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Loggers attempting to make park unviable as koala sanctuary

MEDIA RELEASE

June 13, 2024 

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today released analysis showing up to 19,000 hectares of forest in the proposed Great Koala National Park is at risk of destruction by Forestry Corporation NSW before April next year. 

Forestry Corporation’s Planning Portal shows the forest compartments on the chopping block before the Great Koala National Park boundaries are finalised.

NCC has developed this interactive map to show past and planned logging in the proposed park that has been identified as home to one in five of the state’s koalas.

“Forestry Corporation have been destroying vast swathes of habitat in the proposed new park, right as it’s being assessed for inclusion,” Nature Conservation Council NSW Chief Executive Officer Jacqui Mumford said. 

"The fact is that this is some of the most important intact koala habitat in the state and it should be protected, not put on the chopping block, while decisions are made about the National Park.  

“It is untenable that so much has been destroyed, and will be destroyed in the coming year, before these areas have been assessed. 

"We don't want to see one more hectare destroyed in this park. We need to see a moratorium on logging in the proposed park now.” 

The new analysis reveals Forestry Corporation is continuing its desperate attempt to take as much timber as possible before the park is protected.  

Our interactive map showing the compartments in FCNSW’s harvest plan is available here . Click layer, ‘logging since 2003' to view a comprehensive logging history. 

Statements attributable to Jacqui Mumford, Chief Executive Officer of Nature Conservation Council NSW: 

“NSW Labor came to power more than a year ago with a key election promise – to protect koala habitat on the Mid-North Coast of NSW, and we are still yet to see it. 

“Over the past year Forestry Corporation has continued to decimate the forests that are being considered for inclusion in the park. 

“This area will become a national park and we need to be protecting its values.”

Last year after sustained community pressure, Environment Minister Penny Sharpe declared a moratorium on logging within ‘Koala Hubs’, effectively protecting 5% of the proposed park.

“Leaving 95% of the proposed park vulnerable to logging is simply not good enough to ensure the survival of koalas in the wild.

“If we don't stop them, Forestry Corporation will destroy the park before it is protected.  

“This is an area that is home to one in five of the state’s surviving koalas.  

“With this species on the brink of extinction, we can’t afford another year of destruction of this key koala habitat, otherwise come 2050 we might have a Great Koala National Park without any koalas. 

“It’s long past time for the NSW Government to commit to a moratorium on logging within the proposed boundaries of the Great Koala National Park.  

“The government knows this park is going to happen. Forestry Corporation knows it’s going to happen. Allowing logging to continue is an abandonment of these forests and the reason they were identified as being worthy of protection.

“If the government is serious about ensuring koalas exist in the wild beyond 2050 then a moratorium on logging in the proposed Great Koala National Park, where a fifth of the state’s koalas live, is an urgent necessity.”

Statement ends 

Media contact: Anna Greer 
E: [email protected] M: 0493 733 529 PH: (02) 7208 9482  

Note: NCC CEO Jacqui Mumford is available for comment on request  

Background:  

  • This data is based on the plan of forestry operations in the FCNSW planning portal, extracted at the end of April 2024 
  • The hectares calculated for the harvest plan are the hectares of the whole coupe / compartment indicated in the harvest plan on FCNSW’s planning portal.
  • The hectares for the harvest history are the mapped harvest activity which is only partial area of the coupe / compartment in which it occurred.
  • We have adjusted the harvest plan hectares where there is overlap between harvest plan and harvest history since 2020, which implies areas that have been harvested recently are still showing in the harvest plan data that FCNSW are providing. The overlap is where the plan status is either active or suspended. 
  • The breakdown of compartment status included in the harvest plan figure is as follows:  

Active - 4935 
Approved - 650 
Planning - 8496 
Suspended - 5005 
Total = 19086 


NSW environment movement "losing confidence in the EPA" over greater gliders

MEDIA RELEASE
May 27, 2024

The environment movement is losing confidence in the NSW Environment Protection Authority after a dramatic backflip on greater glider protection, described as “a roadmap to extinction for the greater glider”.

Trees with hollows occupied by the endangered species are supposed to be protected from logging by 50 metre exclusion zones.

These trees are identified by sightings of a glider entering or leaving a hollow. Gliders typically leave their hollows in the first hour after sunset. For a search to be effective it must be conducted during that window of time.

The EPA introduced a rule that searches must commence in the first hour after sunset. These searches are restricted to tracks and only cover a small fraction of the logging area. Now the EPA has backflipped and stipulated that only the first search of the night must start within 30 minutes of sunset.

Trees where a greater glider is seen on a branch but not entering or leaving a hollow will be protected with temporary 25 metre exclusion zones. A 25 metre exclusion zone is not effective protection and the wording of this new rule appears to exclude acceptance of greater glider sightings by community members.

South East Forest Rescue (SEFR) spokesperson Scott Daines said:

“This backflip smells like a dodgy deal between the EPA and Forestry Corp. How many other dodgy deals are there at the expense of our environment and threatened species. The EPA weakens the rules until the loggers are happy. We have zero confidence in Forestry Corp finding and protecting greater gliders.

World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia conservation scientist Dr Kita Ashman said:

The EPA is choosing to protect the logging industry over protecting an endangered species. There was no ambiguity about the previous protocols, they clearly stated all surveys needed to start at a time that would allow for identifying den trees – which didn’t suit Forestry Corp. Now what we have is the removal of that requirement, which means only the first survey will be of any use for identifying dens.

