One would expect the Office of Environment and Heritage to be the advocate for biodiversity in this State. Under the Private Native Forestry interim Act they would appear to have become advocates for the logging of the last remnants of the Southern Tablelands as firewood and the rubber stamping of logging approvals across NSW.
Biocertification effectively bypasses the Threatened Species Conservation Act, the Native Vegetation Act and any Local Envronmental Planning requirements. It is merely the hypocritical introduction of a legislative means to avoid having to comply with other legal requirements ( the legal requirements they expect others to abide by ). (see Private Native Forestry elsewhere this site)
Our elected representatives show scant respect for the rule of law , whenever it suits them. They continually show they are not at all serious about threatened species protection.
When Mr P.Koperberg became NSW Environment Minister he created a new super department and changed the name of the Department of Environment and Conservation ( DEC) to the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) . Unfortunately as well as removing the word conservation from the title he removed some of the Department’s conservation principles at the same time.
In granting approvals to a full time firewood merchant to fell century old trees storing this forests carbon , and then to send them straight up a chimney as firewood , he also apparently forgot about those words he’d added –CLIMATE CHANGE. A procession of Environment Ministers that followed all apparently suffer from the same collective amnesia.
Combine this with pschyzophrenic PNF legislation which sees firewood logging approvals granted in a few months , whilst across the fenceline scientists had taken a year to assess my property (for a legally binding Conservation Agreement ) as being of regional significance and recognising both Federal and NSW listed threatened species and vegetation suitable for listing as an EEC. If ever evidence was needed that the lunatics had taken over the asylum, this was it.
Streamling of processes are rarely designed to improve biodiversity outcomes and in PNF they would appear to have been nothing more than political expediency. A hasty , tick the box process representing the worst of policy making on the run.
The office of Environment and Heritage had encouraged all levels of government and local communities to be involved in decision making. After all local government was best placed in the planning process with local knowledge, to make a difference. The councillors of the Upper Lachlan Shire listened . They consulted the scientists of the Threatened Species Unit South Branch, they requested an EIS . The Sydney Water Authority informed them that the application contained insufficient information to make an informed decsion on the effects on water quality. Councillors did there job, they listened , considered both sides and made a decison based on environmental and community concerns. And their own common sense. They voted NO.
This is the only triumph for democracy at grass roots level in this whole sorry saga.
A Biodiversity Planning Strategy was put together for the region in consultation with the DECC and the Catchment Management Authority . Mount Rae forest was listed as being of biodiversity significance and forming part of an extensive vegetation and wildlife corridor.
NCEC Media release 2008: “DECC has made getting a logging approval a tick the box exercise and some areas that were protected under the previous regime are now being opened up for logging…concerned members of the public have no-one to turn to. The agency that was once an environmental champion is now the logging advocate. NCEC is being contacted by people across the region who are distraught and frustrated at the situation” ” Logging results in a net loss of carbon from forests . It leads to invasions of weeds and feral animals and destroys threatned species habitats. Logging water catchments results in major reduction in water supply and reduces water quality. It seems the Department is cmpletely out of touch with the community and think the public has no legitimate interest in the matter. ” Susie Russell vice-president NCEC June 2008.
The below question concerning Mount Rae forest was asked in NSW Parliament in 2008.”Does the Minister admit that the approval of this PVP makes a mockery of the PNF Code of Practice and show that the Code of Practice and it’s implementation by ex- DNR staff now with the DECC has delivered a worse outcome for this block than the previous legal requirements?”It took a few months for the Minister to reply (in fact her advisor would answer these questions and he really earned his money with this one). The well thought out and considered response was :” No ” Once again it was politics, not science , that reared its ugly head when the new Upper Lachlan Shire LEP (local enviornment plan) followed the state template and allowed PNF approvals to overide council’s decision and remove them from the decision making process. Commercial firewood logging has now commenced on the Firewood Baron’s property. So much for encouraging co-operative management in the conservation of threatened species. All principles formerly preached by the department now ignored under PNF.Principles espoused by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development of ecological sustainable Development and encouraging local council participation through the development process and implementing environmental regulations to assist at the local level in meeting national and international goals. Principles of the precautionary approach in assessing such development applications and their impacts on threatened specfies. Principles of inter -generational equity and Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management ensuring that the values of our forests are not lost or degraded for future generations and sustained in perpetuity for the benefit of the whole of society. The principles of the NV act in actually demonstrating how this operation can meet the improve or maintain clause of the act . Principles of conserving biological diversity and protecting critical habitat under the TS act. The principles of informed decision making under the EP and A act. All ignored. Principles. Something else that seems to be missing from the bureaucratic heads and Ministerial appointees in the Department these days. My first letter to the department had taken nearly seven months before I received any response. This turned out to be an inadequate letter that is nearly a carbon copy of all others since -” the suite of prescriptions will ensure biodiversity outcomes and threatened species protection,” the proponents application “legally complies” , ” there are no loopholes “. This repeated over and over in responses to local newspapers and local organisations. At least the department is true to one environmental activity – recycling of rubbish.
After meeting with the then (2008) Environment Minister , Verity Firth , and her key adviser nearly every aspect of PNF when applied to Mount Rae forest was shown as flawed. The promised follow up meeting never eventuated. All request to view PNF plans in Mount Rae Forest were rejected . It took nearly two years and a directive from the NSW Ombudsman to have them released to me. Principles of transparency in the decision making process also ignored . In my opinion blatant attempts to cover up how embarrasingly inadequate this process is. Just supply a map of your property and agree to abide by the PNF COP . (see PRIVATE NATIVE FORESTRY elsewhere on this website for more) On finally receiving copies of three PNF plans in Mount Rae Forest they revealed what I already knew- that under this veil the Emperor (or in this the PNF department ) had no clothes.
and my own views in local media.
I am informed that I have been somewhat naiive in the past , wondering how this could happen , as it would appear to have been happening in our forests for decades and throughout the globe for centuries -in fact anywhere bureaucrats and politicians allow those with vested interests to pull the political purse strings . The following letter was prompted by the effects of logging in catchments and the news that millions of dollars were to be spent on a pipeline to bring back water to Goulburn after the town had been reduced to trucking in water during drought. Yet logging atop the Great Dividing Range at 1,ooo metres was being approved by the now Department of Climate Change and WATER (yet another meaningless name change?). The science from both America and Australia (Dr. Clive MacAlpine) was revealing what many had known for a long time -that deforestation was causing the drying out of our continents .
The NSW Biodiversity Strategy was presented to the then Biodiversity Committee of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW. This glossy piece of NSW Government promotion was of course big on spin and short on any measurable outcomes. The government that claimed to have put an end to broadscale land clearing under the Native Vegetation Act was now promoting PNF as a positve piece of legislation , regulating activities and protecting biodiversity. Once again ignoring the facts of what was being reported across the state and the negative contiributions of this act on biodiversity.
Yes it would appear that it is all about politicians and bureaucrats . Not threatened species , biodiversity and local communities. All about the rights and lefts of politics , not the rights and wrongs of their decisions. PNF applications leave the developer to be in charge- it has been said of PNF that it is “Like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.” I feel it is more like leaving Dracula in charge of the blood bank. The question is -can our native forests survive being sucked dry by vested interests?