Saturday 29 February 2020


The North East Forest Alliance's Response to the NSW Government's decision not to go ahead with the sale of its pine plantations:

The North East Forest Alliance has welcomed the NSW Government's decision not to proceed with a fire sale of public pine plantations, and sees the need to replant thousands of hectares of burnt plantations as an opportunity to complete the transition out of public native forests.

With such extensive areas of pine plantations burnt last year, a fire sale of pine plantations was no longer an economic option, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"In north-east NSW, north of the Hunter River, the Forestry Corporation had 37,000 hectares of Pine Plantations, last year 16,000 hectares (43%) of them were burnt. Due to the flammability of pines most of these burnt intensively, rendering them useless for future production. 

"They are now being salvaged logged and sold to China, likely at a loss.

"Pine plantations were where the Forestry Corporation made most of their profits and were used to subsidize their largely unprofitable native forestry operations. 

"Massive replanting is required, which provides an alternative employment opportunity to continued logging of native forests. Though in this heating world maybe they should consider re-establishing them as more resilient eucalypt plantations.

Thursday 20 February 2020


Zali Steggall, the independent federal Member for Warringah, plans to bring a private member’s bill on climate action before the House of Representatives on March 23. Steggall hopes that the major parties can be persuaded to allow their members a conscience vote on her Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020.
Very few private members’ bills are passed by parliament.  However, the non-partisanship of this bill and the overwhelming nature of recent disasters give some hope that politicians across the spectrum might come together and act in the long-term national interest for a change and end the ridiculous and futile warfare on climate policy that we as a nation have been stuck with for so long.

Steggall is working to obtain community support through her #ClimateActNow appeal in the hope that constituents will encourage their local members to support the bill.

The bill outlines ways to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions to zero by 2050. It deals with climate risks as well as with adaptation and mitigation measures to secure a more resilient Australia.  It also proposes establishing an independent climate change commission to advise parliament.

According to Kate Crowley, associate professor at the University of Tasmania, “Steggall’s bill changes the policy conversation entirely.  It calls for a detailed risk assessment of the challenges of warming across all sectors, and national plans for adapting to those challenges, while reducing emissions in a transparent and accountable way.”

Professor Ross Garnaut , author of the significant 2008 climate change review, supports the target set in Steggall’s bill. “Being introduced by a member of parliament from outside the partisan divide,” he said, “it can pass without any of the parties of government backing down from explicit electoral commitments.”

CEO of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, also commented favourably on the bill which, as Crowley pointed out is a signal to the Prime Minister that business wants “a more ambitious and targeted climate policy”.

For those of us who want to see effective climate action the message is clear.  Let our local MPs know our views.
            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on February 17,  2020.  

Saturday 8 February 2020


It's amazing how vested interests can jump in and take advantage of even the worst catastrophes. Right now timber industry lobby groups are claiming to have the solution to bushfire hazard reduction - allow them to log national parks!

Of course they are careful to avoid the term logging, preferring instead to use the word “thinning”. Thinning is something that should always occur after logging takes place, but something that has been sadly neglected over the past two decades to cut costs.

The problem is that over 20 years, logging frequency in state forests has increased, as has the intensity, anything up to 80% of basal area in some places.

This heavy logging opens up canopies, lets in sunlight, heats the ground surface, and promotes a massive regrowth, particularly Wattle species, weeds, and highly flammable Blady Grass and Bracken, which results in the entire forest becoming more flammable.

There is a good example on the Summerland Way, 13 km north of Whiporie, showing the higher resilience older forests have against fire. Anyone knowing that road will recall a healthy patch of relatively large Tallowwoods and other tall Eucalypt species, growing right to the road's edge. Those passing since the recent devastating blazes will be relieved to see that forest, while burned, has retained a relatively unscathed canopy, while all around heavily logged forests have been obliterated.

Tall forests with unbroken canopies retain moisture at ground level and in the leaf litter, and they also encourage an understorey which includes fire resistant species, while the deeper shade inhibits the growth of those flammable pioneer species like Wattles and Blady Grass.

All this is in stark contrast to those heavily logged forests, including many of the national parks that were logged to within an inch of their being before they were handed over to the parks estate.

There are areas of forest that could benefit from thinning, including some of the more recently established national parks, but that work has to be carefully undertaken to minimise collateral damage, and definitely not by huge industrial logging machines. 

- John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 27, 2020.