Bellingen Residents And Environmentalists Unite To Protect Local Forests At Town Meeting

Bellingen residents brave the rain. Photo supplied: BEC.


BELLINGEN folk are angry that prime koala habitat is still under threat and more than 150 of them met last Wednesday night, despite the heavy rain.

Bellingen Shire Mayor, Dominic King, introduced the list of speakers who included Uncle Bernard Kelly Evans, Uncle Roger Jarrett, Councillor Susan Jenvey, ecologist and filmmaker Mark Graham, Caitlin Hockey from the Great Koala National Park Steering Committee and citizen scientist Jonas Bellchambers.

The meeting unanimously agreed to call on the NSW Government to instruct Forestry Corporation NSW to stop logging prime koala habitat and ask Forestry Corporation to stop aerial spraying of weeds in state forests in the area.

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Cr King told the meeting that despite the huge loss of animals in the Black Summer Fires, logging had intensified and that forests were being cut down and burnt as ‘biofuel’.

The Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC) claims that areas of prime koala habitat within Newry State Forest are about to be logged and that, despite Forestry Corporation promising the Bellingen community it would not use chemical aerial sprays, spraying has recommenced.

The BEC says the local community values resilient and vibrant biodiversity, maintaining thriving living forests and healthy waterways.

It says local economies can be ‘future proofed’ through nature tourism, maintaining healthy forests and clean and abundant water supplies which will also help protect the area against future climate change disasters, such as last year’s fires.

Caroline Joseph, Public Officer for the BEC said, “It is almost certain that if there are wild koalas in the forest there is bound to be a treasure trove of other threatened and endangered precious and extraordinary native animals and plants.”

Another group at the meeting, the Forest Ecology Alliance (FEA), a group of ecologists and citizen scientists concerned with the conservation of native forests on Gumbaynggirr homelands, has carried out numerous surveys in the state forest.

According to FEA member, Mark Daniels, environment protection laws now allow logging in highly sensitive areas such as threatened species habitat, steep slopes and within five metres of exclusion zones.

Local environmentalist Mark Graham told News Of The Area, “It was a really heartening cross-section of the community that are united in opposition to the Forestry Corporation’s proposed industrial logging.”

Mr Graham said even when there is no clear felling, the use of large machines and the roads to give them access create significant problems.

“We’ve seen giant trees illegally felled at Wild Cattle Creek.”

The BEC also pointed out that logging at Kalang Headwaters has previously resulted in three serious breaches which went before the courts, but even when there are convictions, the community knows that creeks and forests cannot be restored once they have been damaged by heavy industrial machinery.

When contacted by News Of The Area, a Forestry Corporation (FC) spokesperson said that care is taken to selectively log and that replanting is carried out after logging.

The spokesperson also said that aerial spraying is carried out by qualified contractors after communities have been notified.

Environmentalists dispute these claims and point to pending court cases as evidence.

According to Mr Graham, and others, Newry is prime koala habitat and the largest unburnt area of forest in northern NSW.

“As well as sending koalas to extinction, these industrial practices are affecting catchments and water security and are definitely making fires worse.”


By Andrew VIVIAN


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