RFAs cru­cial to long-term prospects

Australian Forests and Timber - - Front Page -

The re­cent Fed­eral Court de­ci­sion to up­hold the va­lid­ity of Re­gional For­est Agree­ments sent a strong sig­nal that the RFAs strike the right bal­ance be­tween en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and eco­nomic man­age­ment of Aus­tralia’s forests.

“The Aus­tralian for­est in­dus­tries welcome this vin­di­ca­tion of our sus­tain­able, re­new­able in­dus­try which re­lies on the lat­est avail­able sci­ence to en­sure our pre­cious na­tive for­est re­source is sus­tain­ably man­aged to en­sure it is avail­able to all Aus­tralians in per­pe­tu­ity,” said Ross Hamp­ton, CEO of the Aus­tralian For­est Prod­ucts As­so­ci­a­tion (AFPA).

“The facts are that Aus­tralia’s RFA frame­work rightly de­mands the high­est en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards and is com­ple­mented by rig­or­ous state-level en­vi­ron­men­tal laws, on par with the Com­mon­wealth En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion and Bio­di­ver­sity Con­ser­va­tion (EPBC) Act. This de­ci­sion by WKH )HGHUDO &RXUW KDV FRQ¿UPHG that.”

While the judge hear­ing the case de­ferred a de­ci­sion on some op­er­a­tional as­pects sep­a­rate to the sub­stan­tive point of whether RFAs were in­valid be­cause of GHOD\V LQ WKH ¿YH \HDUO\ UHYLHZV – which would have na­tional im­pli­ca­tions – Mr Hamp­ton said he hoped the mat­ter would be promptly re­solved to pro­vide cer­tainty to in­dus­try and al­low VicForests to get on with car­ing for our forests.

He said it was vi­tal that the Fed­eral and Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ments pri­ori­tised the 20-year ex­ten­sion of the Vic­to­rian RFAs, par­tic­u­larly the Cen­tral High­lands and East Gipp­s­land RFAs.

Vic­to­ria’s forestry in­dus­tries gen­er­ate $7.3 bil­lion of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity an­nu­ally and di­rectly em­ploy around 20,000 peo­ple across Vic­to­ria and in­di­rectly sup­port an­other 40,000 to 50,000 jobs. Many of these jobs are lo­cated in ru­ral and re­gional Vic­to­ria.

RFAs seek to bal­ance com­pet­ing eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal de­mands on forests by set­ting obli­ga­tions and com­mit­ments for for­est man­age­ment that de­liver:

cer­tainty of re­source ac­cess and sup­ply to in­dus­try – build­ing LQYHVWPHQW FRQ¿GHQFH eco­log­i­cally sus­tain­able for­est man­age­ment – en­sur­ing forests are ap­pro­pri­ately man­aged and re­gen­er­ated

an ex­panded and per­ma­nent for­est con­ser­va­tion es­tate – to pro­vide for the pro­tec­tion of Aus­tralia’s unique for­est bio­di­ver­sity.

The Com­mon­wealth and four State Gov­ern­ments pro­gres­sively signed the 10 RFAs be­tween 1997 and 2001. There are 10 RFAs in four states cov­er­ing com­mer­cial na­tive forestry UHJLRQV ± ¿YH LQ 9LFWRULD WKUHH LQ New South Wales and one each in Western Aus­tralia and Tas­ma­nia. The Aus­tralian and Queens­land gov­ern­ments com­pleted a Com­pre­hen­sive Re­gional As­sess­ment for South-East Queens­land but did not sign an RFA.

The 20-year RFA agree­ments around Aus­tralia have been in­de­pen­dently as­sessed time and time again as ex­ceed­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­quire­ments of the Com­mon­wealth En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion and Bio­di­ver­sity Con­ser­va­tion Act 1999, while pro­vid­ing a level of re­source se­cu­rity for in­dus­try.

The Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment is on record as strongly sup­port­ing Aus­tralia’s for­est in­dus­try and is FRPPLWWHG WR IXO¿OOLQJ LWV HOHF­tion com­mit­ment to rolling 20 year ex­ten­sions to all 10 RFAs across Aus­tralia.

Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull has said Aus­tralia “should be a for­est in­dus­try in­ter­na­tional pow­er­house”.

He told an in­dus­try din­ner last year ... “We have the trees, we have the great in­dus­try, we have the sci­ence. What we have to do, is get on with it. We’re com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing this in­dus­try as a growth en­gine for re­gional Aus­tralia.” ³:KHQ EXVLQHVVHV DUH FRQ¿dent, when they know the gov­ern­ment backs them, they in­vest and they hire,” the Prime Min­is­ter said.

“Our achieve­ment in Tas­ma­nia (in 2017) is now be­ing con­sid­ered by the other states with RFAs due to ex­pire be­tween now and 2022. To­gether with the states, we are look­ing to con­tinue to bal­ance en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and eco­nomic val­ues to guar­an­tee the fu­ture of the for­est in­dus­try in the long term,” said Sen­a­tor Anne Rus­ton, As­sis­tant Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources.

Map of Re­gional For­est Agree­ment and re­lated re­gions n Aus­tralia. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture & Wa­ter Re­sources. ++ The Re­gional For­est Agree­ment for North East New South Wales com­prises two sub re­gions: Up­per North East and Lower North East.

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