The NSW Government will establish the Great Koala National Park and halt timber harvesting operations in the 106 koala hubs within the areas assessed for the Park.
The decision is the most significant environmental commitment in NSW history, and according to NSW Environmental Minister Penny Sharp,” it” is essential to save koalas from extinction.”
According to Minister Sharp, “government will work closely with the community, Aboriginal organisations and industry as the areas for the inclusion in the park are assessed.”
Wood Central understands the NSW Government will immediately discuss options with the NSW Forestry Corporation, which includes cessation and timber supply options.
The process of establishing the Park will involve three components:
- An independent economic and social assessment which will consider the impacts on local jobs and communities
- The establishment of industry, community and Aboriginal advisory panels to provide input to the creation of the Park
- An expert environmental and cultural heritage assessment to safeguard the region’s unique environmental and cultural heritage and ensure the Great Koala National Park aligns with the highest environmental protection standards and respect for cultural heritage.
Wood Central understands that separate court actions are also being undertaken by ENGOs using the Environmental Defenders Office over Newry, Braemar, Myrtle and Cherry Tree State Forests.
While the work to establish the Park is carried out, the Government will implement a halt to timber harvesting in koala hubs within the assessment area for the Park.
The 106 koala hubs cover more than 8,400 hectares of state forest. According to the NSW Department of Environment, “Koala hubs are areas with strong evidence of the iconic animal’s multi-generational, high-density populations.”
The Koala hubs cover approximately 5% of the Great Koala National Park assessment area but contain 42% of recorded koala sightings in state forests in the assessment area since 2000.
According to Tara Moriarty, the Minister for Agriculture and Regional NSW,
“The Great Koala National Park is a high priority, and we are working hard across Government to establish this significant undertaking.”
However, Minister Moriarty said, “The government commits to working closely with the industry to develop a blueprint for the future timber sector that accommodates both the park and the production of timber products.”
The decision coincides with a new report alleging that 72% of residents believed the native forest industry is a “legitimate industry,” and 69% recognised its importance for the economy.
The findings come from the most extensive research ever undertaken by StollzNow Research, which the North East NSW Forestry Hub (which includes the Great Koala Park) appointed to provide insights into native forestry’s social licence to operate.
Specifically, the research provided insights into attitudes towards native forestry and its degree of trust to understand how much people know or care about native forestry and their awareness of the ENGOs and public campaigns.
StollzNow Research conducted the research over three months between May and July 2023 and involved the following:
- Ten focus groups with members of the public (2 in Sydney and 8 in regional areas in North East NSW)
- 2,200 surveys, including 1,194 from North East NSW and 1,006 from Greater Sydney
- 19 interviews with Key Opinion Leaders
Crucially, after removing ‘unsure’ respondents, 86% of residents believed that native forestry was legitimate, 68% thought it was ethical, and 67% trusted the NSW native timber industry.
Wood Central will update the story as more information becomes available.