The peak industry groups representing NSW’s timber and forest products industries slammed NSW Labor’s recommitment today to lock up large swathes of sustainably managed production forest under the guise of the Great Koala National Park, with no evidence that it will lead to better conservation outcomes for koalas.

Timber NSW General Manager Maree McCaskill and Australian Forest Products Association Chief Executive Officer Ross Hampton said the Great Koala National Park – as proposed by environmental activist groups – will do nothing to protect koalas but will destroy the North Coast’s vital forest industries which employ around 4000 people and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the region’s economy.

A NSW Government study of koala populations in NSW’s north-east forests published last year found up to 10 times the rate of koala occupancy than previously estimated, and that timber harvesting has no impact on koala numbers.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) project, which focused on koalas’ response to timber harvesting, involved acoustic technology to get a more accurate estimate of the population and range of koalas. The study found:

“… past timber harvesting did not influence koala occupancy. There was no difference in results between heavily harvested, lightly harvested and old growth sites.

“Time since harvesting and the amount of harvesting in the local area did not influence occupancy. There was also no difference between National Park and state forest sites.”

–        Dr Brad Law, NSW Department of Primary Industries

“With 90 per cent of NSW’s forests in National Parks and Reserves (80 per cent, or almost 6 million hectares) or in State Forest Reserves and protected areas (10 per cent, or about 1 million hectares), and just 1-3% per cent selectively harvested each year and then regenerated as required by law, we should be demanding to know why our extensive reserves system is failing before locking up even more production forest,” Ms McCaskill said.

“Our industry is committed to koala conservation based on the scientific evidence and urge NSW Labor to consider the science before destroying one of the biggest industries on the North Coast.”

AFPA CEO, Mr Ross Hampton, said the Great Koala National Park was at odds with the Federal Government’s announcement last month that the NSW North Coast will be a future Regional Forestry Hub, which had the potential to drive growth and innovation in the region’s timber industry.

“The science is clear that forestry is not a threat to the koala’s survival – in fact, koalas are thriving in our sustainably managed native forests,” Mr Hampton said.

“If NSW Labor is interested in protecting NSW’s koala population, as we are, then they will direct their efforts at the things that have been proven to make a difference such as better management of urban expansion, pest and disease, and road strikes,” Mr Hampton concluded.

AFPA and Timber NSW acknowledged Labor’s commitment to consult on the design and rollout of the Great Koala National Park, but urged Labor to commit to including industry in the consultation to minimise the impact on industry and the thousands of workers in regional NSW that depend on it.