Sunday 23 August 2020


In August 2018, at the request of the owner of a newly acquired bush property, the Clarence Environment Centre investigated a Private Native Forestry (PNF) operation that had been undertaken there immediately prior to the new owner taking possession.

That investigation uncovered horrific environmental damage, and blatant flouting of the PNF Code of Practice, under which the logging was approved. Hundreds of trees, many of them old-growth, were found to have been logged in breach of almost every section of the Code.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) was called in and a team of investigators descended on the property, spending 3 days documenting the reported breaches. Shortly thereafter, the new landowner received an email from the EPA stating: We did carry out further inspections of your property yesterday. We focused on consolidating on (taking further waypoints, measurements, notes and photographs) what we observed with you on 21.09.18 in area A. We also inspected sites that you previously visited and earmarked as potential breaches of the PNF Code. So far we have recorded a range of breaches, many of which have been repeated across the landscape

This was good news, but as the months passed without further word, memories of past disappointments over the EPA's failure to regulate the logging industry, flooded back. The months dragged into years, and a week before the 2 year statute of limitations was reached, the landowner received the bad news that the EPA had closed the case, stating: “Although the EPA identified that there were potential breaches of the PNF Code of Practice, it was not possible to identify the responsible party to the requisite level of proof”.

What a load of balloney! The property owners operated a sawmill on the property for years, up until the land changed hands. How can it possibly be claimed that because nobody actually witnessed the trees being cut down, that no one could be held responsible?

Things have to change but I'm not holding my breath, and I fear recent EPA stop work orders over alleged illegal logging in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest will likewise end in disappointment.

            - John Edwards

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

Sunday 16 August 2020


On January 16, 2017 Stan Mussared's   "Goodbye Blinky Bill"  was published as the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner.  Koalas were under threat then and had been for years.   What Stan wrote in 2017 still applies today.  Indeed their situation is even worse now with predictions that they could be extinct in NSW by 2050. 
 * * * * *

Far too often we humans stand beneath a tree, look up at a koala on a branch far above our heads and say in a voice loud enough for him to hear, “Our interests are more important than yours.”

The koala may answer softly, “No tree, no me.”  He could have added, “And if my home is threatened, then so is the diversity of other flora and fauna that share the same ecosystem with me.”

But we fail to hear.

Forested areas are cleared to make way for our developments – urban areas, agriculture, roads and highways – and loss of habitat, the number one threat to a healthy koala population, takes place.

The precious habitat areas that remain are fragmented and isolated, and on koalas trying to exist in these pockets the pressure builds and serious issues quickly arise.

There is now excessive energy expenditure on greater ground movement as koalas search for the scattered food trees.  As they move across highways, fences, car parks, and backyards, they face a myriad of problems from motor vehicles, dogs and swimming pools.

The greatly reduced habitat areas lead to a greater density in the remaining koala population.  There is now increased competition for food and many are forced to eat poorer quality leaf.  There is also a greater tendency for inbreeding, and thus a lower genetic quality animal.

The destruction of koala habitat creates very high stress levels which increases susceptibility to disease.

Historically koalas have not been treated well.  Up until 1930 around 2 million koalas were “harvested” for the fur trade.  A public outcry resulted in a change and koala numbers slowly increased.  However, with habitat being removed , koala numbers are spiralling down again.

It is indeed time that we change our statement as we look up and say in a voice loud enough for him to hear, “Yes, I will care for you and our Community of Life with understanding, compassion and love.”

-          Stan Mussared

Wednesday 12 August 2020


For years there has been criticism of the federal  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act because of its failure  to protect Australia’s natural environment -  a failure highlighted in a recent report from the Auditor-General.

In commenting on this report, James Trezise, an analyst for the peak environment group the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said, “This report is a scathing indictment of the Federal Government’s administration of our natural environment law and highlights why we need a stronger law and a new independent regulator.”