The research is clear that gliders typically have home ranges of 1 – 5 hectares, with the average home range about 2 to 3 hectares. If the purpose of the new 25m buffers is to protect gliders and their habitat it falls incredibly short. It provides 0.2 hectares of protection for a species that needs 2 to 3 hectares.

The buffers around gliders could have been a significant step forward if they were informed by science which suggests they need to be closer to 100m.

On one hand we have an industry that relies on cutting down trees, on the other, an endangered species whose sole requirement is trees. The EPA has updated their protocols so that the industry is not impacted - in effect giving their blessing for a fast-tracked extinction of greater gliders.

Wilderness Australia Operations Manager Andrew Wong said:

“Every time we pressure the EPA on why they’re making the choices they are, they tell us they can’t do any more than they are without a Ministerial directive. Yet when the Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe comments, she says she can’t give the EPA a directive. So who is taking responsibility for stopping the Greater Glider from going extinct? Absolutely no one in the NSW government is stepping up.

“This outcome is in effect a roadmap to extinction for the greater glider."

“Only the community is taking responsibility, conducting our own surveys to identify greater glider habitat that must be protected under logging rules. The changes today do not acknowledge the community’s leadership role in protecting the greater glider. The EPA must clarify that community records for greater glider sightings will be accepted along with records from Forestry Corporation, and that those community records will result in the same logging exclusion zones being applied."

Nature Conservation Council NSW Chief Executive Officer Jacqui Mumford said:

“If the EPA continues to prioritise the timber industry over protecting threatened and endangered species, then the greater glider’s fate is sealed. The EPA needs to stop capitulating to Forestry Corporation NSW and do what’s needed to protect species like the greater glider that have been pushed to the brink of extinction.

“Forestry Corporation have proven time and again that they have no interest in undertaking ecological surveys that protect threatened species and their habitat.

“Forestry Corporation will always prioritise cutting down trees, so it’s essential that the EPA plays their role as the environmental watchdog and enforces effective survey rules. Again the EPA is falling short of what the greater gliders of NSW’s state forests need for their survival.”

Forest Alliance NSW spokesperson Justin Field said:

"These changes weaken protections for greater gliders pushing the species closer to extinction by undermining the likelihood that their homes will be found before logging commences. "If these new rules are to have any basis in science, the EPA should clarify that community sightings of greater gliders will be given the same weighting as forestry corporation records to provide at least some additional protection to Greater Glider habitat.

"If the EPA are not willing to do that, neither the community or the Minns Government can have confidence that the EPA can effectively regulate logging in the public interest or do its core job to protect the environment and threatened species.

"The EPA's clearly admitted in its media release that it weakened protections because Forestry Corporation claimed existing greater glider protections were undermining the state's wood supply"

"This is an admission by Forestry Corporation that it cannot deliver against its wood contracts without pushing an endangered species closer to extinction. That's an untenable long-term position which demonstrates the need for the Minns Government to move toward ending native forest logging in NSW," Justin Field said.

North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh said:

“This outcome has been specifically designed to have no “material impact” on the amount of trees they cut down, though it will have a major impact on greater gliders’ homes and this species survival. The reality is that this will result in at best the protection of 5% of the home ranges of 5% of the greater gliders within a logging area.

North Coast Environment Council spokesperson Susie Russell said:

“We are devastated that once again the EPA has rolled over and allowed the Forestry Corporation to continue destroying the homes of an endangered species, the greater glider. We had hoped they might force compliance of their February rules, but no, logging is the real protected species in NSW.

National Parks Association of NSW Chief Executive Officer Gary Dunnett said:

“The NSW Government repeatedly claims that the EPA is the independent ‘cop on the beat’ responsible for holding Forestry Corporation to account. Yet today’s announcement makes it clear that, rather than get the survey methods for greater gliders right, all that they are protecting is Forestry Corporation’s wood supply quotas. If the regulator can’t get it right Environment Ministers Sharpe and Plibersek need to step in and give gliders a chance.


Stop Logging in the Great Koala National Park

Sign our open letter to Premier Chris Minns' government.

3,516 signatures

Map of the proposed Great Koala National Park.
Areas in yellow = logging since 2023 | 
Areas in red = planned logging to 2025

 

The NSW Government was elected promising to create the Great Koala National Park (GKNP). 

The park has been decades in the making, with leading scientists, scientists, ecologists and environmental groups all agreeing that the protection of this area was critical to ensure the survival of koalas in the wild. 

In opposition, you recognised the need to protect NSW’s koalas from extinction. The Great Koala National Park is that opportunity.  

One fifth of NSW’s koalas live within the 175,000ha of state forests that constitute this park – less than one percent of our state.  

Instead of protecting this critical forest, you have allowed continue and expand with its borders.  

Over the past year Forestry Corporation has continued to decimate key koala habitat that should have been protected.  

We’ve published new analysis showing that Forestry Corporation's harvest plan lists 19,000 hectares of forest within the proposed Great Koala National Park at risk from logging in the coming year.

The decision to ban logging within koala hubs was commendable but left over 90% of the park open to logging.  

Now, Forestry Corporation is seeking to redefine the borders of the park, reducing its size and excluding critical koala habitat by falsely calling them 'plantation forests’.    

If you allow this to occur, you risk a park that is ecologically unviable. You risk being the politician that allowed taxpayer’s money to be spent on the destruction and ultimate extinction of NSW’s koalas. 

