World Wildlife Fund ranks NSW government last, SA first, in Australia in combating deforestation

The New South Wales Government has ranked last out of every state and federal government in combating deforestation. 

It comes as environmental activists and traditional owners protest logging on the north coast.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia Trees Scorecard compares how much logging happens in a state, how much of that is native forest logging, and what policies are in place to end or reduce logging.

The report ranks South Australia first, with a score of 65 per cent, finding the state has “no native forest logging, strong commitments, and a range of conservation programs”.

The Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Western Australia were next on the list, and all received  an “average” score from WWF, which the report said showed “while all have work to do, there has also been progress”.

The federal government, Northern Territory and Tasmania all returned a score of “poor”.

The WWF ranked NSW last with a score of 24 per cent, and Queensland second-last.

“NSW and Queensland sit at the bottom of the leaderboard, both scoring ‘very poor’ with opportunities for both states to increase their rank with the right type of commitment and action,” the report said.

WWF Towards Two Billion Trees project senior manager Stuart Blanch said he hoped the report would spur more action on deforestation.

“The message for New South Wales is ‘the only way is up’,” Dr Blanch said.

“The good news is that there’s people within the NSW government and other groups who understand things need to change so I hope this score card pushes along those reforms.”

Newry State Forest holds cultural importance to the Gumbaynggirr people. (Supplied: Bellingen Activist Network)

According to the report, 36 per cent of NSW’s forests and woodlands are intact, compared with 45 per cent of Queensland’s.

Protests in Newry Forest

The scorecard comes as protesters lock themselves to machinery to disrupt logging in Newry State Forest, south of Coffs Harbour.

Bellingen Activist Network spokesperson Zianna Fuad said she was unsurprised by the scorecard.

“It makes sense to us because we’re seeing it with our very own eyes,” she said.

Newry State Forest lies within the proposed area for the state government’s promised Great Koala National Park.

Renewed protests were triggered last week when forestry plans approved in May became active.

Gumbaynggirr elders established a sacred fire, and at least two people have been charged after locking on to machinery.

“The community have been fighting for this for years because it is such a significant koala area and has huge cultural value,” Ms Fuad said.

Indigenous man Wilkarr Kurikuta chains himself to Forestry equipment in Newry State Forest,

Wilkarr Kurikuta locked himself to forestry equipment at Newry State Forest early on Wednesday. (Supplied: Bellingen Activist Network)

The Forestry Corporation of NSW said Newry State Forest was being responsibly managed and regrown.

“The forest areas with the highest conservation value are permanently protected and the areas harvested for timber are regrowth forests, which have been harvested for timber and regrown many times before,” a spokesperson said.

“We respect the community’s right to protest but must remind people that active harvesting sites are worksites that contain many hazards,” he said.

Environmentalist says ‘don’t lose hope’

Dr Blanch said the WWF wanted to see native forest logging replaced with plantation logging to take pressure off woodlands.

“We can’t go on trying to eke out as much wood as Forestry Corporation want from the state forests because the wood’s just not there after the fires of 2019-20,” he said. 

“Those trees are needed to build up populations of koalas and greater gliders after those fires when those species were listed as endangered.”

Tina de Jong says small acts of everyday environmentalism are important. (ABC Riverina: Lucas Forbes)

In the state’s south, Murrumbidgee Landcare executive officer Tina de Jong said the Riverina region was among the most deforested areas in NSW.

“Probably around half the vegetation around Wagga is actually threatened, so we just need to be really careful about where we plan developments and try and keep what’s left and connect it to existing bushland,” she said.

Ms de Jong said those who want to helped the environment should focus on small things they could do.

“Don’t lose hope and do what you do well, don’t try and do everything,” she said.

“Really our environment needs lots of little actions over the long term … finding a beautiful patch of native grass and pulling out some wild oats seeds so it doesn’t become that next year.”

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has been contacted for comment. World Wildlife Fund ranks NSW government last, SA first, in Australia in combating deforestation

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