Charcoal Plant Inquiry Needed

Ian Cohen MLC
The Greens
Legislative Council, Parliament House
Macquarie Street, SYDNEY 2OOO
Ph: 02 9230 2603 Fax: 02 9230 2267
Mobile: 0409 989 466



Greens MLC Ian Cohen has called for a parliamentary inquiry into State Forests’ plans to supply timber to the highly controversial South Coast charcoal plant at Mogo near Batemans Bay

“It now seems that State Forests continued to use the contentious herbicide Tordon to poison trees in the adjoining Eden (Far South Coast) Forest Region after telling its Minister, and the public, in early October 2001 that it had suspended Tordon poisoning operations in the South Coast Forest Region around Batemans Bay, after public outrage at the poisoning,” said Ian Cohen MLC.

“The Minister for Forests, Kim Yeadon, yesterday inadvertently exposed the deception in a media statement. While denying that poisoning of Batemans Bay forests had continued after October last year, when he informed Parliament that the poisoning in [all] NSW forests had been stopped, he revealed that poisoning in Eden forests had continued for at least another month.”

“Documents (all supporting documents are available) that I have obtained show that :-

“State Forests initial supply planning for the Mogo Charcoal Plant included the poisoned timber from Batemans Bay forests.

“State Forests subsequently proposed to supplement the supply with Eden timber, where poisoning had continued until a senior State Forests employee became alarmed at the implications. State Forests had initially insisted that the South Coast Region forests could provide all the necessary timber, a massive 200,000 tonnes a year for 20 years.

“State Forests has redefined previously unlogged, non-commercial tree species such as redwoods and ironbarks as ‘residue’ timbers available for the charcoal plant. These trees are then targeted for so called thinning operations, by poisoning, ringbarking or felling, or are classified as logging waste from woodchip and sawlog operations despite being unwanted for either purpose. However, many of them are critical for food and shelter resources for over 400 species of native birds and animals because they are often the larger, older trees left from previous logging operations

“State Forests engaged in protracted discussions with the Department of Planning to change the proposed Southern Region Forest Agreement to accommodate the charcoal timber supply after its public exhibition in May 2001. The Forest Agreement is the internal NSW Government approval which frees State Forests from the usual environmental planning and assessment requirements for forestry operations

“The exhibited draft Forest Agreement made no reference to the charcoal supply. There is no evidence that the ‘comprehensive regional forest assessment’, which underpins the Forest Agreement, ever considered the impacts of the charcoal supply.

“The Forest Agreement was not signed off by the NSW Government until 3 May 2002, two days after its 1 May approval of the charcoal plant.

“State Forests signed a confidential Timber Supply Agreement with the charcoal plant operator on 4 February 2002 before the Environmental Impact Statement submissions for the charcoal plant were complete or any planning approval given,

“The Timber Supply Agreement was made in February 2002 but the Government was still saying in April that no decision would be made on the charcoal plant until all EIS submissions had been thoroughly considered. In the event, a record number of submissions were lodged, over 1530. Some 98% opposed the plant and the Department of Planning did not complete its examination of the submissions and make its report until late April.”

“Each of these points raise the question whether this state agency, charged with the environmentally responsible management of our public forest resource, has persuaded, or aided, the Carr Government to approve a massive new woodchipping operation to feed the charcoal plant on the basis of deception, that no tree would be felled just to provide charcoal and that no poisoned trees had been included in the supply calculations?”

“As I predicted, the tabling of the charcoal plant documents is beginning to unravel a betrayal of the broader public interest surrounding the charcoal plant deal.”

“There is much more to be revealed and I am convinced that a parliamentary inquiry is required.”

“I shall be seeking support for the inquiry from the Opposition and the cross bench members who supported my initial motion that condemned the Government over its approval of the plant, just 3 weeks ago.”

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