Neighbours and bicycle users have expressed concern over the current logging operation off Wagonga Scenic Drive and the tourist area known as the Box Cutting Rainforest Walk.
The logging operation is currently underway in the Bodalla State Forest compartment 3027 just north of Narooma and west of Kianga, and those concerned say the harvest is clearly visible from the roadway that is an important tourism asset for the region.
Wagonga Scenic Drive resident Bill Braines said as a former operator of a mobile saw mill, he was not against sustainable logging but was upset that the Forestry Corporation and its contractor appeared not to be following regulations and rules.
He alleges the harvest plans had been modified several times and that in the latest plan the harvest was allowed to happen right up to the roadway and walk, and that threatened species listed in previous plans had been left off.
“All this could have been avoided if they left a visual buffer zone along the road and followed the initial harvest plan,” Mr Braines said. “My biggest concern is the sustainability of the industry.”
It was all with a sense of deja vu as Mr Braines and local bushwalkers went public with their concerns when the compartment was logged back in 2002, with very similar concerns back then about the harvest encroaching in the scenic drive and rainforest walk.
In this latest harvest operation, he alleges that the corporation’s mapping system was out by around 30 metres and the operation had encroached onto his property by about that distance.
Mr Braines had also been liaising with the Environmental Protection Agency, who this week inspected the compartment and the agency promised him it was going to release a report on its findings.
He also urged the Eurobodalla Shire Council to get involved as it was an area of high tourism value that was being impacted upon.
Members of the Eurobodalla Bicycle Users Group have also expressed their dismay at the current logging operation and echoed Mr Braines concerns.
“The Scenic Drive around Wagonga Inlet has long been a favourite of the EuroBUG cyclists and many visitors to the region,” member John Cowan wrote to the Narooma News.
“The road winds through the hills from the Old Highway and eventually brings one back into Narooma. Along the way it affords beautiful views down across the inlet toward Narooma, and of some of the bays and creeks that are a feature of Wagonga.
“There are beautiful farmland vistas, glimpses of oyster leases, and the old wharf gives one time to ponder over the history of this special region. And then there's the forest itself with towering stringy barks and spotted gums with the understory of ancient cycads. Truly a place of beauty and serenity. Until now.
“On our ride last Monday I was appalled at the scenes of destructive vandalism that exists in stark contrast to the beauty that existed until now. Tree stumps, tangles of branches, crushed burrawangs, churned and muddy tracks and piles of tree trunks have completely despoiled one of the gems of "The Nature Coast". This is nothing more than brazen vandalism that shows no concern for, sensitivity toward, or understanding of what makes this region so special.
“Is the Narooma Chamber of Commerce protesting about this? Are the tourist operators, accommodation owners, our Council demanding that this vandalism stop? Clearly not if the similar scenes of destruction around Brou are any indication. If this pernicious industry must continue can't we at least insist that residents and visitors not have their noses thrust into it? Is this just a case of Not-in-my-backyard? Bloody oath it is!”
Forestry Corporation addresses issues
A spokesperson for the Forestry Corporation NSW said as background, compartment 3027 was last harvested in 2002 in-line with a 2001 harvesting plan.
“During this operation only a portion of the available stand was harvested and FCNSW always intended to recut the compartment to remove available sawlog volume and regenerate the forest,” the spokesperson said.
“We have been working on the plan for the current harvesting operation in compartment 3027 for a while. A draft plan was sent to neighbours early in the planning process to inform consultation with them. We have engaged with a number of locals and continue to discuss the ongoing harvesting with them.”
The Narooma News put a number of questions to the Forestry Corporation, which replied as follows:
1/ Why has the logging come right up to Wagonga Scenic Drive, very visible by all those who pass?
A modified harvest zone exists along the length of Wagonga Scenic Drive, this zone is a total of 100m wide (50m either side). Harvesting of timber is permitted in this zone, as it was in 2001. FCNSW contractors are instructed to take additional steps to ensure this zone is left ‘neat and tidy’, retained trees are evenly spaced and log dumps are kept as small as practical.
2/ Why were the buffer zones around the rainforest walk shifted and downsized?
The rainforest walk is protected and all rainforest in the compartment is protected from harvesting in accordance with the regulations for native forest harvesting in NSW. There is a dedicated exclusion for the rainforest walk which has not changed since the 2001 plan. There is also a visual buffer zone around the rainforest walk that is available for harvesting. The 2001 plan excluded this area from potential harvesting. In the current plan, this area has been made available for harvesting however, it is unlikely to be harvested as it is difficult to access.
An exclusion zone is also in place for the Giant Burrowing Frog. It is in the same general location as the 2001 exclusion but the shape of the exclusion zone has changed. The current exclusion meets the size and design requirements of regulatory conditions which are designed to ensure an exclusion zone protects the appropriate type and amount of habitat.
3/ Why were the listings of threatened species taken off the latest plan?
There are two types of threatened species records, ones that are observations only and ones that require a prescription during the harvesting operations. As there were many observation based records cluttering the map, our planners decided to display only the records that require a prescription in order to make the map easier for our staff and contractors to read and implement. This situation is noted on the map and the observation records are still in our mapping systems for reference and use.
4/ Why is an area of tourist importance and high environmental value being logged when there would be more suitable areas in the vicinity?
The NSW State Government designated areas of forested land for timber production under the Regional Forest Agreements from 1999 to meet long term supply commitments with local industry. Timber harvesting is carefully planned and highly regulated to ensure the diversity of plants and animals is maintained, water quality is maintained, local heritage is protected, visitor sites are protected and where possible improved (as with Bodalla Forest Park) and stakeholders are included in the process. While forestry is a long-term industry whereby harvesting generally only takes place in a particular location every 10 years or so, these areas of forest are important in ensuring a supply of timber for the community.