSW south coast.