In a recent media release the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) called on the state government to restore the rights of the public to take the Forestry Corporation to court in order to enforce environmental laws.
“If the Baird Government refuses to enforce the logging rules, then let us do it,” said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
“For years we have been finding the same sorts of logging offences, time after time. The Forestry Corporation are being allowed to flout environmental laws with impunity. The Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPAs) lax regulation is clearly not working. “
Mr Pugh referred to breaches NEFA had identified in the forests of the North Coast and the slowness of the EPA in responding to its breach reports.
He said NEFA ‘s audits showed that environmental laws were being broken constantly and pointed out that, as 20,000 hectares of NSW’s public forests are logged every year, both the scale of the breaches and the damage from them is immense.
In 1998 the public’s right to take the Forestry authority to court was removed with the promise that the EPA would take over regulating and policing the Forestry authority. According to Mr Pugh the EPA has been a dismal failure.
The failure of the EPA to enforce the environmental regulations is leading to destruction of old growth trees, damage to waterways, and failure to protect the habitat of koalas and other threatened species.
A major concern is the failure to protect tree hollows. NEFA particularly has fears for the future of 70 species (28%) of vertebrates that depend on tree hollows in northern NSW as well as numerous species, such as koalas, which prefer to feed on older trees.
It points out that a eucalypt takes 120-180 years to develop hollows and more than 220 years to develop the large hollows needed for large animals. This means that large old growth trees are priceless treasures.
Is it lack of will or lack of resources which has made the EPA a “dismal failure” in enforcing environmental regulations in our forests? There’s an urgent need for a change.
- Leonie Blain
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 5, 2016