Unprecedented: 3,400 Submissions for North East NSW Forestry Vote

Clarence Valley councillors will now consider the submissions ahead of a vote at the October council meeting.

Tue 29 Aug 23


More than 100 residents have turned up at Clarence Valley council offices to deliver submissions.

It comes after the council pushed to ban native forest harvesting in the region.

As of 10pm Monday, Wood Central can reveal that the council has received 3,400 submissions, with the decision drawing “an unprecedented response” from the local community.

In June, council members attempted to bring a motion to support a ban on native forestry after a block of local governments passed a motion at the NSW Local Government Association conference last year.

The Clarence Valley councillors pushed a motion to support ban on native forest harvesting. (Photo Credit: Clarence Valley Regional Council Dated 2022)
The Clarence Valley councillors pushed a motion to support a ban on native forest harvesting during the June Council meeting. (Photo Credit: Clarence Valley Regional Council Dated 2022)

The council’s Biodiversity Advisory Committee raised concerns with Mayor Ian Tiley, acknowledging that “preservation of native forests has a strong ecological footprint.”

Mayor Tiley acknowledged that “sometimes you need to strike a balance” but suggested, “I think the industry has done that over the years; they remediate forests that have been harvested.”

At a packed June meeting, Councillor Debrah Novak moved a council resolution to delay the council debate until October, acknowledging that a decision required consultation with the community.

Independent Councillor Clarence Debrah Novak ran for the 2019 NSW State Election for the seat of Clarence. (Photo Credit: Adam Hourigan)

The council invited industry group feedback, including the NSW Forestry Corporation, Big River Timbers, Koppers Australia, Coffs Harbour Hardwood, and the wider Clarence community.

Earlier this month, Wood Central reported that letters began arriving from council officers indicating that submissions had to be in by August 14.

Timber NSW told Wood Central that there was no public or industry consultation process or media notification as required.

Timber NSW said the community mobilised, extending submissions until 5pm yesterday.

Speaking to local radio, Donna Layton, a resident of South Grafton, was amazed by the local turnout. 

“We did not expect this many people; we expected more for the October meeting,” Ms Layton said.

More than 100 local residents gathered outside the Clarence Valley council chambers to deliver submissions.

The forest industry has had a long history in North East NSW and is an engine room for the local hardwood native timber industry.

Local residents Donna Layton and Jason Blanch, both from Grafton, addressed Mayor Tilley on the steps of the council chambers yesterday afternoon.

Michael Harrington, the Executive Officer for Forest and Wood Communities Australia, drove 14 hours to attend the submissions handover. 

“I have seen the devastation caused by decisions, and I do not want to see the same thing happening in Northern NSW,” Mr Harrington said.

According to Mr Harrington, the decision is outside the scope of local government and should be the remit of the NSW Government.

“Councils look at rates, rubbish and roads, and for the rest, leave it to the people with expertise in the field,” Mr Harrington said.

According to the Clarence State MP, Ritchie Williamson, the NSW Nationals will always support the timber industry.

Mayor Tilley is speaking to Forest and Wood Communities Australia Executive Officer Michael Harrington outside the council chambers.

Mr Williamson is a former Clarence Valley mayor and councillor. 

At midday, Ms Layton said that more than 2,242 submissions were received – with Mr Williamson cannot recall an issue that has drawn such support from the local community.

Ms Layton addressed local news crews on the steps of the council chambers yesterday.

In his time in politics, he cannot recall an issue that has drawn such support from the local community.

“It shows the council that the community is mobilised on this issue,” Mr Willaimson said.

“Sustainable harvesting of native hardwood is important to the supply chain in NSW, and I am sure the (Minns) State Government will be watching this very closely.”

Clarence State MP Ritchie Williamson (far right) attended the rally. He was Clarence Valley’s local mayor from 2008 until 2016 and said the NSW Nationals will always support sustainable forest management. (Photo Credit: Supplied from Ritchie Williamson’s Facebook)

Wood Central has obtained a copy of the Timber NSW submission to the council.

The 36-page submission is supported by an economic report provided by Ernst + Young and a Review and Analysis of the University of Newcastle’s “Great Koala National Park Economic Impact Analysis and Environmental Benefit Assessment.”

Professor Oswin Maurer, an international expert in consumer behaviour and tourism marketing, was behind the review and analysis of the Great Koala National Park impact analysis.

Dr Maurer has cast doubt on the “major shortcomings in basic data, multipliers and the use of inflated numbers.”

He claims the University of Newcastle study used to demonstrate the economic viability of the Great Koala National Park “appears to lack validity in estimating the future benefits of the GKNP development.”

The Timber NSW submission included a report from Professor Oswin Maurer, an international expert on international tourism and marketing. The professor has cast doubt over numbers provided in a University of Newcastle study used to demonstrate the economic viability of the Great Koala National Park. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

The Timber NSW submission said that the Biodiversity Advisory Committee failed to meet the standards of the Council’s Charter on multiple fronts.

In particular, “the lack of input by other relevant Council committees (Economic Development & Tourism Advisory Committee, Community & Cultural Advisory Committee, Climate Change Advisory Committee) into the report and on the issue of native forestry in the region.”

It provided several recommendations to the committee, including:
  • A SEPTEMBER 2023 Tour: An invitation for all Clarence Valley Councillors to attend a site tour of local timber industry operations to be organised by Timber NSW in September 2023.
  • ESTABLISH NEW COUNCIL ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Clarence Valley Council to establish an Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Advisory Committee at its October 2023 meeting.
  • REVIEW COUNCIL ADVISORY COMMITTEE PROCESSES & OVERSIGHT: Clarence Valley Council will review BAC and other committee processes and report to the community.
  • WORK COLLABORATIVELY WITH STATE & FEDERAL COUNTERPARTS: We ask Clarence ValleyCouncil to work with us to support an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable timber industry in NSW.

According to Mayor Tilley, the council will now have a summary of all submissions “with a decision to be made by the council during the next council meeting in October.”


  • 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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