19 January 2023
NSW Labor’s announcement today to establish a Great Koala National Park if elected in March must not ignore the science, which shows that the state’s sustainable native forestry industry has no impact on koala numbers, Australian Forest Products Association NSW CEO Victor Violante said.
“NSW forest industries are at the forefront of koala conservation, and firmly believe that koala protections must be based on science and evidence to ensure the survival of this iconic species,” Mr Violante said.
“NSW’s sustainable native forest industries are part of the solution and play a vital role in forest management and mitigating the threat of catastrophic bushfires.
“However, the Great Koala National Park as proposed by anti-forestry groups would see much of the North Coast’s prime timber-producing state forest locked up, despite the science showing this will do nothing to help koalas.”
A recent NSW Government study of koala populations in NSW’s north-east forests that used advanced koala detection technology found that timber harvesting has no impact on koala numbers. The study found:
“… past timber harvesting did not influence koala occupancy. There was no difference in results between heavily harvested, lightly harvested and old growth sites.
“Time since harvesting and the amount of harvesting in the local area did not influence occupancy. There was also no difference between National Park and state forest sites.”
– Dr Brad Law, NSW Department of Primary Industries
However, the lack of detail in NSW Labor’s announcement today means the thousands of hardwood timber industry workers in NSW will be concerned about their future. Anyone building a house or renovating should also be concerned about what this will mean for the cost and availability of timber, as well as other essential timber products sourced from state forests including firewood.
“The Great Koala National Park as proposed by anti-forestry groups would mean the closure of NSW’s hardwood timber industry and increase our reliance on timber imported from countries at high risk of deforestation and illegal logging,” Mr Violante said.
“Closing the native timber industry would cost the NSW economy more than $1 billion a year in economic activity, and mean higher housing construction costs, lengthy delays on new home builds and renovations, shortages of firewood to heat our homes, and fewer firefighting resources in bushfire prone areas. The evidence also shows that it will not support koala conservation.”
NSW Labor’s commitment to establish the Park before doing the scientific analysis that they have also promised to do is also at odds with the recommendation of the recent NSW upper house inquiry into the future of the timber industry, which found:
The deficiencies in the Great Koala National Park Economic Impact Assessment and Environmental Benefit Analysis, as prepared for the National Parks Association, are significant enough that they cannot be relied upon to make a rigorous and objective decision on the proposal to establish the Great Koala National Park. (Finding 10)
“The facts are that NSW’s native forest industries regenerate the forest by law after harvest, ensuring no net loss of forest area. Also, the industry only operates in ‘regrowth’ forests that have previously been harvested. Selective harvesting means koala habitat trees are retained, and all our old growth forests are protected,” Mr Violante said.
“Meanwhile, the sustainably harvested hardwood timber is turned into vital hardwood timber products for the housing construction and renovation sector industry, such as floorboard and decking, supporting thousands of jobs and avoiding the need to import even more of these products from countries that are at high risk of deforestation.
“While we acknowledge NSW Labor says it will consult and research before determining the boundaries of the Great Koala National Park, timber industry workers deserve more detail before the election about what NSW Labor’s plan will mean for their jobs and communities. AFPA NSW will continue to engage with NSW Labor and urge Chris Minns to urgently address workers’ concerns,” Mr Violante concluded.