EPA report welcomed – time for greater government rigour

The ‘Performance of the NSW Environmental Protection Authority’ inquiry has released its final report, making 17 recommendations.

The committee found that the EPA’s chief executive Barry Buffier has too much power, given the former forester is only responsible to the Environment Minister, and is also acting as chair person on the EPA’s toothless board. So it’s recommended an independent board chairperson be appointed and Mr Buffier should have a performance management agreement, in line with other government departments. The committee reccommended more staff be employed in the EPA’s forestry division and emphasised the need for greater scientific rigour and greatly improved communication with stakeholders and the community.

On the issue of forestry regulation in Royal Camp State Forest, where the EPA issued three penalty notices totalling $900 for breaching koala prescriptions. The committee endorsed an EPA board proposal to increase the current threatened species penalties, described by FCNSW as being similar to a parking ticket, up to $15,000. The same figure has been suggested for water pollution penalties and ‘give serious consideration to applying a multiplier effect for penalty notices to repeat offenders’.

Consequently, FCNSW field staff have received more training on how to ‘thoroughly’ search for koala pellets, even though it really isn’t in their best interests to find any.

While NEFA welcomed the report, after all the work the outcome is better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick. NSW Greens Dr Mehreen Faruqi provided a dissenting report, and it’s arguable her additional recommendations would provide greater confidence in the outcomes.

Qld forestry

Locally, SERCA and affiliated group(?) Chipbusters have begun a campaign titled ‘IT’S TIME TO LOG OFF’ aiming to ‘end native forest logging once and for all’. According to Chipbusters website it wants the end of all native forest logging within ten years (as in Queensland!).

Regrettably, the now former Qld government broke the agreement to end all native forest logging. While the Qld labour party lists ‘An end to logging of remnant and regrowth native forest through the Regional Forestry Agreements.’, as one of it’s previous achievements, the new Government is yet to show its hand. However, one of the issues when considering environmental issues at a broad scale is the notion of a consistent approach.

As indicated on the map above, from the Queensland Department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, forestry ‘pocket facts’ pamphlet, and like NSW, the areas are not consistent with scientifically based bio-regions. Agreement between state and federal governments on a consistent approach to the environment would be a real achievement. Particularly given trees from northern NSW also end up as sawlogs in SE Queensland, and the prevailing threats to trees, koalas and biodiversity generally, are similar.

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