Indigenous logging will continue as NSW north coast timber supply agreements are extended

The New South Wales Minister for Agriculture has signaled that the government has no plans to phase out logging of native hardwood in state forests.

The state government last week announced a five-year extension to the North Coast timber supply agreements.

Minister Dugald Saunders said all deals due to end next year had been renewed to give industry “certainty” to “invest in their businesses”.

The agreements cover the area from the Mid North Coast to the Queensland border, and include the state forests of Dorrigo, Wauchope, Kempsey, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Taree, Wingham, Gloucester, Glenn Innes and Casino.

Mr Saunders confirmed that the main terms were unchanged, meaning that Forestry Corporation would continue to supply existing quantities and species to forestry companies in return for payment.

Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders with Managing Director of Notaras Sawmill in South Grafton Donna Layton.(ABC Coffs Coast: Nick Parmeter)

“Things are done in a very environmentally friendly way, there is no wholesale logging in state forests, there is selective harvesting of suitable trees in suitable areas”, did he declare.

“Timber and forestry are the ultimate renewable energy. When you selectively harvest a tree, another tree grows near where that tree was.”

“I don’t see there would be a problem after 2028 or into the future as we continue to respectfully manage this most renewable resource of all.”

A “reckless” decision

Despite the assurances, some critics say the deals are economically and environmentally unsustainable and put taxpayers at financial risk.

According to the original contracts, state forests are liable for “any failure to make timber available or to supply or deliver timber”, unless a force majeure or “fortuitous event” occurs, such as a natural disaster.

If the State fails to deliver the agreed allowances, the contractor may claim reimbursement of expenses incurred as a direct result.

The chief executive of the Nature Conservancy Council of New South Wales, Chris Gambian, said it meant the NSW government faced a “huge financial liability” given the depletion of forests during black summer bushfires.

“If there is still a chance, we must cancel these agreements because, in the long term, New South Wales simply cannot afford to continue to exploit its state forests in this way,” Mr. Gambian.

The man with a hat stands in front of the chopped wood
Chris Gambian, from the Nature Conservation Council, says the extension will have a “huge effect” on the pressure on forests.(Provided)

Mr Saunders insisted there was no risk to taxpayers as the promised timber could be supplied.

“The only way there wouldn’t be enough wood to supply is if there was a fire that literally destroyed large areas of state forest,” he said.

“There is no other reason why the timber could not be supplied and this has already been assessed by Forestry Corporation.”

Dailan Pugh of the North East Forest Alliance said these assessments were not adequate and did not take into account the findings of the Natural Resources Commission that native forests were at risk of “serious and irreversible damage…due to cumulative impacts of fire and harvesting”.

“We thought they would at least reduce the amount of timber volumes because they know the trees aren’t there and yet they just renewed the contracts to continue logging at pre-fire levels,” he said. said Mr. Pugh.

An older man sits barefoot on a pile of cut trees in a forest
Dailan Pugh (OAM) has been monitoring logging practices and wildlife habitats in northern New South Wales for over 40 years.(Provided: Jimmy Malecki)

“We are in a dire situation which we need to start addressing now, without waiting another five years.”

“We invest millions of dollars in maintaining this industry, but we can make more money from forests through carbon sequestration and storage, tourism and increased water yields because forests older ones channel more water to dams and city water supplies.”

However, Mr Saunders said selective harvesting had a greater beneficial impact.

“When you thin the trees, it creates more regenerative capacity for the forest. Younger trees sequester a lot more carbon than older trees,” he said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Forestry Corporation of NSW said “timber supply agreements are set at a responsible level which is sustainable over the long term”.

“The timber supply is planned over a 100-year period and reviewed regularly to ensure we continue to grow and re-grow timber in an environmentally responsible way,” they said.

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