Loggers reject koala habitat destruction claims
The Forestry Corporation of NSW has rejected environmentalists' claims it is "ramping up" logging operations ahead of the state government establishing a Great Koala National Park.
Environment Minister Penny Sharpe says the government will realign the state's focus on koala protection with a summit on the endangered marsupial, as conservationists call for a halt to logging in the area designated for conservation.
The Nature Conservation Council says its analysis shows some 30,813 hectares of state forest earmarked for the park could be logged by the forestry corporation in the next year.
The $80 million Great Koala National Park was announced by Labor before the NSW election, with the party looking to protect the marsupial population across the mid-north coast.
"The Minns Labor government will convene a koala summit to review and refocus the NSW Koala Strategy," Ms Sharpe told AAP on Tuesday.
"One of my first actions as minister was to instruct the department to start work on permanently protecting a range of important koala habitat areas."
The government's commitment to a national park includes funds for planning and expert scientific advice.
But up to 20 per cent of the park, including vital koala habitat areas, may be logged before the process begins, the conservation council's chief executive Jacqui Mumford said.
"Forestry Corp knows this national park is coming and they are deliberately ramping up operations within its boundaries to extract as much timber from it as possible," Ms Mumford said.
She called on the government to immediately halt logging operations in all areas that will become part of the national park.
"The Great Koala National Park proposal was developed by leading scientists, ecologists and local environmental groups, including the National Parks Association, who identified the most important areas of koala habitat in NSW," Ms Mumford said.
"All of these areas need to be protected if we are to ensure the survival of koalas in the wild."
But the forestry corporation on Tuesday rejected the conservation council's logging figures, saying the area to be harvested would be closer to 10,000 hectares on the north coast annually, not around 31,000 hectares as claimed.
A spokesperson said there had been no increase in timber harvesting operations on the north coast.
"In each renewable timber harvesting operation, protections are put in place for koala habitat and every tree harvested is regrown."
The spokesperson said the volume of timber from logging was "well within the independently verified level which can be sustainably harvested and regrown".
The forestry corporation manages the logging of more than 20,000sq km of native and plantation forests in NSW.
It was recently fined more than $500,000 in the Land and Environment Court for illegal logging activities.