Why is the EPA Enforcing Rolling ‘Stop Orders’ in NSW Forests?

Freedom of Information requests and evidence from the NSW Budget Estimates in October have revealed certain matters and left questions unanswered.

Thu 21 Dec 23


On August 29th 2023, Hon. Sue Higginson, MLC – a member of the NSW Greens, wrote to Penny Sharpe, the Environment Minister and the NSW Environment Protection Authority, who has the statutory role of ensuring compliance with the native forest harvesting operations in NSW. 

Her complaint concerned the protection of the Southern Greater Glider (SGG) in the Tallaganda State Forest and called for the immediate issue of a stop work order – the demand was granted on August 30th.

These ‘stop work orders’ applied to all of Tallaganda State Forest. Why?

The NSW EPA also has letters of the same time from Wilderness Australia and other representatives calling for a “Stop Order’ in the whole State forest.

In late August, an unidentified citizen volunteer found an SGG in the Tallaganda State Forest, which was reported to the EPA. 

It is unclear who found what and where, and the NSW EPA Freedom of Information reply does not disclose anything. 


It is now known that the discovery of the carcass was in an area adjacent to an area that was last harvested six months before the find. 

Forest Corporation of NSW – or FCNSW, did have two contractors working elsewhere in the State Forest at the time of the find. This information has come from an independent third party in the area.

The day before finding the SGG carcass, the WWF started a Facebook campaign calling for donations to help save the Southern Greater Gliders from forestry operations – with research indicating the WWF Australia had a reported income of $40 million from donations last year alone.

It is impossible to prove any connection between the discovery of the carcass and this donation page except the coincidence that the citizen volunteer was associated with the finding of the carcass and the Facebook page was that of the WWF. 

The NSW EPA sent the carcass of an SGG to Taronga Park Zoo for an autopsy report. One can only assume that this is the same SGG found by the citizen volunteer, which is apparently associated with the WWF. 

At the same time, in late October 2023, the autopsy report was provided to the NSW EPA. The report has not been published publicly, and it may never be. 

Freedom of Information requests have been resisted, and the report has been hidden behind red tape. The excuse is that investigations are ongoing. But more of this later.

More about the Southern Greater Glider

The Bush Telegraph says the autopsy report states that the dead Southern Greater Glider had died 10-14 days before the autopsy. 

This puts the time of death in the third part of August. The dead Glider had no internal injuries and no external injuries, and it was not possible to determine the cause of death. 

Blunt trauma from a forest harvesting operation would have left its mark on the carcass. But there were no such markings. There are two likely possible causes of death. 

The Glider was dropped by a powerful owl in the Tallaganda State Forest, a natural predator of the Glider and was a death caused by natural causes.

image 36
The glider was located in a harvested coup close to the WWF surveying. (Photo Credit: Supplied by the Forest Defence NSW)

On October 29th 2025, in Budget Estimates, Sue Higginson advised that volunteer citizens in southern NSW had found SGGs and that the NSW EPA had enforced stop-work orders over the area – refer to page 21 of the uncorrected transcript.

The reference to the findings of multiple SGGs can be sourced to Freedom of Information material showing complaints made to the NSW EPA that citizen volunteer surveys had sighted more than one SGG. Official surveys and sightings were not in the Freedom of Information papers. 

The NSW EPA extended the order, which is still in place. Why?

The order has been made available under Freedom of Information advice. It must be grounded in Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (or CIFOA) Conditions and relevant Protocols on the NSW EPA website. 

The Stop Work Order is highly prescriptive, like the complaints alleged, yet the Protocols followed are ‘landform based’, requiring certain outcomes. The terms of the order on its face are inconsistent with these governing provisions. 

In 2019-20, following the wildfires in Southern NSW, the NSW EPA sought to alter the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations terms. They sought to use ‘Site-Specific Provisions’ that were extremely narrow in substance for a wider application. The problem was that they did not have the statutory power to do this.  

The statutory power to alter the CIFOA sits with the Department of Forestry and the Department of the Environment, not the NSW EPA. At the time, the Forest Corporation of NSW sought to cooperate and work in a conciliatory capacity with the NSW EPA. 

This lasted until it was clear that no workable solution to the demands of the NSW EPA was possible.

In 2023, the NSW EPA is again trying to apply pressure to alter the terms of the CIFOA outside the terms of the relevant legislation.  

What is the ‘investigation’ referred to in the latest Freedom of Information Reply, EPA GIPA934?

Large amounts of information have been redacted due to the “ongoing investigation.” 

However, the order suggests it is an allegation that “a competent and suitably qualified person did not carry out the works”. 

This is the standard phrase used in many NSW EPA Stop Work Orders that causes the ‘down tools’ of many businesses.  

The relevant EPA legislation does not place time constraints on the EPA or any right of appeal regarding how they conduct their investigations. They are effectively only accountable to themselves.  

Sue Higginson noted in Budget Estimates that these orders cost Forest Corporation of NSW money – money paid to contractors for being stood down.  

Given these are ‘unproductive’ costs placing financial pressure on FCNSW, what are possible reasons behind the NSW EPA’s motivation? 

Is it the action of many ideologues within the NSW EPA seeking to have native forestry closed down?

Stop work orders affect profitability. Like any who read and believe the greens commentary, the officers of the NSW EPA have the misapprehension that the native hardwood operations are loss-making. 

Further losses add to the rationale for closing native forestry operations. Sue Higginson makes this point in her comments in Budget Estimates in October. 

It is common to hear the comment that the NSW EPA is full of ideologues. 

This comes from those who have worked in the NSW Government. One recent comment was that internal meetings are like attending a Greens party meeting. 

Business interests say much the same behind closed doors. Open public commentary would be at the ongoing detriment of that business. 

Regardless of what opinion you might form from reading this article, there are issues of serious public administration and accountability concerning the NSW EPA. 

Without considerable and sustained open public pressure for change, and this is not evident, nothing will change. Ideologues will still bully and hide behind bureaucratic processes. 

On these facts, it is reasonable to arrive at the opinion that the ideologues within the NSW EPA will do whatever is required to aid and abet the closure of the native hardwood industry in NSW assisted by the environmental, not-for-profit organisations, who use the cause to raise millions in donations.

  • This article was provided exclusively to Wood Central, has been published unedited, and does not necessarily reflect the personal views of the Wood Central Publisher or its Editors. The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. The information on this website is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or non-infringement. In no event shall the authors of this website be liable for any special, indirect, or consequential damages resulting from or related to the use of this website or the information contained herein.


  • Jack Rodden-Green

    Jack Rodden-Green, with 30 years of experience as a forester in New South Wales, combines a deep understanding of forestry with legal training to address social and environmental issues.


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