The historic Forest Agreements were signed in 1999, but has the Integrated Forest Operations Approval (IFOA) achieved its stated objective of meeting the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management (ESFM)? The official evidence shows it has not.
The Auditor General's “2009 Performance Audit” stated “native forest managed by Forests NSW (FNSW) is being cut faster than it is growing back”, and “current yield from native forests is not sustainable in the long term”.
Over-logging has seriously negative flow-on effects for biodiversity, conservation of which is pivotal to meeting ESFM principles.
By 2012, none of the required 5 yearly reviews of the IFOA had been undertaken. The 2009 Final Report on “Progress with Implementation of NSW RFAs” found FNSW's performance in delivering biodiversity outcomes in logged forests, could not be measured. That report identified an, “absence of any real comparative data on this issue”, adding this “makes it virtually impossible to determine whether there is improvement or not”.
Boral's failure to obtain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation in 2013, shows the FSC believed logging processes carried out by FNSW harmed high conservation values, i.e. endangered species and communities.
One glaring example of FNSW’s duty of care failure, is their continued release of harvest plans calling for high intensity logging rates, which they know triggers the devastating Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD), which threatens eucalypt forests across NSW. (FNSW was represented on the BMAD Scientific Working Group which nominated the disease as a Key Threatening Process.)
The Final Report acknowledged that the EPA's compliance monitoring and enforcement had “attracted considerable and largely adverse comment from submitters”, recommending the need “to give priority to audit and compliance activity, and that auditing be closely scrutinised as part of the NSW Review”.
A 2014 inquiry into the EPA's (Environment Protection Authority) performance found the agency had repeatedly failed in this regard. It has been rewarded by the Government with a significant boost to its operating budget. However, the EPA is currently working on an IFOA “remake” which will eliminate many of the biodiversity protections they were previously supposed to enforce. Threatened species are the big losers.
- J Edwards
This post was originally published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Daily Examiner on 31 August, 2015