A movement to halt planned logging in Kiwarrak State Forest is gaining momentum.
The Friends of Kiwarrak group was created recently by local community members who are concerned about the impact logging will have on flora and fauna in the forest, particularly koalas.
Kiwarrak State Forest is part of the Kiwarrak ARKS (Area of Regional Koala Significance) because of the high density of koala populations in the area, particularly around Tinonee, near where the logging will take place.
Kiwarrak State Forest was devastated by the 2019 Black Summer bushfires, and the forest is still recovering. The koala population within the forest was heavily impacted, and Friends of Kiwarrak are concerned the logging will further impact the endangered species.
MidCoast Council mayor Claire Pontin wrote letters to the NSW Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty MLC and Minister for Natural Resources Courtney Houssos MLC saying there was "significant community concern with regards to the planned harvesting operations" and asking that logging in Kiwarrak forest be "substantially postponed or abandoned".
Cr Pontin said that koala conservation is a focus area of MidCoast Council under the NSW Koala Strategy, and noted that Kiwarrak State Forest was within the Kiwarrak ARKS.
She said that council was "very concerned regarding these operations at this time".
"The koala population within this forest was reduced by 50-80 per cent because of the 2019 bushfires. The planned introduction of logging activities at this time has the potential to physically endanger and add to the stressors affecting the remaining, depleted koala population, thus markedly inhibiting its recovery," Cr Pontin wrote.
Logging will also disrupt ecological burning trials for koala recovery and conservation in the forest being done by Hunter Local Land Services, a partner with council in the Koala Strategy, Cr Pontin said.
NSW Forestry Corporation's plans
The NSW Forestry Corporation (NSWFC) plans to selectively log four adjoining compartments of Kiwarrak State Forest that total 947 hectares. The area was last logged in 1994.
The area to be logged surrounds and includes the Kiwarrak Mountain Bike Trails, across the Bucketts Way from the Taree Waste Management Centre (tip) and close to the Tinonee township.
"The mountain bike trails that are out in the Kiwarrak MTB park, within the Kiwarrak State Forest, are a massive asset to our town and local businesses," Paul Bennett of Manning Great Lakes Tip Riders Mountain Bike Club said.
"It is known as one of the best parks in the state and draws in visitors from all around Australia helping to boost tourism in our area.
"Since the fires in 2019, which devastated the park, a great deal of money and effort has been injected into the recovery of the forest. It would be disappointing to undo all of the progress that has been made."
NSWFC plans to start harvesting on November 13, 2023 with an estimated completion date by May 17, 2024, weather permitting.
Lantana Crossing Road, Deans Creek Road, Tinonee Road and The Bucketts Way will be affected.
Friends of Kiwarrak group plans
The Friends of Kiwarrak have already held a "One Stop Info Shop" information booth at the Mountain Bike Park carpark.
They are currently making signs to be hung up on roadsides and other items that may be used in protest. Anyone interested in helping them is invited to Mondrook Hall for a morning of crafting on Tuesday, September 26 from 11.30am.
A public meeting will be held at Tinonee Public School on Tuesday, October 17 at 6pm.
If you are interested in joining Friends of Kiwarrak or just keeping up to date, follow them on Facebook, or email FriendsofKiwarrak@gmail.com.
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