Victoria and Western Australia ended native forest logging last year. NSW is the only state government without a plan to phase out native forest logging. 

The least the NSW Government can do right now is deliver on their election promise and protect the koalas and forests of the Great Koala National Park.  

We call on you to:  

  • Immediately suspend logging operations within the boundaries of the proposed Great Koala National Park. 
     
  • Protect the full 315,000 hectares of the proposed Great Koala National Park. 
     
  • Invest in the plantation industry to ensure NSW sources all its timber from sustainable plantations and to create good, sustainable jobs. 
     
  • Cease conversion of native forest to plantation and protect koala habitat within existing plantations in the Great Koala National Park footprint.

Photo: Cassie Lafferty

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Polling shows record support for stronger nature protection laws

MEDIA RELEASE
May 9, 2024 

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today released polling that shows overwhelming support for stronger nature protection laws in NSW.  

The results of this representative sample of over 1000 NSW voters show that habitat clearing and climate change are people’s top concerns, and that 83% of voters want stronger nature protection laws. 

This comes on the back of the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Outlook Report, released on Wednesday, which found that across nearly every indicator, NSW’s biodiversity is in decline. Shockingly, the report predicted that without drastic action half of NSW’s threatened species will be lost.  

“This polling proves that the overwhelming majority of people in NSW want more action taken to protect the places we love,” said Clancy Barnard, spokesperson for Nature Conservation Council NSW, today.  

“This government came to power promising to ‘stop runaway land clearing’ and ‘fix the biodiversity offset scheme’.  

“So far, they have failed to even close the Barilaro-era self-assessment loopholes everyone agrees are a key driver of habitat loss, let alone develop stronger protections that reflect the scale of the extinction and climate crises.   

Statements attributable to NCC Spokesperson Clancy Barnard 

“Changing these nonsense laws, that allow virtually unfettered habitat clearing on freehold land, should be a no-brainer for the government – the laws are currently unfit for purpose, and changing them has broad support. 

“Our existing laws are failing to protect nature or support landholders wishing to protect the important habitat on their property.  

“It also places an unreasonable expectation on landholders - to undertake complex ecological assessments that take trained ecologists days, even with the use of sophisticated technologies.  

“We are calling on Ministers Sharpe and Moriarty, along with Premier Chris Minns, to change these laws and provide support and resources for Local Land Services and the Environment Department to work with landholders to help identify and protect areas ecological significance.  

“Environment minister Penny Sharpe is saying the Minns government has ‘boosted environmental protections to their strongest level yet’. This may be true in relation to the Environmental Protection Authority's expanded powers – but it is certainly not the case for native vegetation legislation. They were strongest under the former Carr government – a NSW Labor legacy that Minns should be embracing.  

“The laws are demonstrably broken, and the voters want change: the stage is now set for Premier Minns to show the community if he is serious about saving Koalas and threatened species. Will he rise to the occasion?” 

“We are urging the NSW government to heed the advice of the experts saying these laws need fixing and steer us out of this biodiversity crisis.” 

Media note: Our polling of a representative sample of NSW residents found: 

  •  73% of people say yes to this question: Would you support the NSW Labor Government re-introducing protections against habitat clearing that were scrapped by the previous Government? 
  • Only 29% of people answered yes to the question: 'Do you think landholders can and should be trusted to self-assess the ecological value of their land, before clearing it?' 
  • Climate change and habitat clearing are the issues of highest concern for NSW residents  
  • 80% of those polled were concerned about habitat clearing, including 52% who are extremely or very concerned.  
  • More than nine in ten NSW residents want to see the state government doing more to protect and restore nature.  
  • Three-quarters of NSW residents feel that government – both state and federal – aren’t doing enough to address environmental issues, and most want to see greater protections for important habitats and ecosystems.  

The vast majority want better laws to protect nature:   

  • 83% want stronger laws to protect nature  
  • 87% are in favour of meeting 30x30 nature positive targets 
  • 52% oppose biodiversity offsets 
  • Eight in ten would support banning all development in ecologically important areas. 

Statement ends 

Media contact: Anna Greer 
E: [email protected] M: 0493 733 529 PH: (02) 7208 9482  

Note: NCC Spokesperson Clancy Barnard is available for comment on request 


188 breaches of new condition designed to protect greater gliders

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
May 3, 2024

Conservation groups are demanding an urgent investigation and prosecution after detecting 188 alleged breaches by Forestry Corp NSW of a new condition designed to save endangered greater gliders.

In a letter to the NSW EPA, the groups called for the EPA to issue stop work orders on active forestry operations at Flat Rock, Clyde, Currowan, Shallow Crossing, Olney, Riamukka, Styx River, Sheas Nob, and Bondo state forests after finding Forestry Corp was not complying with survey requirements for greater glider den trees.

The letter has been signed by South East Forest Rescue on behalf of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia, North East Forest Alliance, Wilderness Australia, North Coast Environment Council, South East Region Conservation Alliance, Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the National Parks Association of NSW, and Manyana Matters Environmental Association.

Forestry Corp is required to search for greater glider den trees and protect each tree with a 50 metre exclusion zone where logging is banned.

Identification of a den tree requires a greater glider to be seen entering or leaving a hollow.

There was outrage last year when it was revealed Forestry Corp had been conducting den tree searches during the day when greater gliders, a nocturnal species, were asleep and not entering or leaving their hollows.

