Timber felled in national parks during the bushfire emergency could be removed and used for commercial purposes in a proposed plan that aims to make parks safe again.
A spokesperson for NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro confirmed ongoing negotiations were taking place between Forestry Corporation (FC) and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to assist in the removal of timber from the parks in the aftermath of the fires.
But they claimed it was part of a "make-safe" arrangement proposed by NPWS, which Mr Barilaro had supported, that would make the parks safe for public access and reduce future fire risk.
"If this is a win for National Parks and and potential outcome for Forestry Corporation, why would we stand in the way?" the spokesperson said.
"The national parks have to be made safe again, that's the reality.
"[The timber] can't be left there because it's hazardous in many cases."
It is my understanding of the law there is a very clear legal prohibition on commercial forestry operations in national parks.Greens MP David Shoebridge
During the bushfire emergency, the spokesperson said, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) used FC contractors to create fire breaks in national parks to prevent the spread of fire, but the fallen timber was now a fire risk that often lay across roads.
They said some trees felled in the operations were "potentially commercial quality timber", while the NPWS would benefit from the arrangement as it would not have to spend money to remove the timber itself.
When Australian Community Media asked the spokesperson if the forestry industry, hard-hit by the fires, would benefit if the timber was used for commercial purposes, they said "it couldn't hurt".
But NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the move was "blurring the lines between state forest and national park" and would set a "terrible precedent".
"It is my understanding of the law there is a very clear legal prohibition on commercial forestry operations in national parks," Mr Shoebridge, who worked as a lawyer and barrister before entering parliament, said.
"I'm certain environmental groups and others will look closely at a legal challenge if this goes ahead.
"We know the fallen trees following a fire can be crucial for habitat and it is wrong in principle and practice to be exploited for the forestry industry.
"We can't allow Forestry Corporation to be accessing national parks for the commercial recovery of timber; that's a red line the Environment Minister [Matthew Kean] needs to enforce."
Precedents won't be set. As far as I'm concerned, national parks are national parks and should be left that way.Logging contractor Norman Wilton
However long-time Bombala and Far South Coast logging contractor Norman Wilton did not believe the negotiations, which he claimed Mr Barilaro and Bega MP Andrew Constance had both supported, would set a precedent.
"It's a one-off, it's only fire salvage," he said.
"Precedents won't be set.
"As far as I'm concerned, national parks are national parks and should be left that way."
Not only would it be a short-term fix for the forestry industry, he said, it would also provide an environmental benefit to the parks as it would clear the forest floor and lessen the fuel load.
From what Mr Wilton had seen some of the timber touched by fire was still of "pretty high quality", and he believed plenty could suitable as saw logs or some as pulp wood.
When Australian Community Media approached the NPWS for comment, a spokesperson did not confirm or deny whether the negotiations over removing damaged timber from national parks were taking place and did not to respond to questions asking where logs would be taken during the clean up.
The NPWS spokesperson did say now the fire emergency had passed, post-fire restoration of roads and fire breaks within parks and reserves was a priority, with restoration plans being prepared.
"Fire-affected timber that falls within parks and reserves post-fire is a key component of the natural ecosystem and provides habitat to assist restoration," they said.
"However, large volumes of fallen timber on the edges of roads and fire trails can be a problem, as it hinders access, makes future hazard reduction burning and wildfire management difficult, and can harbour pests and weeds.
"For all these reasons, the bulk of such timber is normally removed because such removal will benefit the management and conservation of the park and its values."
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Mr Constance did not respond to a request for comment.
NPWS confirms fire breaks
The NPWS spokesperson did confirm a "large number" of strategic fire breaks were strengthened and created on the Far South Coast during the recent fire emergency.
"These fire breaks were essential in the efforts of our fire response agencies in protecting lives and property across the state," they said.
For instance, a fire break was created along Wog Way Road and Coolangubra Forest Way bordering South East Forests National Park.
This was completed under the NSW RFS's section 44 control to stop the Border Fire running from Victoria into the South East Forests National Park and impacting NSW communities.
"The South East Forests National Park is an important reserve for a wide range of wildlife and a refuge for threatened species such as the rare long-footed potoroo and smoky mouse," the NPWS spokesperson said.
"Cleaning up areas damaged by emergency earthworks on fire breaks is an essential step in restoring important habitat and returning this area to its natural state."