Strange times for NPA and the NSW public!
Oisin Sweeney, Senior Ecologist, National Parks Association of NSW
Members and supporters have received several emails from NPA over the last couple of months on the subject of native forest logging on public land and the laws that permit it: Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs). A lot has happened recently, so it’s a good time for an update. Let’s start at the beginning.
Due to widespread concern as to environmental impacts, NPA formally adopted a position of no native forest logging on public land at State Council in Newcastle in March 2015. In 2016 we published a review of the RFAs to precisely identify their failings. This was needed to inform what we knew would be upcoming debate on the future of public native forests as expiry of the RFAs drew near. It also assisted in the development of alternative policies for the management of public native forests.
NPA proposes other options
Consistent with our approach to building the national parks network over time, NPA has developed forest management alternatives to logging, and contributed to the development of the Great Southern Forest proposal. The Great Koala National Park, other koala reserve proposals and additions to Barrington Tops National Park all seek to protect State forests that contain species and ecosystems of huge conservation significance. We have also developed Forests For All, which seeks to protect all public native forests in one of a suite of reserve categories under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, or as Indigenous Protected Areas. Government politicians and public servants at the State and Commonwealth level have been briefed on these proposals.
Government moves on forest management
In 2016 the NSW Government released its ‘Forestry Industry Roadmap’. The Roadmap was the Government’s first public commitment to extending RFAs. It also contained a puzzling dual commitment to no erosion of environmental values and no net change to wood supplies. Given the widespread impacts of logging on the environment (for example, driving the Key Threatening Processes of Loss of Hollow Bearing Trees and Bell-miner Associated Dieback) and documented historical over-harvesting, this dual commitment rang alarm bells. The Natural Resources Commission was tasked with reconciling these commitments and the public release of that report is imminent.
In December 2017 (Happy Christmas!) the NSW and Commonwealth Governments called for submissions to combined 10 and 15-year reviews of the RFAs and to the future of RFAs. However, what the Governments pointedly did not do was gather and analyse evidence and data to ask whether RFAs are an appropriate model for forest management. Given the paucity of data presented in the 10 and 15-year reviews, the primary reason for this is probably because industry hasn’t been collecting data on the impacts of logging on species and ecosystems.
NPA targeted by Federal Senator
In early 2018 NPA produced a submission guide and letter to encourage submissions opposing RFA extensions. What happened next surprised us: in February we received a letter from Senator Anne Ruston, the Assistant Minister for Agriculture in the Commonwealth Government leading the RFA process. Senator Ruston accused us of ‘misleading the Australian people’ and used the term ‘deliberately and dishonestly’ on four separate occasions to describe our submission letter. We subsequently discovered that an identical letter had been sent from Senator Ruston to a Victorian NGO opposing the RFAs—mistakenly addressed to The Wilderness Society—and that NPA members in northern NSW received an identical letter from the Nationals Member for Lyne, David Gillespie.
Senator Ruston did not provide evidence to support the claims she made about logging or NPA’s integrity. In contrast, because we had done the 2016 RFA review, we were confident of our position. NPA had in fact presented the review in person to Senator Ruston’s office in April 2016 and received no feedback that it was inaccurate. We responded promptly to the Senator, thoroughly addressing her concerns and asking for her to withdraw her comments.
When no reply was received, the NPA Executive made the decision to make the letters public in the media to protect our reputation. Both letters were subsequently published in Guardian Australia on 23rd March 2018.
Unfortunately, despite receiving about 7,300 submissions (we did well!) to the review, most of which are likely to oppose RFA extensions, and being in possession of 19 years of evidence as to the impacts of logging, both the NSW and Commonwealth Governments appear determined to roll RFAs over without any scientific review or consideration of other options. Strange times indeed.
Get Involved – Public Forum and Rally
During May and June we will be hosting a series of upcoming public forums around Sydney to shed light on how Government is destroying our national treasures under the Regional Forest Agreements and what you can do about it.
- Newtown Neighbourhood Centre – 7 June 6.45-8.30pm
- NSW Parliament – 20 June 6.30-8.30pm
- Rally outside NSW Parliament – 21 June 12.30-1.15pm
Send a letter to your local MP
Urging them not to endorse the renewal of the Regional Forest Agreements and to commit to a just and responsible transition out of native public forest logging. Share and ask friends and family to do the same.
Support the campaign
Your support now is vital; our public forests and precious wildlife will not survive another 20 years of industrial logging.