Illegal NSW logging result of human error

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Recent illegal logging was due to "human error" in an office which led contractors to fell the wrong trees, the boss of NSW's native timber logging corporation says.

"We carry out hundreds of operations in the state forest each year, and the majority of them are fully compliant with the law," Forestry Corporation of NSW CEO Anshul Chaudhary told a budget estimates hearing on Monday.

The Forestry Corporation manages more than 20,000 square kilometres of native and plantation forests in NSW, and has recently been fined more than $500,000 in the Land and Environment Court for illegal logging.

"Sometimes, unfortunately, due to human error, unintentional mistakes occur," Mr Chaudhary said.

"When you look at them, majority of them occur in an office environment where a map hasn't been updated, or something along those lines, and that has resulted in a contractor going into an exclusion zone."

Some incidents dated back as far as 2017 and 2020, and the corporation had since reworked its compliance systems, he said.

The corporation was now conducting more pre-harvest audits, had more on-the-ground staff and had re-inducted its contractors.

Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said human and technological error would no longer be acceptable excuses for the Forestry Corporation.

Mr Saunders said he had made it clear in his meetings with Mr Chaudhary the government and the community expected 100 per cent compliance.

"There's no excuse for not getting it right," Mr Saunders said.

The Forestry Corporation was fined $230,000 In June after carrying out illegal logging in a potential roosting area for native bats at the Dampier State Forest, near Bodalla on the South Coast.

The corporation was convicted of three offences in the Land and Environment Court over mapping errors, which saw it breach approvals, carrying out illegal forestry activities within an exclusion zone.

The logging occurred around a disused mine shaft in 2019.

The Forestry Corporation received a second fine of $285,000 in June, after the Land and Environment Court found logging in state forest west of Coffs Harbour in 2018 damaged koala habitat.

The corporation acknowledged mapping errors had contributed to both incidents and said they had reviewed and improved their systems since that time.

The corporation has to follow guidelines while logging, including how many "hollow bearing trees" - which provide vital habitat for marsupials - it sets aside while felling.

There are about five million hollow bearing trees within the harvestable area on the NSW coast, and three to four times that in inland areas, according to Forestry Corporation modelling, Mr Chaudhary said.

After the Black Summer bushfires in 2019 and 2020, the Forestry Corporation made its own assessments and created tree retention areas, some of which remain in place, he added.