Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has welcomed calls from a Parliamentary Inquiry looking into the future of the timber industry in NSW for the NSW Government to conduct a cost benefit assessment of the native hardwood forestry sector and for increased investment to expand softwood and hardwood plantations in NSW.
The report, released today, was also highly critical of the NSW Government for failing to publicly release and respond to a Natural Resources Commission (NRC) report into post fire logging in NSW, which found badly burnt native forests in NSW were at risk of “serious and irreversible” harm from the combined impacts of the 2019/20 fires and ongoing logging.
These findings are only publicly known because parts of the report were leaked to the media in 2021.
The inquiry report recommended the NSW Government respond to the NRC recommendations by the end of 2022.
Mr Field was a member of the committee, which travelled around the state looking at the issues facing the hardwood and softwood timber and timber products sector over the last year.
Mr Field said, “I welcome the report’s recommendation that the Government conduct a cost benefit assessment of native forest logging in NSW.
“My strong sense, having heard the evidence before the committee and watching this industry over many years, is that these forests are worth much more standing, either as ecological and recreational reserves or for their carbon storage value.
A recent study by Frontier Economics found stopping native forestry in the Southern and Eden areas would produce a net economic benefit to the state of approximately $60 million, while also reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by almost 1 million tonnes per year over the next 20 years.
“I would have liked to see a stronger call for an exit from public native forest logging all together, but I welcome the bipartisan support, including from the Nationals and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers member for a recommendation that the NSW Government provide long term support to workers in the timber and forest products industry transitioning away from native forestry to other parts of the sector.
“There needs to be an honest conversation with the community, including the timber industry, about a restructure of the sector to exit public native forest logging and transition the industry to plantations.
“There will be ongoing jobs in the timber industry and in forest management but it needs a plan to be sustainable in the future. Just relying on logging the guts out of our native forests is no plan at all,” Justin Field said.
Justin Field provided a dissenting statement (p173 of the report) which addresses concerns relating to the report’s recommendations relating to the Great Koala National Park and Private Native Forestry. Transition to plantation timber would be a win for the nature and industry
NSW’s peak conservation group supports the expansion of timber plantations in NSW as recommended by the Upper House timber inquiry as the best way to guarantee timber supply while avoiding further extinctions of forest-dwelling wildlife.
The expansion of plantations was a key recommendation of the upper house inquiry into the future of the timber industry that tabled its report today. 
“We fully support the committee’s recommendation to expand timber plantations wherever this can be done without losing native forests or highly productive farmland,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Jacqui Mumford said.
“The need to protect native forests from industrial logging has never been greater, with koalas and many other forest species sliding towards extinction, and huge areas of forest decimated by the 2019-20 bushfires.
“We call on the government to create at least 50,000 hectares of softwood and hardwood plantation by 2030 to put the industry on a ecologically sustainable footing for long-term growth.
“Transitioning away from logging our native forests to a sustainable, 100% plantation-based industry can be a win for industry and for nature.”
Rec 1. That the NSW Government identify and implement as a priority a long term funded strategy for the expansion of both softwood and hardwood timber plantations in New South Wales.
Rec 2. That the NSW Government establish further state-owned timber plantations.
Rec 3. That the NSW Government review its incentives to increase private investment in timber plantations.
Rec 4. That the NSW Government provide long term support to workers in the timber and forest products industry transitioning away from native forestry to other parts of the sector with access to worker transition services, training and retraining support, relocation support, and counselling.
 Report of the Legislative Council Inquiry into Long-term sustainability and future of the timber and forest products industry, 15-9-22.
The NSW Government fails to listen to the community on public native forest logging
The NSW Government response to the 21 thousand signatories of the petition to end native forest logging has been released today and has failed to recognise the considered calls for a transition plan that makes economic and ecological sense. This response has come on the same day as the tabling of the report into the Long term sustainability and future of the timber and forest products industry. The response from the Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders is embarrassing in light of the report that was tabled today. It relies on questionable facts and disregards the legitimate social and scientific concerns about the future of the industry and all of the workers and communities that currently rely on it.
Greens NSW MP and spokesperson for the environment Sue Higginson said “The Government response to this petition has completely failed to address the looming and unavoidable end of public native forestry in NSW. The claims made by the Minister about the sustainability and lifespan for native forest logging are misleading and run completely contrary to community experience and independent science.
“The Minister has claimed that he is balancing the interests of more than 7 million NSW residents in disagreeing with the petition but that claim falls flat when the true interests of residents are considered. From a purely fiscal perspective NSW residents pay $441 per hectare of native forest that is logged, this added up to $20 million in 2021 alone. The likely cost of the native hardwood industry is much higher as the destruction of native forests has a significant effect on downstream water quality and the agricultural and fisheries industries.
“Although only 1% of state forests are logged each year, this adds up to 30% of the public native forest estate being logged on a recurring basis that permanently degrades the ecology and sustainability of these environments. These areas are vital for biodiversity and recurring logging operations diminish the number of species in logged areas, permanently reduce the number of habitat trees and leave vast areas vulnerable to catastrophic bushfires.
“Forestry Corporation is clearly failing to comply with their operating conditions with multiple successful prosecutions against them by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for logging critical habitat in the last several years. The record number of species added to the threatened species list is further evidence that the public native forest estate is not being maintained for the core purpose of providing habitat and abating the extinction crisis.
“The claims by the Government that public native forest logging is providing climate change mitigation through carbon abatement is absurd. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that forest carbon stocks should be maintained or increased in order for managed forests to mitigate climate change; in NSW, Forestry Corporation is degrading native forests in the long term without increasing capacity for the forests to capture carbon. More than1 third of logged native forest in NSW is exported to be burnt for energy in other countries, increasing the emissions from native forest logging rather than reducing.
“Around 1000 people are directly employed by the native forest logging industry in NSW, the petition is calling for a transition plan that allows for these people to remain in work while the industry transitions to a truly sustainable model. The governments of Western Australia and Victoria have both taken steps to ensure that workers and communities are taken care of as the industry is phased out. The NSW Government is more committed to sticking their heads in the sand meaning that communities will be left without a plan and with no work.
The report into the Long term sustainability and future of the timber and forest products industry found that:
The NSW Government has failed to substantially deliver on the four priority pillars outlined in its NSW Forestry Industry Roadmap:
· Regulatory modernisation and environmental sustainability
· Balancing supply and demand
· Community understanding and confidence
· Industry innovation and new markets.
The report has recommended that:
That the NSW Government provide long term support to workers in the timber and forest products industry transitioning away from native forestry to other parts of the sector with access to worker transition services, training and retraining support, relocation support, and counselling, and
That the NSW Government consider the impact of a transition away from public native forestry on communities where native forest logging currently occurs and provide investment and incentives to encourage new economic opportunities in publicly owned forests.
“The Minister’s response shows just how out of touch he is with the reality for the forestry industry in communities. Workers, their families and those that do business with them are calling for the Government to intervene and help them plan for the future after public native forest logging comes to an end. This report directly contradicts the marketing spring that the Minister has taken part in as part of his response.
“The Government response to this petition is insulting in the extreme to the more than 20 thousand NSW residents that have asked for the Government to prepare for the future and to protect our native forests as a valuable natural resource. The legitimate concerns of many NSW residents have been completely disregarded by the Government in this response. It is clear that the Minister and this Government are not up for the job of taking us into the future,” Ms Higginson said.