The public was recently invited to comment on a draft code of practice (CoP), the 'rule book', for private native forestry (PNF). The CoP has been in place for about 15 years, with the current draft resulting from the mandatory 5 yearly review.
With the stated aim of ensuring Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management, one would expect any review to focus on that aim, but unfortunately that has not been the case.
Ecologists and conservationists have two major concerns, the first being that, while there are provisions to protect threatened flora and fauna that are known to inhabit the proposed logging areas, there is no requirement to actually look for them. In fact, unless there is an official record of a threatened species on the property, it is assumed they don't occur there.
The second concern is a lack of compliance monitoring and enforcement - for which there is certainly a wealth of evidence. Although it's difficult to pin-point a reason, possibly it relates to a lack of political will to take action against the industry at large. Perhaps it is a case of under resourcing, poorly drafted legislation open to interpretation, or all of the above, but the fact remains that flouting of the Code's regulations is widespread.
Two years ago, the Clarence Environment Centre reported one local case where a PNF operator broke virtually every rule in the book - literally hundreds of breaches. Logging on creek banks, in swamps, on rocky outcrops and on cliff edges. Snigging tracks were constructed on excessive slopes, and across gullies, erosion control measures were inadequate, threatened species had been trampled by machinery, and rubbish like oil drums and tyres were left littering the landscape.
The investigators spent days on site, confirming the reported breaches, and finding additional ones yet, almost two years later, no action has been taken against the culprits, and with the two year statute of limitations looming, the case will likely be dropped.
Unless operators are held to account, how can we have any faith in the supposed aim of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management?
- John Edwards
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on May 25 , 2020.