In a judgment handed down on recently the NSW Land and Environment Court ordered Forestry Corporation of NSW to pay an $8000 fine and that it cover the EPA’s legal costs believed to be about $65,000. Source: Canberra Times
Principal among a series of breaches was the potential for harm to rocky outcrops, signalling the first instance of the EPA pursuing a case in court over logging of rocky outcrops.
Forestry Corporation of NSW pleaded guilty to an offence of a failure to thoroughly search for rocky outcrops, and accepted that harvesting operations took place within and around rocky outcrops, resulting in minor impacts.
The operations resulted in minor outcrops being crushed by machinery or felled trees.
An EPA spokeswoman welcomed the court’s findings and said rocky outcrops were considered important landscape features that provide unique habitat refuges and strict rules were in place to stop logging such areas.
A spokeswoman for Forestry Corporation of NSW accepted the company had committed a breach and said the company had taken steps to ensure a similar situation did not occur in future.
“Forestry Corporation of NSW has acknowledged its search for a rocky outcrop, prior to a 2013 timber harvesting operation, did not fully meet licensing requirements,” the spokeswoman said.
“While no actual environmental harm occurred, we acknowledge that protocol was not followed and we regret that this breach occurred.
“In the four years since the breach, we have made significant investments in improving our processes and providing additional training to staff.”
The EPA investigation began when members of the South East Forest Rescue, an environmentally-minded community group, submitted breach reports in 2013.
A spokesman for the South East Forest Rescue, Scott Daines, described the conviction as “too little, too late”.
“We have proven systemic recurring breaches on the south coast that show a pattern of noncompliance and the fines and penalties are too low, and not effective,” Mr Daines said.
“If a private citizen were to commit these breaches they would be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The EPA spokeswoman defended the authority’s handling of this matter and cited its significant success rate in such matters.
“The EPA runs a comprehensive compliance program for native forestry in NSW that includes both proactive audits and compliance monitoring as well as responding to complaints from the community,” the spokeswoman said.
“The NSW EPA has an exceptional prosecution record, which compares favourably to all other state jurisdictions.
“The EPA has a historical success rate of greater than 95% in its prosecutions.”
In the 2016-17 financial year the NSW EPA completed 103 prosecutions with $2.4 million in financial penalties enforced.