On 16 February 2024, the EPA introduced condition 14 (b) which requires that searches must be carried out at night and commence no more than 1 hour after sunset.

This search window is extremely significant because research shows that greater gliders typically emerge from their hollows in the first hour after dusk to forage for eucalypt leaves.

South East Forest Rescue conducted a desktop audit of searches held after 16 February by reviewing data available on the Native Forestry Map Viewer.

After 243 transect searches, 261 gliders were sighted but only 9 den trees and 4 potential den trees were identified.

This indicates dens were only identified for 5% of gliders seen in the areas searched. The vast majority of greater glider dens were missed and not protected with the legally required 50 metre exclusion zones.

This poor result is because Forestry Corp started 188 (77%) of their searches more than an hour after dark when greater gliders had already left their dens for the night.

These searches breach the rule that transects must commence “no more than 1 hour after sunset local time”.

They were totally ineffective, as Forestry Corp did not identify a single den tree in these late night searches, some of which didn’t start until after midnight.

All the den trees that were identified were found during the 55 searches conducted within an hour of sunset.

The botched searches are even more alarming because conservation groups are already deeply concerned that the new rules only require less than 10% of the logging area to be searched for dens.

For each 100 hectares of the logging area, search transects need to be a minimum of one kilometre.

A South East Forest Rescue report, also sent to the EPA, states that in effect this means a maximum area of only 10 out of every 100 ha will be searched.

Because of detectability issues, .

The report states “After 50 years of intensive industrial scale logging the focus needs to be on the identification and protection of all glider den trees and surrounding habitat if there is to be any chance of stopping the species from going extinct”.

And that the current conditions meant to protect greater gliders “will not reverse the decline of greater gliders but entrench their pathway to extinction”.

South East Forest Rescue spokesperson Scott Daines said:

“The ink has barely dried on the new search rule and already we’ve detected nearly 200 breaches by Forestry Corp.

“Forestry Corp’s behaviour is outrageous. Once again we’re doing the EPA’s work by exposing these botched searches as time is running out to save greater gliders.

“The least the EPA can do is investigate and throw the book at Forestry Corp”.

World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia conservation scientist Dr Kita Ashman said:

“My collaborative research on the emerging times of greater gliders confirms den tree surveys should only be conducted within 1 hour of sunset, when gliders emerge, or 1 hour before sunrise when gliders return to their hollows.

“A better protection measure would be to establish a 100-metre exclusion zone around every sighting of a greater glider. This would allow surveys to be conducted through the night.

“While important, den trees do not represent the entirety of a greater glider’s habitat or behavioural needs.

“Establishing 100 metre exclusion zones would give gliders space to feed, socially interact, and safely move through habitat”.

Wilderness Australia Operations Manager Andrew Wong said:

“The Labor Party must make it clear: do they have a ‘zero extinctions’ policy and a rock solid commitment to it? If they do, this issue is where the rubber meets the road.

“Based on what we’re seeing on the ground, it seems they do not have that policy.

“Instead they have a frightening apathy towards the fate of the Southern Greater Glider. And that apathy has flowed through to the EPA, who are no longer acting as a restraining force on the logging agency Forestry Corporation of NSW, but rather have become their enabler.”

North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh said:

“With identification of dens for just 5% of greater gliders found over 5-10% of the logging area, it is clear the new rules are not providing greater glider homes with the protection they need.

“If we want to save greater gliders from extinction it is essential we protect most of their dens and feed trees within their home ranges by placing 100 metre exclusions around all sightings"

Nature Conservation Council of NSW spokesperson Clancy Barnard said:

“Yet again Forestry Corporation NSW has shown itself to be a rogue operator by repeatedly flouting rules meant to protect threatened and endangered species like the iconic Greater Glider.”

“The EPA need to show they’re serious about tackling illegal logging and hold FCNSW to account by immediately issuing a Stop Work Order and investigating these breaches.”

“If the EPA doesn't do its job and the government doesn’t commit to protecting endangered species habitat, we will we lose this precious and unique marsupial.”


Koalas dying as NSW Labor stalling on habitat clearing loopholes

MEDIA RELEASE
April 23rd 2024 

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today criticised the NSW Government for dragging its feet over inadequate regulations that allow unregulated habitat clearing on freehold land. 

A 2020 Parliamentary Inquiry found that habitat clearing laws in NSW would drive koalas to extinction by 2050. Yet since NSW Labor was elected, nothing has changed.   

Not long after the NSW Government took office Ken Henry released his review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act clearly finding it is not protecting biodiversity. We need to hear the government’s response with a commitment to addressing biodiversity loss.  

“A landholder can just tick a box saying there is no threatened species habitat on their land and then start clearing without any oversight,” said Nature Conservation Council NSW CEO Jacqui Mumford. 

“If you speak to any ecologist, they will tell you that without specialist training and knowledge it’s extremely unlikely people will accurately assess an area’s ecological value or be able to identify if endangered species like koalas are present on their land.  

“That means that every day reform is delayed, more koala habitat is destroyed, and these iconic species go further down the path of extinction.”  

Statements attributable to NCC Chief Executive Officer Jacqui Mumford  

“The Henry Review is perfectly clear that the Biodiversity Conservation Act doesn’t do what it set out to do – it doesn’t conserve biodiversity. We need to hear how the government intends to change that. 

