EDO: Courts Open Floodgates for ENGOs to Contest NSW Logging

New legal precedence could open door for civil groups to flood NSW's courts in challenges against the state government owned NSW Forestry Corporation.

Sun 03 Mar 24


The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is celebrating two separate court decisions, which it said now recognise the right of communities “with a special interest” to hold the NSW state government logging agency (Forest Corporation of NSW) to account for logging operations.

According to the EDO, both decisions marks a significant departure from the status quo and set an important precedent for the community to hold the Forestry Corporation to account for native forest logging.  

“For more than 20 years, Forestry Corporation has asserted that the community cannot seek to challenge its public native forest operations,” according to a spokesperson from the EDO, who said that a decision made in the court on November 20, 2023, and another in January 2024, rejects that position.

“The EDO represented the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) in mid-2023, challenging logging approvals in Myrtle and Braemar State Forests,” the spokesperson said. And whilst the NEFA was unsuccessful, “the court confirmed for the first time that (NSW’s) Forestry Act does not prevent persons with a special interest from taking legal action over forestry operations, including logging approvals.”

“This is particularly important as NSW laws explicitly attempt to reduce the community’s right to challenge Forestry Corporation conduct regarding industrial native forest logging,” they said, with the court also confirming that the NSW government’s overarching regulation, known as the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (CIFOA) was also open to challenge.

The Court confirmed that ENGOs like the North East Forest Alliance has “special interest” to challenge the CIFOA and logging approvals in NSW forests – footage courtesy of @northeastforestalliance8380.

Building on the NEFA decision, a case brought by South East Forest Rescue (SEFR) – the first time in 25 years brought to court by citizens for failure to comply with native forestry regulations – confirmed that persons “with a special interest can also seek to enforce the conditions of the CIFOA against Forestry Corporation.”

Buoyed by this legal clarification, President of NEFA, Dailan Pugh, said this development could “open the door” for further litigation.

“While NEFA were disappointed that our legal challenge to the logging of important Koala populations in Braemar and Myrtle State Forests was not successful, it’s promising that the case did establish that NEFA has the civil right to enforce NSW’s logging rules, opening a door to litigation we thought had been shut to us since 1998,” Mr Pugh said.

It comes as Wood Central Contributor Jack Rodden-Green last month alleged that the NSW Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) is “hellbent on changing the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operation Approvals (CIFOA) process.”

“Is the NSW EPA aiding and abetting not-for-profit environmentalists and the members of the Greens Party to achieve what they cannot when they only have a compliance role under the relevant legislation?,” Mr Rodden-Green said.

Over the past decade, the EDO – which runs litigation and offers legal support in climate change and environment cases, has become increasingly politicised.

The Environmental Defenders Office is facing further calls for its funding to be scrapped after the Federal Court found it distorted and manipulated the views of Indigenous people – footage courtesy of @skynewsaustralia.

Last month, Australian Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, pledged to defund the office should the Coalition win back government.

“They have been discredited in recent federal court cases, but the federal government has had nothing to say about it,” Mr Dutton said, who added “we think it needs to be defunded.”

Mr Dutton’s commitment follows a pledge by the LNP in Queensland to pull state funding for the EDO if it wins the next election and calls from former WA Liberal premier Colin Barnett for the group to be abolished altogether.

  • Wood Central has contacted Timber NSW, the industry association connected to the NSW hardwood industry, for comment.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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