Wednesday 21 August 2019


A committee of the Legislative Council, State Parliament’s upper house, is conducting an inquiry into koala populations and habitat in the state.

Matters it is investigating include the status of koala populations, the adequacy of current measures to protect the species and the impact of government legislation and policies on koalas and their habitat.

This inquiry is being welcomed by those concerned about declining koala numbers and the loss of koala habitat.  It is hoped that it will lead to effective action by the NSW Government to stop the current slide of koalas in this state towards extinction.

The major threat to koalas is loss of habitat as a result of agricultural and forestry activities as well as urban expansion into koala habitat (including rural residential expansion). Other threats, many of them development related, are road kill, dog attack and stress related disease.  Other threats include drought and climate change.

Current government policies are resulting in loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation.  The NSW Government’s easing of rules on native vegetation has led to an acceleration in land clearing which is affecting koalas as well as other vulnerable native species. 

Changes to logging rules in NSW State Forests are also having a serious impact on koalas and their habitat. A North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) study identified that the Forestry Corporation has logged 2,500 ha of “highest priority” koala habitat over the last four years.

On the North Coast koala populations have collapsed by 50% in the last 20 years.

The NSW Government responded to scientific and community concern about koalas by introducing its Koala Strategy.

A joint report by the World Wildlife Federation Australia (WWF), the NSW National Parks Association and NEFA is very critical of this, pointing out that the $45 million plan will not prevent the extinction of koalas in NSW.  Its primary failing is that “it ignores changes in legislation in 2017 that made it legal to clear 99% of the state’s koala habitat.”

Hopefully this parliamentary inquiry will force the Government to finally take effective action. 

            - Leonie Blain

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on August 12, 2019

Tuesday 13 August 2019


Recently there has been considerable concern about logging plans for the upper Bellingen River Catchment on the NSW North Coast

In a letter to The Bellingen Courier,  a1990s NEFA campaigner warns that current logging plans for the Kalang headwaters could result in a similar disaster to that which happened in 1992.

During the 1990s, many environmentalists in Bellingen were involved in non-violent direct action campaigns led by the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) to save the remaining old growth forests. The forests saved were included in the Comprehensive Adequate and Representative Reserve System based on nationally agreed criteria for the protection of forest biodiversity, old growth and wilderness values. These forests are now re-exposed to logging under the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval of 2018.

In 1992, I was the NEFA area coordinator for the Bellingen region. My name was on the freedom of information list, which allowed me to access information from Forestry offices that were located in Dorrigo and Urunga.

The job was a voluntary position. I was empowered to obtain Forestry's harvesting plans and venture into remote locations as a forest scout. In early autumn 1992, I acquired the harvesting plans, from John Ball at the Urunga Forestry Commission office, for Oakes State Forest compartments 168,169 and 170. Accompanied by Trevor Pike, we negotiated Horseshoe Road, winding our way up past Mount Killiecrankie to Catbird Road.

On arrival, we were staggered to find fresh dozer tracks and major road slumping and landslips on incredibly steep slopes. We continued by foot until we came face to face with the two men contracted by the Forestry Commission to create roads, log dumps and snig tracks for the proposed logging operations. The devastation created by the bulldozer was horrendous. The dozer operator had no idea of the massive damage he was causing nor the standards he was obliged to comply with.

There was a koala at the log dump where the contractors were working; they accused us of planting it there. It was blatantly evident that the workers had not done any soil erosion mitigation, pushing soils into water courses and drainage lines. It was impossible to engage with the contractors. We returned to Bellingen and I reported our findings to John Corkill (NEFA) and the Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC) where I was the forest action coordinator. 

A few days later we returned to the forest with Dailan Pugh (NEFA) and Rob Mylan (BEC) to survey and photograph the abomination. In April 1992, a blockade was established at Mt Killiecrankie (Oakes SF) adjacent to the New England wilderness to halt the logging operation and roadworks that were causing mammoth soil erosion in the headwaters of the Bellinger River. Meagan Edwards and I escorted a fluvial geomorphologist into the pristine Sunday and Scraggy Creeks which form the headwaters of the Bellinger River. We observed spoil and rubble six feet deep in places. The creeks were running red with sediments.

