Back on Labor’s agenda: Great Koala Park ignores science, native forests in crosshairs

Prime timber from state forests will be locked up despite the science showing this will do nothing to help koalas.

Thu 19 Jan 23


NSW Labor’s announcement to establish a Great Koala National Park if elected in March must not ignore the science, which shows the state’s sustainable native forestry industry has no impact on koala numbers, says AFPA NSW.

CEO Victor Violante said NSW forest industries were at the forefront of koala conservation. He firmly believe koala protections must be based on science and evidence to ensure the survival of the species.

“NSW’s sustainable native forest industries are part of the solution and play a vital role in forest management and mitigating the threat of catastrophic bushfires,” Mr Violante said.

“However, the Great Koala National Park as proposed by anti-forestry groups would see much of the North Coast’s prime timber-producing state forest locked up, despite the science showing this will do nothing to help koalas.”

A recent NSW government study of koala populations in the state’s north-east forests that used advanced koala detection technology found that timber harvesting has no impact on koala numbers. For more information please refer to Vic Jurskis’s article earlier this month.

The study found: …”past timber harvesting did not influence koala occupancy; there was no difference in results between heavily harvested, lightly harvested and old growth sites.

“Time since harvesting and the amount of harvesting in the local area did not influence occupancy. There was also no difference between National Park and state forest sites”. (Dr Brad Law, NSW Department of Primary Industries).

However, the lack of detail in Labor’s announcement means thousands of hardwood timber industry workers will be concerned about their future.

“Anyone building a house or renovating should also be concerned about what this will mean for the cost and availability of timber, as well as other essential timber products sourced from state forests including firewood,” Mr Violante said.

“The park as proposed by anti-forestry groups would mean the closure of NSW’s hardwood timber industry and increase reliance on timber imported from countries at high risk of deforestation and illegal logging,” Mr Violante said.

“Closing the native timber Victor Violante industry would cost NSW more than $1 billion a year in economic activity.”

NSW Labor’s commitment to establish the park before doing the scientific analysis that they have also promised to do is also at odds with the recommendation of the recent NSW upper house inquiry into the future of the timber industry, which found: “The deficiencies in the Great Koala National Park Economic Impact Assessment and Environmental Benefit Analysis, as prepared for the National Parks Association, are significant enough that they cannot be relied upon to make a rigorous and objective decision on the proposal to establish the Great Koala National Park”.

Victor Violante says the facts are that native forest industries regenerate the forest by law after harvest, ensuring no net loss of forest area.

“Also, the industry only operates in ‘regrowth’ forests that have previously been harvested. Selective harvesting means koala habitat trees are retained, and all our old growth forests are protected,” he said.

“Meanwhile, the sustainably harvested hardwood timber is turned into vital hardwood timber products for the housing construction and renovation sector industry, such as floorboard and decking, supporting thousands of jobs and avoiding the need to import even more of these products from countries that are at high risk of deforestation.

“While we acknowledge NSW Labor says it will consult and research before determining the boundaries of the park, timber industry workers deserve more detail before the election about what Labor’s plan will mean for their jobs and communities. AFPA NSW will continue to engage with NSW Labor and urges Party Leader Chris Minns to urgently address workers’ concerns.

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