Forests NSW fines ‘inadequate’
A GOVERNMENT department responsible for environmental protection of forests has been penalised and issued a warning letter over environmental breaches in the Upper Clarence, according to the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA).
NEFA spokesman Dailan Pugh said the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) had issued Forests NSW with four penalty notices and a warning letter in relation to breaches of its Threatened Species Licence in logging operations in 600 hectares of Yabbra State Forest near Urbenville.
Mr Pugh said he and fellow NEFA member John Corkill identified the breaches in an audit undertaken last year.
“At the time Forests NSW flatly denied that there had been any breaches of the Threatened Species Licence,” Mr Pugh said.
He said the fines of $1200 and a warning letter related to Forests NSW’s “illegal, systematic and repeated breaches of the Threatened Species Licence”.
“These are grossly inadequate penalties for trashing of 1.7 ha of rainforest, trashing two wetlands, the apparent cutting down of over a 100 feed trees that were required to be retained for threatened species, and the likely killing of many yellow-bellied gliders and Richmond Range frogs, amongst other threatened species,” he said.
“A variety of other breaches that we identified were upheld, but excused by DECCW on the basis that they reputedly occurred when a post-logging burn got out of control.
“Our most detailed complaints related to breaches of Fisheries NSW’s licence requirements aimed at reducing soil erosion and pollution of the habitat of the endangered eastern freshwater cod. We were particularly alarmed by the extensive illegal logging of filter strips along streams.
“Despite assurances from DECCW that they were incorporating NSW Fisheries response in their report, this has been taken out and withheld. We ask for the Fisheries report to be released.
“Between the 2004/05 and 2008/09 financial years, DECCW identified 669 breaches of Forests NSW threatened species licences throughout NSW, but over that time they never prosecuted Forests NSW and only issued six penalty notices.
“DECCW have proven themselves to be ineffective regulators. Their superficial assessment of our com– plaints and the token slap on the wrist they have given Forests NSW are unlikely to have much effect. Forests NSW make more money out of selling the illegally felled trees than they pay in fines.
“We call upon the Environment Minister, Frank Sartor, to now take urgent action to stop Forests NSW repeating their actions. He needs to do something meaningful to stop Forests NSW destroying the few trees and patches of habitat required to be retained by his department’s Threatened Species Licence in their next logging operation.”
Forests NSW has reportedly developed a remediation plan, though this has not been provided, Mr Pugh said..
“DECCW have proven themselves to be ineffective regulators”