Neighbours and activists dismayed by logging of Orara East State Forest

Knitting Nannas at a weekly ‘vigil’ at Orara East State Forest.

CLOSE neighbours and anti-forestry activists have expressed dismay over the commencement of logging in Orara East State Forest, ten kilometres north of Coffs Harbour.

They say extensive and intensive logging operations began in late May, without satisfactory community consultation.

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Residents of the Forest Glen Estate organised ‘Meet and Greet’ street gatherings, where they voiced concerns for the forests adjacent to their neighbourhoods.

Local resident Heather Watkins is extremely concerned about the impact on native species.

“We moved to the Coffs Coast about eight years ago, and we chose to live in Forest Glen Estate because of the natural beauty that surrounds us.

“Our estate is home to so much wildlife, including wallabies, kangaroos, abundant birdlife such as the Glossy Black Cockatoos, and the rare and magnificent Regent Bowerbird.

“And, yes, even koalas are still present in our local forests.”

Ms Watkins said with so much development underway on the east side of the highway in Moonee Beach, Orara East State Forest is a last refuge for native animals in the area.

“We ask that these last precious and irreplaceable fragile corridors be left untouched,” she said.

Ms Watkins argues logging can increase the risk for bushfires, potentially threatening lives and properties.

She also holds concerns the area could be put at increased risk of flooding if logging waste impacts water drainage.
Another resident, Margit Workman, has lived in the area for more than 30 years.

“Forestry log dumps are being constructed only 50 metres from residents’ houses,” she said.

“We live here for the peace and tranquillity the natural environment provides and thirteen hours of industrial machine operations each day will impact our quality of life.”

Ms Workman also raised potential safety issues with large haulage trucks using narrow community roads, on which children ride bicycles.

Friends of Orara East State Forest spokesperson Nikki Read said, “These forests are the last remaining habitat corridors along the Coast Range, a critical part of the Great Koala National Park and support a globally significant koala population.”

Mr Read claims regulations are not being adhered to, while the North East Forest Alliance has complained to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

Ms Read said young environmental activists, from the newly established Student Environment Alliance – North Coast, had halted logging operations within the State Forest in recent weeks.

Similarly, the Coffs Harbour Knitting Nannas have staged weekly roadside vigils at the entrance to logging compartments.

The EPA meanwhile has been looking into potential breaches of logging regulations in the State Forest.

A spokesperson for the EPA told NOTA, “The NSW Environment Protection Authority has recently finalised its investigation of alleged breaches of the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (CIFOA) in Orara East State Forest.

“Our officers inspected the forestry operation in the field and also completed a desktop assessment, which found the current operation to be compliant.”

The spokesman said that, while community members had counted koala trees that were physically marked for retention in the field, the CIFOA also allows trees to be marked for retention digitally – not every tree that is retained for koalas will be marked in the field.

In addition, inspections found no evidence to support regulatory action regarding allegations about undersized, dead or damaged trees – the reported trees either did not meet the definition of damage under the CIFOA or were appropriately replaced.

“We always take allegations of breaches seriously and we invite people with any concerns to make a report to the EPA,” the spokesperson said.

Ms Read expressed frustration at the response of the state’s environmental watchdog.

“It’s concerning that the damage residents have documented is not sufficient for action to be taken,” she said.

By Andrew VIVIAN

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