Corunna State Forest is situated on the NSW south coast almost 10km south of Narooma. The State Forest comprises a single harvesting compartment and covers an area of about 180 hectares. It adjoins Corunna Lake, which falls within the Batemans Marine Park, with Gulaga National Park, Eurobodalla National Park and Bodalla State Forest nearby. Corunna has records of several listed threatened species, including the White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Masked Owl and Swift Parrot.
Authorised forestry operations
Forestry operations are permitted in Corunna State Forest under the Forestry Act 2012. Operations are required to be undertaken in accordance with a detailed series of rules, which have been designed to provide protection measures for threatened plants, animals, habitat, soils and waterways. These rules are set out in the Southern Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA).
Forestry operations under the IFOA are required to be planned, carried out and managed by the Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW).The EPA is responsible for compliance and enforcement of forestry operations on State Forests.
A map of Corunna State Forest and its harvest plan (PDF 3.2MB) is available on the FCNSW website.
Protection of Threatened Species in Corunna State Forest
Since FCNSW announced planned logging operations in Corunna State Forest, the EPA adopted a proactive regulatory approach to promote FCNSW compliance with the IFOA. This approach reflects Corunna State Forest’s important habitat features, including its proximity to Batemans Marine Park, White-bellied sea-eagle nests, swift parrot foraging habitat and threatened species records.
Corunna State Forest includes an active and an inactive White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest. Under the Southern IFOA Threatened Species Licence (TSL), FCNSW are required to seek a site-specific condition from the EPA for forestry operations where the White-bellied Sea-Eagle occurs. In 2017, the EPA issued such a condition.
Around the active nest, a 300m exclusion zone must be applied during the breeding season (May-January) and a 100m exclusion zone outside of the breeding season. A 50m exclusion zone was required to be applied to the inactive nest during harvesting operations. The size of the exclusion zones were significant in relation to the size of Corunna State Forest.
These exclusion zones were applied by FCNSW though the forestry operation, and it is understood that they were actively monitored by FCNSW throughout the harvesting operation to ensure minimal impact on the nesting eagles and their fledgling. The EPA is in the process of assessing FCNSW compliance with these requirements.
The presence of Swift Parrots has previously been recorded in the section of Corunna, west of Princes Highway. The Southern IFOA Threatened Species Licence (TSL) requires that where there is a record of a Swift Parrot within a state forest compartment, at least ten eucalypt feed trees must be retained within every two hectares of net logging area. Additionally, where a Swift Parrot is observed feeding, the tree in which the bird is feeding must be retained. These trees must be clearly marked for retention.
The EPA conducted two site inspections of Corunna State Forest before harvesting operations commenced, to ensure FCNSW had identified and marked for retention the correct number and types of trees for swift parrots.
The EPA is now in the process of assessing FCNSW compliance with these requirements.
In late October 2018 community surveillance captured clear images of a Masked Owl in Corunna State Forest and sought clarification about the protection of this species, and landscape exclusion zones for large owls in the applicable Southern IFOA Threatened Species Licence (TSL).
Owl landscape exclusion zones are a permanent protection network for owls and are a key component of the permanent habitat protection network in State forests. In 2001, FCNSW elected to adopt a landscape approach to protecting large forest owls as per the TSL, and as part of adopting this process, 23 separate planning areas were created. The owl landscape protections in the South Bodalla planning area are available from the EPA Native Forestry map viewer.
Owl landscape protections can include nearby National Parks, areas already excluded by the IFOAs, and additional areas of State Forest that had modelled habitat for large forest owls.
As FCNSW elected to apply this landscape based approach in Corunna State Forest, the site-based approach to owl protection in the TSL does not apply. The TSL outlines specific requirements for the implementation of the Landscape Approach under 6.4.2.
A review of the South Bodalla planning area confirmed FCNSW complies with condition 6.4.2 as outlined in the Southern IFOA TSL. The owl landscape exclusion zones that were set in place in the early 2000s mean that there are no additional site protections required for the masked owl under the TSL, unless a nest or roost of Large Forest Owls is discovered.
If a nest or roost for a Masked Owl is identified, then the TSL requires additional protections for the nest or roost in the form of an exclusion zone with a 50m radius around the nest and roost site.
Stream and waterway protections
In March 2018, FCNSW informed DPI - Marine Parks of the planned harvesting operations in Corunna State Forest adjacent to Batemans Marine Park and the Bogola Sanctuary Zone. In consultation, both parties agreed to adopt a 50m exclusion zone from the mean high-water mark of Corunna Lake.
Under the Southern IFOA, minimum exclusion zones around water bodies such as Corunna Lake must be at least 50m wide. The initial exclusion zone agreed on by DPI – Marine Parks and FCNSW complies with the minimum requirements in the IFOA.
It is understood that in early August 2018, before logging operations had commenced, the local community contacted FCNSW about concerns that sediment runoff linked to forestry operations could result in an increase in nutrient levels in the adjacent Corunna Lake, making it more susceptible to algal blooms. Consistent with the IFOA requirements, FCNSW maintained the 50m exclusion zone without change.
In addition to its ongoing inspections during operations, the EPA will assess whether the IFOA requirements were met after harvesting operations have concluded.
EPAs monitoring and regulatory oversight of the operation
In June, July, and August 2018 the EPA carried out additional pre-harvest inspections in Corunna SF. During these inspections the EPA did not observe any prospective significant non-compliance issues.
The EPA subsequently contacted FCNSW, requesting operational planning information and highlighting the EPA’s pre-harvesting focus areas: compliance with exclusion zones for both White-bellied Sea-Eagles’ nests and retention rates for Swift Parrot feed trees.
On an operational level, EPA officers sought clarification on exclusion zone boundaries and on the lack of in-field marking for drainage features, requesting information on FCNSW’s internal standard operating procedures related to in-field marking of Threatened Ecological Communities.
EPA officers have continued inspections after logging operations commenced to ensure compliance with the IFOA and have maintained ongoing engagement with FCNSW regarding their operations.
Shortly after announcing the planned logging operations, the EPA met with FCNSW and members of local community groups. This meeting allowed the EPA and FCNSW to communicate their respective roles, responsibilities and mandates, and to indicate how both organisations would work with the community, before harvesting operations started.
EPA officers met with community members over the following months, to discuss concerns and issues to be assessed. These meetings were informative and constructive, and offered a forum to further expand on the types of issues the community could direct to the EPA and which issues were best raised with FCNSW or other agencies.
On commencement of harvesting operations EPA officers responded to a significant number of community inquiries. Most of these inquiries related to protection of Corunna Lake water quality and the Masked Owl.
In addition to their recurring inspections during the harvesting period, EPA officers will undertake a final inspection to assess compliance with the IFOA requirements. The EPA will report on the outcomes of this inspection and take all necessary and appropriate actions in accordance with its compliance policies.