“Time and again I’ve voiced the same obvious message – stop the destruction of koala habitat, because koalas need trees. 

“Meanwhile, koala habitat across NSW continues to be destroyed. 

“There is no requirement for an independent ecological assessment by a qualified ecologist on freehold land, before destroying habitat for endangered species such as koalas.  

“Landowners can simply determine that an area is not important for koalas and then bulldoze the lot.  

“This John Barilaro-legacy habitat clearing free-for-all should have been low-hanging fruit for the incoming Labor Government, but Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty is stonewalling attempts to fix it. 

“It’s also extremely concerning how little we know about koala habitat being cleared on freehold land – there is no accurate data due to the ‘self-assessment loophole’ introduced by the former government. 

“One thing we do know is that this regulatory blind spot should have been one of the first things on Labor’s agenda when they took office. 

“Since the rollback of regulations in 2016 habitat clearing rates in NSW tripled. NSW are leaders in deforestation and it’s time we turned that around.”  

Statement ends 

Media contact: Anna Greer 
E: [email protected] M: 0493 733 529 PH: (02) 7208 9482  

Note: NCC CEO Jacqui Mumford is available for comment on request 


After one year in government, peak environment body asks how the Minns government stack up on environment.

MEDIA RELEASE
28th March 2024 

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today released a scorecard assessing the Minns government's performance on the protection of nature and climate action.  

Overall: Positive environmental reform is again underway in NSW, after a decade of weakened environmental protections that led to devastating, widespread ecological destruction.  However, in order to address the urgent threats facing nature and the climate, we need to lift our game. 

Statements attributable to Jacqui Mumford, NCC CEO: 

“The government has made good progress on delivering on many of their election commitments, particularly when it comes to restoring our rivers and legislating ambitious emissions reduction targets.  

“There has also been a marked shift in tone, with the Labor government seeking to listen to and work with members of the environmental movement.  

"However, habitat clearing, and native forest logging are still occurring at a devastating scale in NSW, and until our broken land clearing laws are fixed we will continue to see the fragmentation and destruction of our ecosystems, and subsequent extinction and ecological collapse."  

"Years of delay have left massive challenges and roadblocks for our energy transition that need to be overcome. Meanwhile, John Barilario’s 'let's dig up as much as we can’ views on coal and gas mining have still not been reviewed, risking widespread environmental devastation that dramatically undermines clean energy investment."  

"The silence on marine protections is extremely disappointing. We’re eager to see progress and detail on how the commitments to improve First Nations access to water and will be achieved. And more action to enhance Indigenous management and ownership of protected areas." 

"We urge the Minns government to recognise that the community cares deeply about the nature that makes this state so special, and is crying out for leadership and ambition in this space."

Ranking System: Good Progress being made / Need to lift our game / Little progress    

Taking action on climate change 

  • Passage of a Climate Change Act with legislated emissions reduction targets. 
  • Establishment of a powerful and nation-leading Net-Zero Commission.  
  • Legislated ban on offshore petroleum exploration and production. 
  • Codified the EPA’s powers to introduce guidelines and regulate greenhouse emissions and climate action.  

Transition our energy system to renewables 

  • Approval of new renewables projects that will power over 1.5m homes and delivery of multiple Capacity Investment Scheme auctions. 
  • The proposed Consumer Energy Strategy is welcome - it needs to include ambitious targets for household electrification and battery storage.  
  • Flagged changes to renewables planning approvals are welcomed, but it is not yet clear how this will be delivered, clear actions and accountability mechanisms are needed. 
  • Energy Security Corporation and offshore wind strategy - we haven’t yet seen any progress to deliver these commitments.  
  • The discussion about delaying the closure of Eraring is worrying and unnecessary. NSW can and should replace coal with renewables and battery projects. 

Protect forests and end native forest logging 

  • Progress is being made to establish the GKNP, and interim protections for key Koala hubs. 
  • Development of a new Koala Strategy is underway and new protections for key Koala habitat in South West Sydney are welcome. 
  • Logging is still continuing in critical habitats for both Koalas and Greater Gliders.  
  • The government’s commitment to a more sustainable forestry sector through a Forestry Industry Action Plan is welcome. But this will only be genuine with a plan to shift to 100% plantations and end native forest logging.  
  • No action taken to protect critical habitats from logging on private land.  

Nature protection and restoration 

  • Evidence-based management of invasive species in Kosciuszko National Park is a significant and welcome step forward. 
  • Landcare funding increased, with a commitment to double funding over four years.  
  • We are confident that the government will soon address some of the most pressing issues with the biodiversity offset scheme – we look forward to the details 
  • Progress is being made on a new National Parks establishment plan, but it’s not yet clear if funding will be adequate to achieve our ‘30 by 30’ goals. 
  • Runaway land remains out of control in NSW, and huge swathes of critical habitat have been lost since the government was elected. They have so far not taken action to remove the self-assessment loophole and deliver their commitment to ‘stop runaway land clearing’.  
  • Little progress has been made towards expanded joint management of National Parks, Indigenous ranger programs, or to assist Indigenous groups to purchase and manage land for conservation.  

