THE NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has Forestry Corporation NSW on notice to comply by moving from a Stop Work Order for the felling of two protected giant trees in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest in July 2020 to prosecution for alleged non-compliance in koala habitat.
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The EPA has this week commenced five prosecutions in the Land and Environment Court against Forestry Corporation of NSW for allegedly breaching licence requirements in 2018 in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest, inland from Coffs Harbour.
The charges relate to the alleged felling of trees by Forestry Corporation’s contractors in exclusion zones and protected areas, some of which are specifically set up to protect koala habitat.
EPA Acting Chief Executive Officer Jacqueleine Moore said it was unacceptable to put vulnerable species, such as the koala, in danger by breaking the rules.
“We have strict procedures in place to protect wildlife, and if they are disregarded it can put these
animals under threat,” Ms Moore said.
The EPA alleges that Forestry Corporation’s contractors felled trees and operated snig tracks (tracks
created by harvesting machinery) within a koala high use area exclusion zone located within
Compartment 539 of the forest.
The EPA also alleges that the contractors felled trees in protected rainforest areas and an exclusion
zone around warm temperate rainforest, located in Compartments 539 and 540 of the forest, in breach of
Forestry Corporation’s licence.
The two offences relating to koala exclusion zones carry a maximum penalty of $440,000 each, while the
other three offences carry a maximum penalty of $110,000 each.
“In this instance, after a long investigation process that involved interviews and a consultation process
with Forestry Corporation, the EPA has decided that these actions warrant prosecution.
“We’re sending a strong message that laws created to protect the environment, and in particular
vulnerable species like the koala, must be adhered to,” Ms Moore said.
Forestry acknowledges the prosecution and whilst unable to comment on a matter before court did refer News of The Area to their renewable timber harvesting operation where 21 hectares of koala habitat was set aside, which was three times what was required under the ruleset, protecting an additional 6000 trees, and the EPA allegations relate to nine trees.
Forestry Corporation further expressed recognition of the importance of complying with the strict environmental regulations that apply to forestry operations and carried out a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to these alleged offences.
By Sandra MOON