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Speech: Logging and Cruelty in Glenbog State Forest

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 13 Oct 2015

In this speech I discuss the devastation caused to forests and wildlife after my trip to Glenbog State Forest, and call for the end of logging in all our state forests in Australia. 

My colleague Senator Janet Rice, the Greens forestry spokesperson, spoke earlier tonight about an excellent plan to save our native forests and provide a wonderful future for the communities around those forests by ending logging in our native forests. I had the opportunity recently to visit the forests in south-east New South Wales with Senator Rice, and I congratulate her on the work that she is doing to save the forests across this country.

One area that we visited was Glenbog State Forest. Sadly, this area has become a case study in animal cruelty. The plight of wombats being buried alive in logging operations in Glenbog State Forest and in other state forests will continue if we do not end these logging practices. Wombats inhabit many of these forests. They face the prospect of being buried alive, where they face a slow inevitable death entombed in their burrows. Whether they die by asphyxiation, starve to death or are just crushed, it involves great cruelty. We know that the situation in the Glenbog State Forest is associated with logging for woodchips. Woodchipping is undertaken by the South East Fibre Exports, and much of it is exported out of Eden. Woodchipping is killing our wildlife. Every time we lose habitat we are losing wildlife, and this is a most extreme example of it.

Some people have done some excellent work to highlight these problems. I congratulate Marie and Ray Wynan and the Wombat Protection Society, who alerted the world-so much of their work became an international media story-by highlighting what was happening to wombats being buried alive in their burrows. They recorded and marked around 150 active burrows in that state forest with yellow tape and paint, yet they still came across crushed tunnels. They marked these tunnels and burrows very clearly with GPS locations so they could save the wombats. I very warmly congratulate them for the work that they undertook. They did have some success where the roads were moved so they were not going across the burrows and logs were not dumped on top of the burrows, but still Marie and Ray Wynan would often turn up the next day and find that the wrong thing had been done.

Marie and Ray did obtain the agreement of the Forestry Corporation of NSW to ensure that the entrances to the burrows would not be not obstructed by logging debris or otherwise damaged, but, despite this understanding, logging operations in the Glenbog State Forest subsequently did cause the collapse of burrow entrances. The Environmental Protection Authority inspected the site and provided recommendations about protecting wombat burrows but took no further action. Again, thanks to many very hardworking individuals like Ray and Marie Wynan, many wombats were saved. But it is an extraordinary situation that we are treating wildlife like this.

It needs to be noted that many of our wombats are under severe threat from habitat loss, urban development and a parasitic infection that causes a type of mange. In parts of rural south-east Australia it is actually legal for farmers to shoot wombats. People find that extraordinary, but it is just part of the mismanagement of this unique species. I congratulate my Greens colleague, David Shoebridge, in the New South Wales state parliament, who tabled a motion about this issue in the Legislative Council last year asking the house to call on the New South Wales government to immediately halt logging in that state forest and urgently review the policies.

As I mentioned, there is an international aspect to this matter. Some Japanese campaigners who came to the Glenbog State Forest were so deeply troubled by what they saw that the organisation the Japan Tropical Forest Action Network has also taken up this campaign, informing clients of Nippon Paper of the devastating consequences for wombats from the logging and woodchipping of its subsidiary South East Fibre Exports. The disastrous impact on the wombat population in Glenbog State Forest could be solved quite easily by ending the logging of our native forests.

We also saw how the urgent need to end the logging in our state forests at the Nullica State Forest, also in the south-east. The logging operation here is an example of why the exemption of the regional forest agreement from the Commonwealth EPBC Act just does not work. This is something that I know has been taken up with Mr Hunt, the Minister for the Environment, but so far he has failed to deal with it. At this forest we saw the habitat of the quoll. The quoll is listed federally as endangered but in New South Wales it is only listed as vulnerable. The exemption for RFA areas under the EPBC Act is based on the assumption that RFAs provide equivalent protection. Even if an effective and enforceable prescription were employed to protect the quoll as vulnerable, it would not be equivalent protection.

Senator Rice and I saw this for ourselves. There was massive damage done to quoll habitat in Nullica State Forest. What has happened to those quolls? Have they been squashed under machines? Have they gone somewhere, looking for another bit of forest? When you start to lose habitat, you lose species numbers and it gets to a point where these populations are not viable.

Harriett Swift, on behalf of the South East Region Conservation Alliance, on 9 September this year wrote to Minister Hunt, pointing out this inconsistency because of the way the RFA becomes senior to the EPBC Act because of the way the laws have been written. Ms Swift wrote, 'I believe you have an obligation to intervene to halt the Nullica logging to protect the integrity of the EPBC Act and to help ensure the survival of this nationally endangered species.' If it is recognised as endangered at a national level, surely it deserves the protection under the EPBC Act and surely the environment minister should do the right thing by these constituents and reply to their letter in the first instance and ensure that protection over an act which he has responsibility for is carried out.

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