Restore rivers and wetlands 

  • New and strengthened commitments to considering the future impacts of climate change on water flows, including extraction limits and allocations in the MDB and on the coast.  
  • Canceled destructive dam projects including Dungowan, Wyangala Dam and the Warragamba Dam wall raising.   
  • Productive work with the Commonwealth to deliver the Murray Darling Basin Plan in full. 
  • Returned harvestable rights limit in coastal catchments to 10 per cent.  
  • Established the expert panel on connectivity, tasked the Chief Scientist to report on fish kills.  
  • NSW should drop its opposition to voluntary water recovery by the Commonwealth, and stop proposing untested, dubious projects as alternatives to voluntary water purchases.   
  • Substantial progress needs to be made to improve First Nations ownership and control of fresh water. 
  • All of the legally required Dam Safety Upgrade fishway projects required since 2009 must be completed as agreed.  
  • Accelerate regulation reform to streamline coastal wetland restoration projects. 

Protect our Oceans 

  • The EPA’s next steps plastics plan is a welcome strategy to extend the ban on single use and problematic plastics, we look forward to its full delivery.  
  • New protections for the Blue Groper are welcome.  
  • Protections for marine sanctuary zones that were eroded by the Nationals are yet to be restored.  
  • There are no clear plans to expand the marine protected network or deliver the long overdue Sydney Marine Park.  
  • Outdated shark nets continue to snare turtles and dolphins off our beaches. 

Fossil Fuels 

  • The government continues to allow environmentally destructive, poorly regulated and heavily polluting coal and gas mining to occur in NSW.
  • The government has recommended approval for one coal mine (Boggabri) and has failed to ensure new coal approvals are “subject to an independent approval process” as expansions continue to be assessed as ‘modifications.
  • Despite admitting they are potentially not fit for purpose, they have taken no action to update John Barilaro’s outdated ‘Strategic Statement on Coal’.  
  • Stronger regulation is needed to protect Sydney’s drinking water catchment and threatened habitats, including upland swamps from mining activities. 
  • The Vales Point power station should stop receiving nitrous oxide pollution limits exemptions, and pollution standards should be strengthened for remaining coal fired power plants. 

Doublespeak with a devastating impact – proposal to destroy and burn forest bad for nature and the climate

MEDIA RELEASE
18
th March 2024  

The proposal to burn native forests to produce electricity has again reared its ugly head, this time seeking to capitalise on NSW’s 'do what you want’ approach to habitat clearing.  

Verdant Earth is seeking to secure 850,000 tonnes of wood per year from forests and bush in the Hunter region, in order to restart Redbank Power Station as a biomass generator (the burning of wood and other organic matter for fuel).  

The company has been making misleading claims to the media about the proposal, which if approved will lead to large scale habitat loss across the Hunter region.  

The Environmental Impact Statement for the project, currently available for public exhibition, also contains a range of deceptive and misleading claims, in particular that the proposal would “help decarbonise the electricity system” and “be ecologically sustainable”. 

The Nature Conversation Council of NSW, the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, vehemently refutes both claims, and is calling on the NSW Labor Government to deliver on their election commitment and disallow the burning of native vegetation for electricity.   

"It's extremely concerning that this polluting project is again rearing its head, and has progressed to the public exhibition stage” NCC CEO Jacqui Mumford said today.  

"It took a dedicated community campaign to stop them trying to use native forest timber, despite the clear health, environmental and climate impacts. Now they're back with a new plan to burn native forest by taking advantage of widely criticised land clearing rules. 

“They seem to have decided that calling the wood “invasive native species” makes it more appealing to the public. As always with this company, what they are saying simply doesn’t stack up.  

“There are barely any “invasive native species" in the greater Sydney, Hunter & Coastal regions, certainty not enough to run a power plant.  

“Instead, the substance of this proposal is to burn native forests, bush, grasses and regenerated paddocks that landholders wish to clear and have deemed “invasive” without oversight.  

"NSW Labor has had a longstanding commitment to close the National Party’s loophole that allows burning of native vegetation for electricity. So far, they have not acted upon this commitment.  

“We urge the government to close this loophole, deliver on their commitment and provide certainty for industry and our forests”. 

Statements attributable to Jacqui Mumford, NCC CEO. 

On Carbon Emissions.  

 Verdant incorrectly claims that because trees sequester carbon when they grow, burning them is ‘net zero’, however: 

  • Burning green wood chips emits 50% more CO2 per megawatt hour of energy produced than burning coal. See further research here 

  • The proposal is to use biomass from land that has been cleared, not in forests that are going to regrow.  

  • Even if the forests did regrow, logged forests store far less carbon than old growth forests, and they can take hundreds of years to sequester the carbon the logged trees stored. 

"Verdant Earth been trying claim that woodfire power is "green” or "net zero” since they purchased the mothballed Redbank coalfired power station.     

"How many times are we going to have to show that Biomass (the burning of wood for fuel) is not a net zero energy source.  

“It generates more emissions per megawatt hour of energy than coal, dives habitat clearing and deforestation, and undermines investment in genuinely clear energy technology.  

"If Verdant energy really wants to provide clean energy they should invest in proven technologies like wind and solar, rather than trying to burn wood and claim it's carbon negative."  

On the ecological impact.  

Verdant energy is seeking to exploit a loophole introduced by the former government that allows landholders to self-assess the ecological value of a piece of land, and then clear it with little to no oversight (see below). The NSW government is currently reviewing these laws. 

“Since these changes were introduced in 2016, habitat clearing rates on freehold land have tripled, with an area 4x the size of Newcastle lost each year.  

“Habitat clearing on freehold land is now the biggest cause of environmental loss in NSW, with 50 million trees and almost 100,000 hectares lost each year.   

