NEW South Wales Greens Member of Parliament and forestry spokesperson David Shoebridge stopped by Tanja Sate Forest on Tuesday to launch the party’s South East Forests policy package.
With his shoes planted firmly in the dirt on Reedy Swamp Road atop a ridge not far from where koala populations have been found, Mr Shoebridge, along with the party’s candidate for Bega Margaret Perger, announced a six point plan for the state’s two million hectares of state-owned native forest.
Mr Shoebridge said the plan will save taxpayers millions of dollars a year, greatly improve environmental protection of some of the state’s most important and bio-diverse forest, and provide far more access for recreational use of motorbikes, mountain bikes and horse riding.
A new Department of Environment would focus on plantation timber and put an end to the logging of native forests, creating sustainable employment opportunities via sensitive eco-tourism, with $80million over four years to be channelled into a transition package for timber workers and communities impacted by the end of native forestry operations, and $40million as part of a four-year forestry-related tourism and recreation grant scheme aimed at promoting investment.
The party has nominated both Tanja and Mumbulla State Forests to become national parks if elected to government, as well as other forests across the state considered of high conservation value.
The party has picked up allies along the way with the Motorcycle Council of NSW and various recreational groups agreeing with the campaign, which will also promote Indigenous cultural activities, and the regrowth and protection of wildlife corridors.
“Thousands of people want access to the forest,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“Recreational groups can sometimes be in conflict but we can work it out.
“We have over two million hectares available,” he said.
Mr Shoebridge said due to the constant uncertainty surrounding the fate of much of the state’s native forest, that it was “impossible for private investors to put money into ventures near a state forest.”
“Conservative governments are cutting support to subsidised industries that aren’t sustainable in the long term except for one [forestry],” the member of the NSW Legislative Council said.
“Long-term plans bring investment.”
The forestry industry has cost the government $495 for every hectare, costing millions of dollars in losses a year due to unsustainable long-term contracts that must be met, Mr Shoebridge said.
“They knew that the yield assessment was massively inflated.
“Even if we just left it alone we would save money.
He spoke of an industry in “ongoing terminal decline,” labelling it an “economic basket case”.
Forests NSW was corporatised in January of this year with the hope of stemming the losses from the state’s native forestry operations, which are currently being cross-subsidised by the profitable plantation logging industry.
Since January all aspects of the business being reviewed by new management with new revenue streams and products being identified.
These new streams include rocks, gravel, commercial recreation, permits for telecommunications towers and also tourism.
According to Forestry Corporation figures, NSW taxpayers lost $12million alone through the logging of 23,807 hectares of state native forest, and $40million in just the last four years.
Mr Shoebridge contrasted these numbers with statistics that showed state-owned plantations yielded $48million in profits last year, with the harvesting of 8223ha, and $114.4 million over the past three years.