In what was an argumentative, cumbersome, poorly informed debate the majority of Eurobodalla Shire Councillors voted to defer many of the points in a motion calling for an end to native forest logging in the State Forests within Eurobodalla.
As if it was painfully pulling teeth the Council voted to acknowledge and raise the concerns of south coast residents with FCNSW asking for better management of State Forests to support nature-based tourism enterprises, recreational usage, threatened species habitat protection and carbon sequestration. Even the very act of acknowledgement of the submissions received, the actions taken by, and voiced by the community over the last decade along with the four speakers they heard during Public Forum earlier that day saw a contest of words that at one point appeared to suggest that acknowledgement of those concerns be deferred.
The majority of councillors also voted to defer the noting of growing evidence that native forest logging by Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) in our State Forests is both economically and environmentally unsustainable and that native forest logging in the Eurobodalla is incompatible with our shire’s and our region’s investment in nature-based tourism enterprises, climate change mitigation and the protection of biodiversity.
Deputy Mayor and motion proposer Alison Worthington said “the deferral follows a packed public meeting in Moruya last week which detailed the multiple reasons for transitioning out of logging and into forest management practices which reflect contemporary community values.”
At Tuesday’s Public Forum before the Council meeting various residents spoke passionately in support of the motion. Ms Worthington said of the Public Forum, “One speaker reminded us that the South Coast mega fires which burnt out of control and destroyed so many homes including his own started from lightning strikes in dry logging debris. Due to climate change there are not enough safe days in the year any more to burn the debris so it is being left on the forest floor awaiting the next summer’s heatwaves. Add this to evidence that logging exacerbates fire intensity and severity, and it’s clear that local logging has become a major threat to community health and well-being.”
The motion delivered to Council today comes hot on the heels of a visit by the NSW Legislative Council Committee looking at the future of the industry following the wildfires of Black Summer. A number of local conservationists, fire survivors and wildlife carers presented compelling evidence to the Committee. Evidence was also heard from local residents who have blown the whistle on failures of the logging industry to adhere to practices designed to protect flora and fauna. These mounting failures have led to the imposition of fines totalling $78,000 from operations in Eurobodalla Shire in just the last three years alone.
In just the last week both the Council and the visiting Parliamentary Committee set up to look at logging in the South East were reminded that the growth and success of the nature-based tourism sector was, and is, being jeopardised by continued logging of our “Nature Coast”. Councillors today heard a case in point of two mountain biking proposals in both Mogo and Bodalla State Forests which have attracted millions of dollars in funding. They were clearly advised that access to both of these facilities will always vulnerable to being compromised whilst Forestry Corporation reserves the right to log them at any time.
Given the majority of motions around the issue today was to defer until more information could be obtained from Forestry Corporation and more input sought from other stake holders it is now on the table that the Deputy Mayor will re-introduce the motion at a later stage once councillors have had more time to access and consider what many consider to be the mounting evidence in favour of ending native forest logging.
Above: Possibly the tallest Spotted Gum in the world is located in one of our region’s State Forests. “Giant tree tourism” has considerably boosted international and domestic visitation numbers to NZ’s North Island. The South Coast is well placed to replicate this approach.