The Environmental Defence Society says that the latest disaster on the East Coast needs a formal Commission of Inquiry into forestry practices.
“We have seen yet again the consequences of inadequate controls over exotic plantation forestry operations, with massive inundation of private property by slash and debris from upstream forestry land,” says EDS CEO Gary Taylor.
“Entire houses at Tolaga Bay have been smashed to smithereens, rivers and streams completely blocked with debris causing extensive flooding of property, and bridges and beaches covered with massive quantities of slash. This is completely unacceptable. It is a repeating occurrence and must have legal consequences.
“The wider context includes several recent prosecutions of forestry companies for breaching even the weak regulatory regime that currently applies. The courts have slammed operators not only for their breaches, but also their cavalier attitudes.
“The Government is currently reviewing the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry, but the limited terms of reference mean it will only result in tinkering of the rules applying to plantation forestry. Agencies seem in thrall to the sector which is dominated by offshore interests which are powerful and influential. Industry representatives, with clear conflicts of interest, dominate the Government review of the Forestry Industry Transformation Plan.
“It is time for a full-blown, independent Commission of Inquiry to take a fresh look at the sector, the rules that govern it, whether clear-felling with its adverse consequences should continue, and where liability should lie for any and all offsite damage such has occurred at Tolaga Bay.
“It is patently unjust that private landowners and councils should bear those costs.
“A formal inquiry is urgently needed because these extreme weather events will become more frequent with climate change. A Commission of Inquiry with all its powers, including those to subpoena witnesses, is required to undertake a proper investigation into the forestry sector. A reset in this area is well overdue,” Mr Taylor concluded.