Conservation groups in the South East have rallied against the renewal of the state’s Regional Forest Agreements, arguing the plans will devastate native habitat.
Advocates from Coastwatchers staged a quiet protest outside a RFA community drop-in session in Batemans Bay on Wednesday, where stakeholders met the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to discuss the renewal process.
Coastwatchers president Noel Plumb said the consultation was a “sham” designed to give credibility to “rotten forest deals”.
“It is absolutely rock-bottom important we stop the extension of the Regional Forest Agreements,” Mr Plumb said.
“We’ve seen enormous damage to forests and we’ve seen species pushed closer to extinction.”
Mr Plumb said the agreements enabled the state and federal governments to lock up two million hectares of the state’s native forest for the benefit of the timber industry.
“If further rotten forest deals are done and the industry gets another free hit at the forests for another 20 or more years, these forests will be nothing but plantations with minimal wildlife and ecosystem values,” he said.
“Once these deals are done, we can’t see a future for two million hectares of forest.”
Mr Plumb said the deals served to sustain the timber industry for political gain.
The group took issue with the impact of the plan on ecosystems and communities along the Eurobodalla Coast.
“We are wrecking the planet, subsidising a dinosaur industry with very low employment; it makes no economic or environmental sense,” Mr Plumb said.
“Intensive logging for low-value products like firewood and woodchip is destroying the forest ecosystems and pushing wonderful forest animals such as koalas, greater gliders, yellow-bellied gliders and mane more to regional extinction.
“All of this is in a state of collapse.
He raised further concerns about the fire risk associated with logging debris.
“They are absolutely irresponsible in allowing forest debris and waste wood to accumulate,” he said.
“They have to wait at least a year to burn it off and this is creating an absolutely unacceptable fire risk to the forest and the community.”
Mr Plumb is pushing the government to shift industry away from forests and onto plantations.
“The cost of restructuring the native forest industry is insignificant,” Mr Plumb said.
“There are infinitely better ways to use the forests.”