It has labelled “the main threats to the survival of species" in the most recent NSW State of the Environment Report  

“This proposal will incentivise the clearing of even more habitat in the hunter region, further devastating fragmented and at-risk forest ecosystems”.  

The amount of biomass needed to power a power plant is massive – 850 000 tonnes is more woodchips that the entire native forest logging industry produced in NSW.  

The negative impacts on nature will be massive, with thousands of hectares of native forests and bush being cleared. The proposal acknowledges that logging and chipping will occur across a 300 km radius of the facility.   

Statement ends 

Media notes and background:  

Exemptions under the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2021 

*** Clauses in the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2021 prohibit the use of native forest biomaterials in electricity generation, but exempt certain types of native vegetation or woody waste from the definition of native forest biomaterials. 

 This enables exempt materials to be burned for the purpose of electricity generation. These exempt materials include 

  • materials from various types of plantation forests 

  • sawdust or other sawmill waste 

  • waste arising from certain wood processing or manufacturing activities 

  • trees cleared in accordance with a land management (native vegetation) code under Division 5 of Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act 2013 and all relevant Codes and Regulations (see Local Land Services). 

Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act 2013 contains the self-assessment loopholes that has led habitat clearing triple since 2016.  

A 2019 review by the Audit Office of NSW concluded that the new laws may not be responding adequately to environmental risks whilst permitting landholders to improve agricultural activities and identified significant delays in compliance and enforcement activity to address unlawful clearing. 

Also in 2019, a review of the Framework by the Natural Resources Commission, but not publicly released until late March 2020, found that: 

  • Clearing rates have increased almost 13-fold from an annual average rate of 2,703ha a year under the old laws to 37,745ha under the new laws 

  • Biodiversity in 9 out of 11 regions is now at risk 

  • Unexplained clearing has increased, with the NRC concluding “compliance frameworks are inadequate and high rates of clearing pose a major risk” 

In August 2020, Environmental Defenders Office released its report Restoring the Balance in NSW native vegetation law - Solutions for healthy, resilient and productive landscapes. The report identifies 10 areas of regulatory failure and sets out a law reform pathway with 27 recommendations for reform.  

Finally, in 2023 Ken Henry pointed to a lack of regulatory oversight in agricultural land clearing and inconsistent biodiversity outcomes in the statutory review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act (2016), in which he found that NSW nature laws are failing. 

The NSW Labor Platform states: 

Labor recognises that burning timber and cleared vegetation for electricity is not carbon neutral and is neither clean or renewable energy, and therefore forms no part of a credible strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Labor will introduce legislation prohibiting the burning of any forests and cleared vegetation for electricity. 

Data from the Drax power station in the UK shows that biomass burning has increased particulate pollution by 400 percent since switching four of six boilers from coal to forest derived biomass, while power output has remained constant.  

Further research on biomass as being bad for community health here

Previous NCC submissions 


Doublespeak with a devastating impact – proposal to destroy and burn forest bad for nature and the climate

18th March 2024

The proposal to burn native forests to produce electricity has again reared its ugly head, this time seeking to capitalise on NSW’s 'do what you want’ approach to habitat clearing.  

Verdant Earth is seeking to secure 850,000 tonnes of wood per year from forests and bush in the Hunter region, in order to restart Redbank Power Station as a biomass generator (the burning of wood and other organic matter for fuel).  

The company has been making misleading claims to the media about the proposal, which if approved will lead to large scale habitat loss across the Hunter region. 

The Environmental Impact Statement for the project, currently available for public exhibition, also contains a range of deceptive and misleading claims, in particular that the proposal would “help decarbonise the electricity system” and “be ecologically sustainable”. 

The Nature Conversation Council of NSW, the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, vehemently refutes both claims, and is calling on the NSW Labor Government to deliver on their election commitment and disallow the burning of native vegetation for electricity.   

"It's extremely concerning that this polluting project is again rearing its head, and has progressed to the public exhibition stage” NCC CEO Jacqui Mumford said today.  

"It took a dedicated community campaign to stop them trying to use native forest timber, despite the clear health, environmental and climate impacts. Now they're back with a new plan to burn native forest by taking advantage of widely criticised land clearing rules. 

“They seem to have decided that calling the wood “invasive native species” makes it more appealing to the public. As always with this company, what they are saying simply doesn’t stack up.  

“There are barely any “invasive native species" in the greater Sydney, Hunter & Coastal regions, certainty not enough to run a power plant.  

“Instead, the substance of this proposal is to burn native forests, bush, grasses and regenerated paddocks that landholders wish to clear and have deemed “invasive” without oversight.  

"NSW Labor has had a longstanding commitment to close the National Party’s loophole that allows burning of native vegetation for electricity. So far, they have not acted upon this commitment.  

“We urge the government to close this loophole, deliver on their commitment and provide certainty for industry and our forests”. 

Statements attributable to Jacqui Mumford, NCC CEO. 

On Carbon Emissions.

Verdant incorrectly claims that because trees sequester carbon when they grow, burning them is ‘net zero’. However;

  • Burning green wood chips emits 50% more CO2 per megawatt hour of energy produced than burning coal. See further research here 

  • The proposal is to use biomass from land that has been cleared, not in forests that are going to regrow.  

  • Even if the forests did regrow, logged forests store far less carbon than old growth forests, and they can take hundreds of years to sequester the carbon the logged trees stored. 

