A Sustainable Timber Tasmania contractor was alleged to have breached a forest plan for a forestry coupe in the Styx Valley by logging during wet weather, resulting in the plan being altered to allow the activity.
Forestry Watch volunteers raised the issue with the regulator Forest Practices Authority on August 27, resulting in the temporary suspension of logging activities in the coupe south-east of New Norfolk while an investigation occurred.
The initial restriction on wet weather logging in the coupe was to protect subsurface streams beneath dolarite rock that can reach the surface during protracted rainfall events.
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On August 31, following the investigation, the plan was amended to allow for wet weather logging, with the FPA stating the initial clause was “an oversight”.
“The original prescription for dry weather harvest only was too conservative for the very stony soil type actually present; it was probably based on limited observations before the road was cut, showing the true nature of the soils,” the FPA response stated.
The 78-hectare coupe, which contains native eucalypt forest with mixed rainforest understorey but no known old growth, has been harvested over the past two years with 75 per cent using conventional methods and the remainder cable logged.
When logging was suspended, Forestry Watch volunteers were able to enter the coupe to document logging activity.
Forestry Watch spokesperson Jack O’Hare said it was concerning that the STT contractor had been found allegedly not following the forest plan.
“There was an inclusion in that plan for no wet weather logging, but it was disregarded and logging went ahead, so it raises the question: if something as simple as this is being disregarded, then what else is not being followed?” he said.
“We’re trying to provide independent regulation of logging and to ensure accountability to make sure the code is being adhered to.”
Mr O’Hare said the subsurface streams should have been protected when they formed surface streams, but the FPA stated these were not adequately mappable.
A spokesperson for STT said they had been proactive in suspending harvesting to allow for the investigation.
“Initial investigations have confirmed that no environmental harm has occurred, harvesting is within permissible harvest boundaries, and streams have been protected by machinery exclusion zones that allow for the careful extraction of timber due to the low erodibility of the soils in accordance with the Forest Practices Code,” the spokesperson said.
“The Forest Practices Plan for the site has been updated since its initial development based on improved information including: detailed and highly accurate contour and drainage mapping, increasing the level of protection provided to adjacent forest excluded from harvesting, and adjusting the permissible machinery types to protect important forest values.”