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Koala logging ban sends a chilling message to NSW timber workers

NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe

Tuesday’s announcement by the NSW Government that it will ban harvesting in parts of Northern NSW previously allocated for timber production has sent a chill down the spine of every timber worker in the state, according to the CFMEU’s manufacturing division. Source: Timberbiz

Logging has been stopped in parts of the proposed Great Koala National Park on the New South Wales Mid North Coast while the state government determines the impact on koalas and timber industry jobs.

The halt, announced on Tuesday, covers 106 koala “hubs” across more than 8400 hectares of forest within the proposed national park, which is being gazetted in the region.

“The creation of the Great Koala National Park is essential to saving koalas from extinction in New South Wales,” Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said.

“The Government is taking serious steps towards its creation and will work closely with the community, Aboriginal organisations and industry as the areas for inclusion in the park are assessed.”

The decision will impact the jobs and livelihoods of hundreds of local families and hurt communities from Coffs Harbour to Grafton.

“There is no plan in (the) announcement for the workers who harvest, transport, mill and make household furniture from timber in Northern NSW,” NSW Secretary of the timber workers’ union Alison Rudman said.

Operations were paused on September 1 by agreement with Forestry Corporation of NSW.

Koala hubs are areas where there is strong evidence of multi-generational, high-density populations of the iconic animal. Koala hubs cover approximately 5% of the Great Koala National Park assessment area, but contain 42% of recorded koala sightings in state forests in the assessment area since 2000.

“At a time when families are already under pressure, putting people’s jobs and pay at risk by taking bits of timber offline ahead of evaluating the impact is a bad choice and will cost local families immensely,” Ms Rudman said.

“We need a proper plan for these workers and communities, not policy by media release.

“The workers impacted by this rash decision must have a voice in the process.”

The NSW Government will immediately discuss with Forestry Corporation of NSW the next steps of the cessation and determine timber supply options.

“We are asking the NSW Government to urgently sit down with the union to identify impacted workers and discuss a support plan for anyone who will lose their job or working hours, and a renewed commitment to do things differently in the future,” Ms Rudman said.

She said the proposal was inconsistent with the ALP’s own policy platform which promised a much more sober approach than today’s knee jerk reaction of locking up forests without consideration of consequences to workers and communities or even the environment.

“All this will do is inflate prices of timber in NSW, push manufacturing of hardwood timber products offshore to countries that operate without NSW’s environmental and safety protections, while putting locals out of work,” Ms Rudman said.