Further, because most of the timber ended up being turned into low-cost wood chips or pulp due to its condition, the practice is not profitable.
“The taxpayer ends up funding the destruction of their forests,” Professor Lindenmeyer said.
During a budget estimates hearing on March 17, the Forestry Corporation – the government body that manages logging in state forests – confirmed that despite widespread destruction caused by fire, in the first week of March it met 60 per cent of its timber contracts.
Upper House MP Justin Field said this was evidence that forests were being over-logged while at their most vulnerable.
“Trees that had only just started to get some of their first green shoots after the fires are now on the back of trucks,” he said.
“As much as 30 per cent of koalas in NSW and countless other animals died in the fires but the Berejiklian government is acting as if nothing has changed.”
He said they’ve allowed logging in both unburnt and burnt native forests, against the clear advice of many scientists, and the volume of the logging was ramping back up to pre-fire levels.
“I recently saw first-hand some of this new logging that has been allowed into one of the burnt forests on the South Coast. There are supposed to be new special rules in place, but barely any trees were left standing.”
A spokeswoman for Deputy Premier John Barilaro said that regional communities had been devastated by the bushfires and sustainable timber harvesting was crucial to rebuilding the sector and maintaining jobs.
She said that while 50 per cent of state forests had been impacted by fire, the fires varied in intensity and many areas were already regenerating.
Following the fires, 70 per cent of Forestry Corporation’s harvesting operations on the North Coast were moved into hardwood plantations, she said.
“A small number of operations continued in areas unaffected by fire and site-specific conditions were developed in conjunction with the Environment Protection Authority to remove some timber from burnt areas of native forest.
“These site-specific conditions are for selective harvesting in fire-affected native forests and are very different to salvage harvesting which may occur in plantations,” the spokeswoman said.
Nick O’Malley is National Environment and Climate Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He is also a senior writer and a former US correspondent.