"Verdant Earth been trying to claim that woodfire power is "green” or "net zero” since they purchased the mothballed Redbank coalfired power station.    

"How many times are we going to have to show that Biomass (the burning of wood for fuel) is not a net zero energy source.  

“It generates more emissions per megawatt hour of energy than coal, dives habitat clearing and deforestation, and undermines investment in genuinely clear energy technology.  

"If Verdant energy really wants to provide clean energy they should invest in proven technologies like wind and solar, rather than trying to burn wood and claim it's carbon negative." 

On the ecological impact.  

Verdant energy is seeking to exploit a loophole introduced by the former government that allows landholders to self-assess the ecological value of a piece of land, and then clear it with little to no oversight (see below). The NSW government is currently reviewing these laws. 

“Since these changes were introduced in 2016, habitat clearing rates on freehold land have tripled, with an area 4x the size of Newcastle lost each year. 

“Habitat clearing on freehold land is now the biggest cause of environmental loss in NSW, with 50 million trees and almost 100,000 hectares lost each year.  

It has labelled “the main threats to the survival of species" in the most recent NSW State of the Environment Report 

“This proposal will incentivise the clearing of even more habitat in the hunter region, further devastating fragmented and at-risk forest ecosystems”.  

The amount of biomass needed to power a power plant is massive – 850 000 tonnes is more woodchips that the entire native forest logging industry produced in NSW.  

The negative impacts on nature will be massive, with thousands of hectares of native forests and bush being cleared. The proposal acknowledges that logging and chipping will occur across a 300 km radius of the facility.  

 

Statement ends 

Media contact: Clancy Barnard 

E: [email protected]  Ph: 0438 869 332 

 

 

Further background:  

Exemptions under the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2021 

*** Clauses in the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2021 prohibit the use of native forest biomaterials in electricity generation, but exempt certain types of native vegetation or woody waste from the definition of native forest biomaterials. 

 This enables exempt materials to be burned for the purpose of electricity generation. These exempt materials include 

  • materials from various types of plantation forests 

  • sawdust or other sawmill waste 

  • waste arising from certain wood processing or manufacturing activities 

  • trees cleared in accordance with a land management (native vegetation) code under Division 5 of Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act 2013 and all relevant Codes and Regulations (see Local Land Services). 

Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act 2013 contains the self-assessment loopholes largely responsible for habitat clearing tripling since 2016.  

A 2019 review by the Audit Office of NSW concluded that the new laws may not be responding adequately to environmental risks whilst permitting landholders to improve agricultural activities and identified significant delays in compliance and enforcement activity to address unlawful clearing. 

Also in 2019, a review of the Framework by the Natural Resources Commission, but not publicly released until late March 2020, found that: 

  • Clearing rates have increased almost 13-fold from an annual average rate of 2,703ha a year under the old laws to 37,745ha under the new laws 

  • Biodiversity in 9 out of 11 regions is now at risk 

  • Unexplained clearing has increased, with the NRC concluding “compliance frameworks are inadequate and high rates of clearing pose a major risk” 

In August 2020, Environmental Defenders Office released its report Restoring the Balance in NSW native vegetation law - Solutions for healthy, resilient and productive landscapes. The report identifies 10 areas of regulatory failure and sets out a law reform pathway with 27 recommendations for reform.  

Finally, in 2023  Ken Henry pointed to a lack of regulatory oversight in agricultural land clearing and inconsistent biodiversity outcomes in the statutory review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act (2016), in which he found that NSW nature laws are failing. 

The NSW Labor Platform states: 

Labor recognises that burning timber and cleared vegetation for electricity is not carbon neutral and is neither clean or renewable energy, and therefore forms no part of a credible strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Labor will introduce legislation prohibiting the burning of any forests and cleared vegetation for electricity. 

Data from the Drax power station in the UK shows that biomass burning has increased particulate pollution by 400 percent since switching four of six boilers from coal to forest derived biomass, while power output has remained constant. 


EPA mandates night surveys for gliders but changes don't go far enough

February 20th, 2024

A huge thank you to the thousands of people who have supported our campaign to protect the greater glider. 

After sustained pressure, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has backed down on their attempts to scrap survey requirements for greater gliders. They have also agreed to mandate that surveys for greater gliders be undertaken at night, and require Forestry Corporation to retain more hollow-bearing trees in some of our southern forests  - from 8 to 14 per hectare. 

(Photo: Dave Gallan)

This is a small a small but positive step in the fight to protect our forest's most valuable habitat trees. However, when pressed on how these surveys would be undertaken, the EPA informed us that Forestry Corporation would only be required to survey a small proportion of each compartment, and even then only along logging roads and tracks. That means 95% of a logging compartment will now be exempt from glider surveys, as will all glider dens not facing a road or path. 

(Photo: Dave Gallan)

It is clear that our laws are failing to protect endangered animals from logging.

20 years ago greater gliders were a common site throughout NSW's forests. Now, they face extinction.

Areas we know have a high density of gliders living in them are being logged right now. While Victoria and Western Australia have this year ended native forest logging, Forestry Corporation NSW has plans to increase the amount of native forest they cut down, pulp and turn into woodchips and cardboard. This will devastate our remaining forests and the animals who rely upon them. 

Native forest logging has to end. We've already lost too much of our precious bush. We will keep fighting for strong greater glider protections and to stop this devastating practice for good.

(Photo: Dave Gallan)