NSW State Election: Two-Party Tunnel Vision on Native Forests with election days away

Labor promises Great Koala National Park on north coast

Mon 06 Mar 23


By Gordon Wilson

With native forest harvesting either ceased or to be ceased in Western Australia and Victoria by ALP state governments, the position in NSW warrants consideration.

The NSW state election is to be held on March 25.

On March 3, Roy Morgan announced polling of the NSW voting intention taken in late February. ALP had a 5% lead over the Coalition, 52.5% to 47.5%. This result put the ALP up 0.5% and the Coalition down by 0.5% on the previous month’s polling results.  This Roy Morgan SMS poll on state voting intention was conducted via SMS with 981 NSW electors aged 18+ from February 24-28.

Importantly, primary voting intention shows the ALP on 33.5% just ahead of the Coalition on 32.5%. While the NSW voting system is an optional preference system, meaning first past the post, preferences matter on such low major party polling and will make a difference.

Recent results in the federal election suggest the ALP will be favoured overall by preference flows. The Greens are running more candidates than more conservative parties. The Liberals will need preference flows.

The future of the industry is now in the balance,

The ALP Opposition has promised a Great Koala National Park on the North Coast of NSW near Coffs Harbour. At least 140,000 ha of state working forests will be placed into this park. This is not withstanding that scientific mapping evidence shows that 90% of public forests in Northeast NSW are already national parks or conservation reserves. The spatial mapping work was undertaken by NSW DPI who used 2018 data and found that 88% of native forests in the region are reserved from timber harvesting on public land.

Since then, there has been additional transfers of public forest into reserves in the region that supports the 90% figure. (A further paper, Slade & Law 2016 also supports this figure when updated.)

The ALP has committed a sum of $80 million to conduct further reviews and assessments on establishing the koala park.

It may decide to make it even larger.  The CFMEU in a Facebook press release dated 20 Jan 2023 said they viewed this money as worker transition costs.

Penny Sharpe, ALP Shadow Environment Minister

At the Nature Conservation Council event on March 1 at the Sydney Town Hall, the ALP Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe confirmed all of this and more.  She added that with koalas being extinct soon she would do all she could to see koalas in the wild. She spoke of ‘cross tenure’ measures which included establishing wildlife corridors to counter all the land clearing. She did not use the word ‘deforestation’ but did repeatedly refer to land clearing. 

The Greens spokesperson Sue Higginson made it very clear … ‘no logging’.

The Minister for the Environment, James Griffen

The Minister for the Environment, James Griffin (Liberal) addressed the NCC meeting. There was no strong statement of the EPA environmental based regulatory regime that existed in NSW for state forestry and private native forestry. Indeed, the most the minister could say was that the state government had a strong record of placing purchased land into the national park estate. 

Mr Griffin confirmed the NSW government policy of 30% of land to be locked up by 2030 – eight years away. This is when less than 11% of NSW overall is a reserve, national park etc where land use is effectively prohibited.

Interestingly, the minister said he was in favour of transition of timber industry workers and referred to a conversation he had with the CFMEU representative on the South Coast in recent times. 

Mr Griffin has been Environment Minister for 15 months. 

The Office of the Minister for Agriculture and Forestry on March 2 sought to give timber mills, workers and the industry the utmost confidence that under an NSW Coalition government there will be a continuation of a sustainable timber harvesting industry in NSW. 

This strong statement sits in contrast to the words of the NSW Minister for the Environment made the day before.

The Roy Morgan polling together with the policy statement of the NSW ALP makes it look as if a $1.8 billion industry just on the North Coast of NSW will be lost to the NSW and the national economy. This means a loss of $700 million to the NSW GDP and employment of 5700 people in the state’s northern region. 

Sue Higginson of the Greens has been a vocal critic of commercial activities in native forests.

Sue Higginson of the Greens on March 1 very loudly proclaimed: “There are only a 1000 people employed (in NSW). Just pay them out, it is not that hard!”. 



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