Forestry Corporation has been prosecuted and fined three times in the past seven days for alleged illegal logging operations in koala habitat and fire-affected forests.
Yesterday (June 23), the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) announced it had fined Forestry Corp $15,000 (the maximum penalty) for failing to comply with conditions imposed to protect critical habitat in Brooman State Forest near Batemans Bay after the Black Summer bushfires.
“Forestry Corporation is a serial offender,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive, Chris Gambian said.
“It is behaving like an outlaw organisation, not a government agency entrusted with managing 2 million hectares of public forests,” he said.
“This is the third time in six days Forestry Corporation has been fined or prosecuted for serious breaches of environmental protection laws.
“Where is the responsible minister, Dugald Saunders, during all this? He should publicly condemn the reckless and lawless behaviour of this agency, but we haven’t heard a peep out of him.
“The government must establish a comprehensive independent review of Forestry Corporation to ensure it acts lawfully and sustainably. ”
In this other recent action, the EPA alleges Forestry Corp breached conditions imposed to aid the recovery of the Yambulla State Forest near Eden after the 2019-20 bushfires.
The EPA said that between March and July 2020, Forestry Corp contractors logged 53 trees in a Category 1 Environmentally Significant Area in the Yambulla State Forest.
Senior Compliance Manager with Forrestry Corporation, Linda Broekman, said timber is an important renewable resource that the community needs and Forestry always endeavours to get it right.
“Everytime we harvest we’re required to comply with hundreds of environmental conditions and in the vast majority of cases we do,” Ms Broekman said.
“The penalties in the last week relate to three separate incidents over the space of 4 years, the penalties relate to a small number of trees in these three operations and one of them relates to a single tree,” she said.
“We’re really disappointed anytime an error is made and there is made and we take steps to review what’s gone wrong and to make it right.
“We’ve set aside thousands of additional protected trees, to ensure there’s no net loss of environmental values, we’ve alos invested in the technologies we use and are reviewing our systems and processes.”
“Our community relies on timber and we have a responsibility to grow timber responsibly and from sustainably managed forests.”
The fines and prosecutions of the past week are reportedly not isolated, with eight alleged major breaches since April 2020 according to Mr Gambian.
“Part of the problem is that the fines are too small to act as a deterrent,” Mr Gambian said.
“A fine of $13,000 for a multi-million-dollar corporation is trivial. The government should increase the penalties to reflect the true harm illegal logging causes.”
Forestry Corp have reportedly received over $300,000 in fines since 2020.