The Standard Erosion Mitigation Conditions for Logging in NSW were first formulated in 1975. However, the guidelines have been continually breached during and after logging operations, making it very difficult to trust Forestry Corporation.

Conservation and Land Management investigated NEFA's complaints and found numerous violations - 26 incursions into streamside protection areas. Eighty eight thousand tons of soil pushed into watercourses and unmapped drainage lines that polluted the Bellinger River. NEFA gathered expert evidence but did not proceed with a proposed court case on the basis that the Environmental Protection Authority would take the necessary action.

The EPA did take action. The Forestry Commission of NSW, the predecessor to Forestry Corporation of NSW, was charged with an offence of polluting waters contrary to section 16 of the Clean Waters Act1970. While the offence was proven, no conviction was entered against them. However, the case did prove the need for legally enforceable recommendations on forest logging, and forced Forestry Commission to apply for Pollution Control Licences. Furthermore, Standard Erosion Mitigation Guidelines for Logging in NSW were subsequently drafted by CaLM in 1994, in order to control erosion and strengthen the conditions under which logging operations can be carried out.

Forestry Corporation is quite aware of the highly unstable and erodible soil types in the Kalang River headwaters. For years, red and pink rocks travelled kilometres downstream in the Bellinger River following the environmental vandalism that occurred in 1992 in Oakes State Forest. If the currently scheduled logging operations in Scotchman and Roses Creek SF occurs, the creeks and streams of the Kalang River headwaters will be exposed to unnecessary sedimentation and pollution. Industrial logging requires wider roads and larger log dumps, so the impact on the environment is even greater. 

We are in the midst of an extinction crisis. There is a war against nature happening right now. We urgently need proper protection of our precious biodiversity hotspots such as the Kalang River headwaters. Please heed the warnings in this story and don't allow a repetition of the 1992 Mt Killiecrankie disaster in the Kalang headwaters.

      - Catherine Eaglesham

Wednesday 7 August 2019


It is now almost eleven years since we first observed koalas in one of the trees on our 1.6 ha block at Waterview Heights.  When we first came to live out there in 1973 there were only three trees on the block. 

Our extensive planting of native trees and shrubs over the years is now being rewarded by a highly consistent presence of koalas.

The first thing that my wife Magda does every morning is to do what she calls “my koala walk”.  Round the block she goes, observing, as best she can, the presence or otherwise of what she calls “our little furry friend”.

Magda makes a record of her observations and gives a written monthly report to the Environment Centre.  In June this year she observed the presence of a koala on 26 days out of 30.

There have been many highlights.

On one morning while we were having breakfast Magda took some plates to the sink.  She looked out the adjacent window and there was a mother koala with her joey on her back walking slowly past. The koalas  continued their journey to a nearby tree which was climbed and used as home for the remaining daylight hours.

Sometimes Magda’s observations will be blessed by the presence of two koalas in the one morning.  Usually there is quite a distance between them, but on one occasion while photographing one, I was fortunate to observe a second in a distant location but in a tree that formed a backdrop to the first.  It has been the only occasion when I have been able to capture two of the iconic creatures in the one picture.
And recently, early in the morning when the sun was still low in the sky, we found a koala in such a position that when you observed him/her from one particular position, a golden glow formed a beautiful edge right round our sleepy furry friend.

One evening as the light was dimming, I decided to try a flashlight.  The resulting picture showed the koala highlighted by two bright sparkling eyes.  On this occasion the koala was certainly not curled up deep in sleep.

And there have been a number of people who, never having observed a koala in the wild, have visited our little forest and had their lives enriched by these iconic creatures. 
At night we have never observed the koala movement but their daytime locations indicate how extensive these wanderings have been.  Our hope is that these night time movements will continue safely into the future bringing a blessing to the natural environment.

     - Stan Mussared  

Photo: Stan Mussared