Coastal IFOA remake (Supplementary advice)
Integrated forestry operations approval (IFOA) outlines the conditions and settings for harvesting timber on NSW state forest and Crown timber land, including provisions for the protection of the environment and for threatened species conservation.
In November 2016, we reviewed the outstanding settings for the new Coastal IFOA and advised the Government on the extent to which the proposed settings would, or would not, deliver on the Government’s twin commitments of no net change to wood supply and no erosion of environmental values.
In November 2017, the Premier asked us under a subsequent Terms of Reference, to provide supplementary advice on whether the Government could remap and rezone old growth and rainforests on north coast state forests, as a way to meet its twin commitments for environmental values and wood supply.
We ran a pilot to remap old growth and rainforests on 13 sites nominated by the Environment Protection Authority and the Forestry Corporation of NSW in north coast state forests. The Commission engaged the then Office of Environment and Heritage to independently undertake remapping using existing peer-reviewed protocols to reassess old growth and rainforest for private native forestry.
We found the existing protocols are objective and can be improved through mandatory field work when remapping on state forests. We also found the accuracy of current mapping could be significantly improved by applying modern technologies and new data.
Our final report identified significant errors in current old growth and rainforest mapping, both in terms of forest extent and location. For example, no old growth was found in six of the 13 remapped sites. Further, four of the 13 remapped sites found old growth largely outside of the current mapped areas. In one site, field work identified high quality habitat in areas remapped as no longer having old growth. Overall, the extent of old growth forest reduced by 78 percent and rainforest by 35 percent when aggregated across all the 13 pilot sites.
Importantly, the pilot showed NSW can continue to meet its commitment under the North East Regional Forest Agreement by only remapping old growth forest ecosystems that are above the JANIS reservation targets.
The Forestry Corporation of NSW’s analysis estimated there is sufficient volumes of high-quality commercial timber within areas that may be remapped to offset the estimated short falls arising from the recommended IFOA settings. We concluded that the Government could meet the twin commitments by implementing a risk-based, two-way remapping process with built-in environmental safeguards to meet verified wood supply shortfalls.
In May 2018, the NSW Government accepted our proposed process to remap old growth forests, and committed to further remapping to improve its understanding of the NSW forest estate.