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‘Ridiculous’: Government sits on forestry report as logging resumes

“It is totally unacceptable that a taxpayer-funded assessment of how to manage environmental risks from logging after the bushfires would be hidden under cabinet-in-confidence rules,” Mr Field said.

Mr Hopkins, meanwhile, said he had also written to the EPA to ask why logging plans for Shallow Crossing changed markedly in recent months, sharply reducing the “sensitive area exclusion zones”.

“What’s changed so much, from May to September, to allow for the transition of the forest from sensitive to harvestable?” he asked.

A Forestry Corp spokeswoman said the corporation had amended safeguards “to incorporate updated NSW government fire mapping and fire severity data and forest ecology surveys … to ensure the areas with fire sensitive ecological value are appropriately managed.

“The plan to selectively harvest and regenerate a small proportion of the regrowth forest in Shallow Crossing State Forest sets aside more than half of the compartment in exclusion zones that will not be harvested as well as a minimum of 50 per cent of the Local Area Landscape to assist in forest recovery,” she said.

According to a Planning Department report, about 900,000 hectares of the State Forest land burned during the 2019-20 fires. Some 43 state forests out of 522 in NSW were almost completely burnt.

Members of the North East Forest Alliance audit logging in the Girard State Forest.

Members of the North East Forest Alliance audit logging in the Girard State Forest.Credit:Jimmy Malecki/NEFA

Separately, the North East Forest Alliance has challenged the state and federal governments in the Federal Court over the decision to roll over a Regional Forest Agreement without taking necessary assessments of the environment.

The pact, renewed in 2018 for 20 years, covers logging in coastal areas between Sydney and the Queensland border, and exempts them from requirements of the federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

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“We say there was no assessment of the impact of climate change on the forests,” alliance spokeswoman Susie Russell, said. “It is appalling that in the face of the twin global crises of rapidly changing climatic conditions and biodiversity decline, that all they could do is agree to more of the same without considering the science.”

David Morris, chief of the Environmental Defenders Office which is leading the legal action, said “under the current system, if a population of koalas is being threatened by a new development, the project needs to be assessed at the Federal level”.

“But if the same population of koalas is being threatened by a logging project, it’s been rubber-stamped on the basis of 20-year-old environmental assessments,” he said.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said the bushfires were a catastrophic natural disaster that “put huge pressures on our environment, our wildlife and our local industry”.

“It is important that we do everything we can to ensure that our natural environment and local businesses recover,” he said, adding that it was not appropriate to comment on matters that were currently before the courts.

Regent Honeyeater with juvenile chicks waiting for a feed in the forests of north-east NSW.

Regent Honeyeater with juvenile chicks waiting for a feed in the forests of north-east NSW.Credit:Mick Roderick/NEFA

A spokesman for Mr Stokes said the minister could not comment on cabinet processes.

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