Politics Opinion

Media's censorship of major issue in pre-election NSW appalling

By | | comments |
Dominic Perrottet is up for re-election as premier of NSW on 25 March (Image by Dan Jensen)

Mainstream media is censoring a major NSW election issue as industrial logging of NSW native forests continues to gather dust in political closets.

News Ltd and the Sydney Morning Herald have ignored the extraordinary extent of scientific and community concern and evidence. When News Ltd acquired many local and regional newspapers, coverage of the critical problems in forest management disappeared.

The practices of Forestry Corporation (FC), a state-owned corporation responsible for managing the forests, need the widest exposure. Fulfilling wood supply contracts is FC’s primary purpose, with a secondary nod to ecologically sustainable forest management (ESFM).

Attempting to discover the extent of logging and current and future plans to log highly sensitive forest compartments can only be described as a shell game.

For the beginner, there’s no better place to start than with Forestry Corporation’s plan portal Coastal IFOA Native Forest Plan of Operations Map (12 months) — see below. CIFOA, as it’s commonly known, is the approval permitting native forest compartments to be logged.

Source: planportal/fcnsw.net/

In order to access harvest plans, which are drawn up by FC, it is necessary to register a user name and an email address. A password is required. The user name and email address are visible to FC staff for any subscribed plan.

Once the map of operations is accessed, it shows a series of tiny coloured dots which are supposed to indicate active, approved, planning and proposed, suspended, completed and unknown logging operations. Opening any coloured dot is an exercise in frustration as it’s strictly a hit-and-miss operation which may or may not bring up the relevant harvest plan.

If you are very patient, an approved harvest plan, which is the focus of any search, may open. However, the details of this plan are also hidden behind more links, including 'linked plans, land units, files, notes, subscribers and audit info' — another exercise in frustration as there’s no information directing the seeker to “files” where the harvest plan which controls the logging of specific compartments is found.

The date of approval of the harvest plan is highly relevant as the public citizen has only 48 hours to send in a submission of objection or concern to the FC. Submissions are largely ignored.

Harvest plans are valid for up to ten years, 'depending on a number of factors including market conditions and weather'.

FC’s overview of NSW forest management framework states:

'The IFOAs do not authorise harm to any ecological community or endangered populations (unless expressly permitted otherwise) listed under the "BC Act" [Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 No 63].'

The list of critically endangered and endangered ecological communities under the BC Act is extensive and includes many communities targeted by the FC.  

Under CIFOA protocols: 

'... it is a defence to a prosecution under Part 2, Division 1 of the "BC Act" if the act that constituted the offence was the carrying out of a forestry operation to which an IFOA applies and the forestry operation was carried out in accordance with the approval and protocols.'

In other words, the IFOAs can target ecological communities as the BC Act can’t be used as a defence. 

Given the lack of any strong compliance measures in the IFOAs, the five-year review – which is incorporated in NSW regional forest agreements – is the next shell game.

According to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) website:

'NSW and Australian governments are required to review the RFAs every five years to assess progress regarding ecologically sustainable forest management [ESFM].'

The last review was undertaken in 2009-2014 and tabled in NSW Parliament in 2018. Nine years have passed since that review. A further change in the NSW regional forest agreement provided for the next five-yearly review to commence in 2024.

Sixteen recommendations were made by the independent reviewer. However, other than a joint response by both governments which was summed up as 'the parties agree in principle with the reviewer’s recommendation', no implementation appears to have occurred.

Recommendation ten is worth exploring:

'The parties conduct a contemporary review of the native forest timber industry considering the effect of climate change, the overall conservation status of the forest…'

In the August 2018 joint-government response

The NSW Government recognised that the management of state forests needs to be informed by an improved understanding of climate change risks in relation to:


  • available wood, forest products and water resources;
  • threatened species populations, densities and distribution;
  • impacts on threatened species habitats and threatened ecological communities;
  • forest health and biosecurity; and
  • bushfire frequency and intensity.

The NSW Government is committed to the integration of climate change adaption and mitigation into the management of state forests.

Yet the updated NSW regional forest agreement and CIFOA signed in November 2018 contained no reference to either climate change or bushfire frequency and intensity.

These are incredible gaps in requirements and information. Given that the 2019-2020 bushfires caused catastrophic damage to the forests, forest-dependent species and a host of complex issues, to allow a decade to pass before assessing whether progress has been made in ESFM is scandalous.

The answer to whether any progress in ESFM has been made is simple. 


On the contrary, the lack of any assessment post the three-year drought which preceded the Black Summer bushfires has allowed high biodiversity forests to be bulldozed, causing major loss of biodiversity, invertebrates and riparian zones as well as putting at risk certain species of eucalypts.

Forestry Corporation and the previous Coalition Government ignored the 2020 review of CIFOA mitigation conditions for timber harvesting in burnt landscapes commissioned by the EPA.

The review indicated that the time required for recovery of threatened and sensitive species after average fires ranges from ten to 120 years. Koala recovery times were estimated at up to 45 years and 20 to 120 years for the great and yellow-bellied glider.

In its executive summary, Dr Andrew Smith stated:

Fauna populations surviving in fire refuges in state forests are at risk of elimination by timber harvesting under the normal CIFOA which could prevent recovery and cause catastrophic population decline in species such as the koala, greater glider and yellow-bellied glider.


It was concluded that the normal CIFOA in the context of the 2019/20 wildfires will not deliver ecologically sustainable management as required under the objectives of the 'Forestry Act 2012' and is likely to cause a significant impact under the 'NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016' and the 'Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999'. 

In 2022, former Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley up-listed the koala and greater glider to endangered status under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act 1999). 

The Perrottet Government ignored the 2020 review and the up-listings, as did the FC.

Given the massive evidence of destruction and ongoing industrial logging, there’s growing concern that NSW native forests are heading for a potential ecological collapse.

That mainstream media continues to ignore the issue, censoring critically important information on native forests under further threats, increasing impacts of climate change and potentially more intensive bushfires, is bad enough.

But the irresponsibility of the Perrottet Government in failing to protect our life support systems is completely unacceptable.

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.

Related Articles

Recent articles by Sue Arnold
Minns Government sells out Great Koala National Park

In a stunning blow to the promised creation of the Great Koala National Park, the ...  
Governments turning deaf ears on logging outrage

Governments at both state and federal levels are continuing to ignore the enviro ...  
Polar regions in peril without government action

What will it take to get any government to recognise and take substantive action on ...  
Join the conversation
comments powered by Disqus

Support IAIndependent Australia

Subscribe to IA and investigate Australia today.

Close Subscribe Donate