I will speak about the management of New South Wales State forests and follow on from the speech made by Mr David Shoebridge about his visit to the North Coast. Along the Pacific Highway on the North Coast there used to be a Forestry Corporation sign that read, “Your forests are in safe hands”. Unfortunately, few people believed that because of the effective contribution made by members of the North East Forest Alliance who have for years gone into our State forests to check whether the prescriptions and protocols are being observed. The unfortunate reality is that the Forestry Corporation has not been observing the rules.
During seven court cases in the early 1990s the Forestry Corporation was found not to be meeting its legislative requirements in relation to the management of State forests. After 1995 when some protocols and prescriptions were changed and a new forest system was created we still did not see much of a change. Complaints were still made, evidence was still collected by the North East Forest Alliance and, upon inspection, breaches were found. That is a great disappointment to the people of the North Coast.
It was a pleasure to host Mr David Shoebridge on the North Coast on the weekend of 17 August and 18 August. On the Saturday in Byron Bay he spoke at a forum regarding the changes proposed to the State planning Act. People have considerable concerns about the issue, particularly those in the environment movement. The Friends of the Koala representative, Lorraine Vass, spoke with great concern about koala protection in relation to the management of public lands. On the Sunday Mr Shoebridge, members of the North East Forest Alliance, an expert ecologist and I visited the forest. As Mr Shoebridge mentioned, we entered an area that had not been inspected before to see if we could find evidence of koalas. As Mr Shoebridge also stated in his speech, it did not take us long to find the evidence. We found scratches on the trees and koala scats at the tree bases.
It shows how many koalas are in the area, and that takes us back to the question of whether the area should be a State forest. It was recognised a long time ago as being of high value, but it was not included in the reserve system perhaps because of its location at the time—a marginal seat for an Australian Labor Party member. At the moment, the Royal Camp State Forest is being logged without meeting the prescriptions—and we only know that because a group of volunteers and conservationists who care about the environment have gone out and checked. They have done what the Government should have done. Since our visit Mr Dailan Pugh of the North East Forest Alliance has sent a letter to the Acting Chief Regulator of the Environment Protection Authority, Mark Gifford, which says:
We are astounded that they are now denying they were able to find clearly documented breaches that were shown to them on the second site inspection. It is outrageous that they have blatantly lied about this and unjustifiably dismissed key evidence shown to, and discussed, with them.That it has taken the EPA a year to produce such a simplistic, shoddy and inaccurate response to only some of our complaints a poor reflection on the organisation.
I call on the Government to follow through on this complaint and observe that the area is significant. This area of koala habitat is a significant concern. Also of concern is a V notch yellow-bellied glider sap feed tree that was identified and should have been investigated and resulted in a breach and fine. Those things should be observed because this is our natural heritage. We need to have this matter resolved.