EPA fines Forestry Corp $16,500 for Gibberagee State Forest offence

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has fined Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) a total of $16,500 after the organisation allegedly conducted forestry activities in an exclusion zone of a rare, threatened plant in Gibberagee State Forest.

The $16,500 penalty notice was issued under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 for a breach of the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval for the Upper North East Region (IFOA).

The EPA alleges that in September 2017, FCNSW failed to implement the required protections for the rare threatened plant, Melichrus Gibberagee, despite knowing of its location.

EPA officers inspected the site and reported that multiple trees had been cut down and a large area of groundcover had been disturbed around the Melichrus plant. While the plant itself remained unharmed at the time of the inspection, EPA officers determined that the disturbance in the exclusion zone was contrary to the requirements of the IFOA.

“Exclusion zones are not suggestions – they are firm boundaries that must be implemented during forestry operations to protect important habitat and threatened species, including Melichrus,” EPA Acting Director Forestry Jackie Miles said.

“The Melichrus is an extremely rare plant – it is only known to occur in and around the Gibberagee State Forest.

“While FCNSW took some steps to protect the Melichrus plant in the forest, the EPA believes there was a failure to put this plant’s protection as a priority in their planning and operations.

“We take all forestry offences seriously. The community can be confident that the EPA will take all necessary regulatory action to ensure that forestry operations comply with the IFOA and are regulated to ensure the appropriate balance between protecting the environment and delivering the State’s timber needs.”

In January, the EPA also issued FCNSW two official cautions and two formal warnings for allegedly breaching the requirements of the IFOA. This included allegedly undertaking forestry operations in excluded areas, failing to mark protected features and for inadequate selection and protection of trees with hollows.

The EPA is continuing to investigate several community reports of alleged forestry breaches in the Gibberagee area. Members of the community are encouraged to report their concerns to the 24/7 Environment Line on 131 555.

Penalty notices are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions. For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm