Status of operations in bushfire-affected forests

We continue to advocate that FCNSW obtain site-specific operating conditions in areas recovering from the 2019–20 wildfires.

On 10 February 2021 Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) advised us that they would be returning to regular operations under the Coastal IFOA (CIFOA) in fire-impacted forests. They further advised that they may implement additional voluntary measures to the requirements of the CIFOA if they consider they are required. We are not aware of what these voluntary measures are, and we will not be able to regulate against them. 

FCNSW is authorised by the NSW Government to undertake forestry operations under the Forestry Act 2012 and must comply with the IFOA rules. The Act requires FCNSW to undertake ecologically sustainable forest management as defined in s.69L(2) of the Forestry Act 2012, namely:

  • maintenance of forest values for future and present generations, including:
    • Forest biological diversity
    • The productive capacity and sustainability of forest ecosystems
    • The health and vitality of native forest ecosystems
    • Soil and water quality
    • The contribution of native forests to global geochemical cycles
    • The long term social and economic benefits of native forests
    • Natural heritage values
  • ensuring public participation, provision of information, accountability and transparency in relation to the carrying out of forestry operations
  • providing incentives for voluntary compliance, capacity building and adoption of best-practice standards
  • application of best-available knowledge and adaptive management processes to deliver best-practice forest management
  • application of the precautionary principle in preventing environmental harm

The precautionary principle requires that we do not wait for full scientific certainty to take measures to prevent environmental degradation. We have always acknowledged that there are gaps in the science that prevent absolute certainty on all aspects of the impact of timber harvesting following the 2019–20 fires. However, it is clear from the literature and recent reports that enough is known to suggest that the threat of the twin impacts of fire and post-fire harvesting demands very careful management.

In response to the decision of FCNSW, we increased our regulatory presence on the ground at all stages of logging operations and is working closely with community, industry, Aboriginal and environment groups, concerned about the impact of logging on the environment, their communities and their regional economies.

We have a statutory objective to protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment in NSW having regard to the need to maintain ecologically sustainable development. Where we identify non-compliance, we will take appropriate regulatory action.