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North Coast forests logged unsustainably under failed scheme

NATIVE forests on the North Coast are being logged faster than they can grow back under well-intentioned but ineffective regional forest agreements.

National Parks Association of NSW science officer Dr Oisin Sweeney said the agreements between the Commonwealth and state governments to allow logging in native forests had been abject failures.

There are 10 deals currently active in Australia, with agreements in East Gippsland and Tasmania the first to expire from next year.

NPANSW assessed each one, finding the north-east NSW region's agreement had vastly overestimated native forests' ability to regrow after logging.

"Since 2007, actual yields of large sawlogs and veneer have been lower than wood supply commitments in the North East RFA region and yields have been on a downward trajectory - despite adjustments of supply commitments," the report stated.

Dr Sweeney said the agreements were designed to create certainty for the logging industry, protect the environment and end social conflict over logging.

"Credit where credit is due: lots of people put in a huge effort to make sure the environmental gains were as good as possible from the process and their efforts secured some of our incredible protected areas," he said.

"But many of those same people will now tell you that the RFAs have been a failure."

He said loopholes and outright violations of sustainable forest management guidelines had undermined the scheme and the environment it was supposed to protect.

"In essence the wicked problem facing the logging industry is this: the steps necessary to protect the extraordinary biodiversity values of native forests ... make it impossible to produce wood as cheaply as in plantations," Dr Sweeney said.

"Something has to give, and the RFAs have meant that this something is the environment.

"But the RFAs haven't delivered for the logging industry either.

"Statistics from the 2011 Census show forestry and services directly employ 2131 people in NSW - and that's both native and plantation forestry.

"A recent report by The Australia Institute estimated that just 600 people are employed in native forestry in NSW.

"That same report showed that demand for native forest products is steadily declining, and subsidies to the industry have been $78 million over the last seven years in NSW alone."

Dr Sweeney called for a transition away from native forest logging once the agreements expired, and towards using forests for carbon sequestration and tourism.

"The numbers speak for themselves," he said.

"We hope that evidence can trump ideology."

Topics:  forest forestry national parks national parks association of nsw timber industry



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