EPA prosecutes Forestry Corporation for alleged breaches in koala exclusion zones

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has commenced five prosecutions in the Land and Environment Court against Forestry Corporation of NSW for allegedly breaching licence requirements in 2018 in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest, inland from Coffs Harbour.

The charges relate to the alleged felling of trees by Forestry Corporation’s contractors in exclusion zones and protected areas, some of which are specifically set up to protect koala habitat.

EPA Acting Chief Executive Officer Jacqueleine Moore said it was unacceptable to put vulnerable species, such as the koala, in danger by breaking the rules.

“We have strict procedures in place to protect wildlife, and if they are disregarded it can put these animals under threat,” Ms Moore said.

The EPA alleges that Forestry Corporation’s contractors felled trees and operated snig tracks (tracks created by harvesting machinery) within a koala high use area exclusion zone located within Compartment 539 of the forest.

The EPA also alleges that the contractors felled trees in protected rainforest areas and an exclusion zone around warm temperate rainforest, located in Compartments 539 and 540 of the forest, in breach of Forestry Corporation’s licence.

The two offences relating to koala exclusion zones carry a maximum penalty of $440,000 each, while the other three offences carry a maximum penalty of $110,000 each.

The prosecutions are listed for mention before the Land and Environment Court on 16 October 2020.

“In this instance, after a long investigation process that involved interviews and a consultation process with Forestry Corporation, the EPA has decided that these actions warrant prosecution.

“We’re sending a strong message that laws created to protect the environment, and in particular vulnerable species like the koala, must be adhered to,” Ms Moore said.

This action follows a Stop Work Order issued by the EPA to Forestry Corporation for the felling of two protected giant trees in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest in July 2020.

Prosecution is the most serious tool the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance. Other tools including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions. For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm