NSW Greens final logging solution – uncertainty remains on dead koalas and trees

As part of its election platform, the NSW Greens have proposed ending logging and mining in state forests. One step up from the ALP, the Greens, employing Forestry corporation figures, argue the current cost of native forest logging, $495 per hectare, would be better spent on promoting tourism.

On the face of it, there is no economic argument to continue native forest logging, however, according to the Forestry corporation, the figures do not account for its other management. It argues the cost to log is only $7-8 per hectare, implying costs associated with its other management activities of around $487 per hectare. Currently, and before other subsidies,  National Parks cost about  $50 per hectare to manage. The $7-8 figure also assumes that fire-fighting/lighting, weed control and road maintenance are appropriate and adequate, which is clearly not the case in state forests or parks.

For example, Forestry corp have a current proposal to aerial spray herbicide (Agent Orange?) to kill ‘weeds’ in a forest near Bellingen, on the NSW north coast. The public reaction has been less than supportive so an information session has been planned, for after  the NSW election. One wonders how the NPWS would approach the issue of poor eucalyptus regeneration and over abundant weeds, should the area be put into national park.

To the south, the ABC reports that the Victorian government has fessed up to killing some 700 chlamydia free koalas at Cape Otway during 2013-14, to save the remaining trees, mostly Ribbon gum (E.viminalis) from defoliation and death.

The local caravan park manager is quoted as saying, ” . . . While they are good for business . . . the koalas were stripping the trees, leaving acres and acres of dead wood. Koalas are great for business but if there’s no trees, there’s no koalas,” he said. He said the animals were not culled, they were euthanased because they were starving to death and many more died of natural causes. “A lot more were dying naturally than were euthanased,” he said. “The whole of the cape smelled of dead koalas. It smelled like death. “You should come and look at the trees. There are hundreds of acres of dead trees.”

As indicated on the map above, on the mainland Ribbon gum extends from South Australia up to southern Queensland, Cape Otway is located at the western most extent of the South East Tablelands bio-region. Ribbon gum is also declining on the Monaro, although in this case the summary of research found the native eucalyptus weevil (Gonipterus sp.), is responsible for the defoliation.

The area affected on the Monaro is about the size of the ACT, 250,000 hectares, and although located mostly to the south of the ‘bark-eating’ koalas, the areas overlap. According to the research, ” . . The climate of the Monaro region has low and unreliable rainfall and extreme temperatures limiting plant growth. In recent decades the Monaro has experienced one of the worst droughts on record, along with an unprecedented drop in autumn rainfall (see graph on right) and steadily increasing temperatures. These conditions are likely to cause tree stress and affect the interactions between insect populations and their predators and hosts.”

Hence, climate change is thought to be ultimately responsible for the over abundant insects. The notion that, like trees subject to BMAD on the coast, these trees have lost the capacity to support koalas and can only support insects, is yet to be considered. Although if climate change were the main cause, it seems likely that similar outcomes would have occurred at Cape Otway, reducing the over abundant koala population ‘naturally’.


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