A NSW Government review of Regional Forest Agreements has been described as a smokescreen by long-time forest campaigner Dailan Pugh of the North East Foresty Alliance.
The government has announced a series of drop-in sessions in February to gather community feedback, with the first to be held in Lismore on 6 February.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Group Director Forestry Policy, Research and Development, Nick Milham, said the NSW and Australian governments are currently seeking community input through drop-in sessions, and a consultation and submission process.
‘The NSW and Australian governments are encouraging all stakeholders to have their say on what shape the RFAs should take and how we can improve the sustainable management of our native forests,’ Mr Milham said.
But Mr Pugh said the reviews were a ‘smokescreen’ for the government’s intention to renew RFAs for a further 20 years without the rigorous studies required to underpin such an extension.
‘The fact that the 10 and 15 year reviews are only now being undertaken 9 and 5 years after they were legally due is just one example of the numerous unmet commitments,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘The DPI consultation process is just window dressing.
‘The NSW Government has rejected conservation groups requests to establish a balanced committee tasked with overseeing the studies needed to underpin new RFAs, as were established for Comprehensive Regional Assessment prior to the last RFA over 20 years ago.
‘I represented conservation groups in that assessment and believe that some high quality data was obtained, though that was over 20 years ago and is now largely out of date. A lot of things have changed.
Mr Pugh said NEFA had rejected the subsequent RFA for not satisfying Government commitments, ‘though we welcomed the new national parks’.
‘There has been a progressive deterioration and rorting of the RFA provisions applying to State Forests since then, and the Government proposals are to make them a lot worse this year.
‘Our public forests are being overlogged, clearfelling is increasing, lantana and dieback are expanding, mitigation measures for threatened species are not being applied and are being wound back, erosion mitigation measures are being weakened, and the minimal stream buffers are being reduced
‘Because of the RFA’s failure to deliver on the promised Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management, NSW conservation groups oppose renewal of the RFAs and want to see logging excluded from all public forests and a massive rehabilitation project commenced.’
Meanwhile, Mr Milham said the RFAs were in place to ensure the sustainable management and conservation of Australia’s native forests.
‘The renewal consultation coincides with a review being undertaken on how we are tracking in current implementation of the RFAs.
‘This provides our stakeholders with a full picture on how we have performed under the existing agreements, while at the same time what the future holds, and how we can learn from our experience over the past 20 years.’
Anyone wanting to comment on the review should check out drop-in sessions in their area by visiting www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/forestry/regional-framework
Submissions can be made online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au, via email and via mail until 5pm on Monday 12 March 2018. For more information on Regional Forest Agreements and the renewal consultation, visit the DPI website.