Bellingen Shire Mayor calls to suspend logging with the immediate bushfire threat on koala habitat and endangered plant communities

Acknowledging the significant impact of the recent bushfires on our community, Bellingen Shire Council Mayor, Cr Dominic King calls for the State Government to place a moratorium on logging until the fire emergency is over and there is time to assess the forestry estate.

Cr King said loss and fragmentation of habitat is recognised as a key threat for endangered species and as such highlights the importance of protecting our remaining forests.

“This region’s unique forests are recognised as one of the thirty-six biodiversity hotspots in the world and with more than 150,000 hectares of forest burned in these unprecedented fires in and around our Shire, we cannot afford to lose any more environmentally significant habitat.”

With the continued devastation from the Spring 2019 bushfire season and loss of critical habitat and koalas across the mid north coast,  Mayor Dominic King is calling for the suspension on logging in Bellingen Shire and regions suffering extreme bushfire threat until the following occur:

  1. The immediate threat of bushfires subsides within the region

  2. Rainfall of 160-200mm across the region is received to support the effort to stop the current fires. It is Council’s understanding that this is the estimated required rainfall to manage the fire risk as provided by the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

  3. An assessment of the impact the fires have had on koala habitat and endangered plant communities is conducted by qualified professionals

  4. The number of koalas and endangered plant communities lost to fires are quantified.

Bellingen Shire Council has a significant track record in its effort to advocate and lobby for reassurance that every endeavour and appropriate resources are being devoted to ensuring that world heritage listed forests are being protected.

In March 2018 Council considered a notice of motion expressing concern around budget and staff cuts, and restructures taking place at that time within the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the risk this presents to the economy, visitor safety, public amenity and the environment.

Council has also endorsed in principle the establishment of the Great Koala National Park and committed funding to the development of a business case to garner Government support. The main objective of The Great Koala National Park is to protect koalas and their habitat through adding an additional 175,000ha of native state forests across the Mid North Coast to existing protected areas, significantly enhancing and protecting the natural environment.

Additionally at its 23 October 2019 meeting Bellingen Shire Council voted to support the Kalang Headwaters Nature Reserve Proposal, which aims to protect the health of the Kalang and Bellinger Rivers and its iconic forests by preventing industrial logging in the headwaters of the Kalang River and remaining areas of the Bellinger River not yet protected in National Park or Nature Reserve.

Cr King said the Headwaters Nature Reserve Proposal had been developed by the Friends of the Kalang Headwaters in collaboration with the Bellingen Environment Centre, Kalang River Forest Alliance, National Parks Association of NSW and a significant number of concerned members of our community.

“There are already more than 3,500 signatures on the petition to the NSW Parliament supporting the Headwaters Nature Reserve proposal, which is a strong indication that there is widespread community support in our Shire, the region and beyond to protect this area from industrial logging.”

Council has made representations to the Premier, The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, the NSW Environment Minister, The Hon. Matt Kean MP and our local State Member, The Hon. Melinda Pavey in its endeavours to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and protection of our world heritage listed forests.

Cr King identifies the strong community-driven campaign opposing Forestry Corporation’s plans to log compartments in the Kalang headwaters and the importance of protecting the areas significant biodiversity.

“We have a responsibility to protect our local natural environment, and by preserving the health of our rivers, valleys and forests we will ensure that our Shire continues to remain a unique and important habitat for endangered wildlife and plant communities.