“Worryingly for an area of public policy in which commercial interests are constantly trying to influence, the Auditor-General found ‘conflicts of interests are not managed’.”  Trezise referred to the ACF’s concern about the capacity for political interference under the way the Act has been administered.  He referred specifically to the development on an internationally significant wetland at Toondah Harbour in Moreton Bay and the approvals of Adani’s groundwater plan.

Another major criticism related to the deep budget cuts to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment between 2013 and 2019 which contributed to its poor performance in administering the EPBC Act.

The Act is currently being reviewed by Professor Graeme Samuel.  His interim report , released on Monday July 20, called for fundamental reform of the law.

Samuel says that the Act “does not enable the Commonwealth to play its role in protecting and conserving environmental matters that are important for the nation.  It is not fit to address current or future environmental challenges.”

He said, “The foundation of the report was that there is too much focus on process and not enough on outcomes and that should be changed entirely.”

He confirmed the health of Australia’s natural environment is in dire straits and proposed a number of ways to address this. 

A significant proposal was for the establishment of “an independent compliance and enforcement regulator that is not subject to actual or implied political direction from the Government Minister.” 
“The regulator should be responsible for monitoring compliance, enforcement and assurance.  It should be properly resourced and have available to it of full toolkit of powers,” Samuel said.

Unsurprisingly, Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, immediately ruled out an independent regulator referring to it as an “additional layer of bureaucracy”. 

What she actually means is that the Federal Government wants to continue to exercise political influence to ensure that environmentally-damaging projects are allowed to go ahead if it sees them as being in the short-term economic interest.   If the government gets its way, the EPBC Act will continue to be neutered by politicians and the degradation of our natural environment will escalate.

Wednesday 5 August 2020


Recently the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) called on the NSW Environment Minister to take action to protect important koala habitat from further logging and to ensure that the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) prosecutes the Forestry Corporation for their breaching of logging rules.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh reminded the Minister that on July 26 he said  he wanted  to see Koala populations doubled by 2050, stating “Koalas are the most iconic example of our mismanagement of the environment and we’ve got to say 'enough is enough'."

On July 18 the EPA imposed a Stop Work Order over 3 compartments in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest near Cascade on the Dorrigo plateau , 9 days after they found the Forestry Corporation had illegally logged 2 giant trees.
A brief audit by NEFA on the afternoon of 28 July 2020 found a further 12 breaches of the logging rules.  This consisted of  2 more felled giant trees, with reckless damage to 4 giant hollow-bearing trees and 6 Koala feed trees.

Mr Pugh said, "The felled giant trees were around 1.5 metres diameter, and the giant hollow bearing trees damaged by logging machinery driving over their roots and bashing their trunks were 1.5 to 2 metres diameter."

"These massive awe-inspiring trees are the height of 10 storey buildings and 300-500 years old. They provide the large hollows that many of our iconic animals depend upon for dens and nests. They predate European settlement of Australia, yet the Forestry Corporation are recklessly felling and damaging them. This has to be stopped.

"These forests have also been identified as being outstanding Koala habitat. In 2017 the Office of Environment and Heritage identified the logging area as part of the largest cluster of resident Koala populations (Koala Hubs) on the Dorrigo Plateau, and last year the Department of Planning Industry and Environment identified it for protection as part of a greatly reduced Great Koala National Park to "provide a feasible and strategic balance between increasing protections for koalas, while minimising impact to forestry operations".

"The pitiful 10 Koala feed trees per hectare the Forestry Corporation are required to retain in this forest are only 40% of the number recommended by the Expert Fauna Panel and the EPA, and even these they are recklessly and carelessly damaged.

"While it is important that the Forestry Corporation are prosecuted for their flagrant breaches of the new logging rules, if Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Environment Minister Matt Kean are fair dinkum about reversing the decline of Koalas the first thing they need to do is stop logging their homes and feed trees.

"Premier enough is enough. Time to stump up Minister Kean," Mr. Pugh said.

Blue Gum stump with 149.5 cm diameter at stump height.     

Giant Blue Gum left where it had been felled
For more information see  NEFA's .Wild Cattle Creek Brief Audit