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Byron Shire
September 19, 2021

Regional Forest Agreements consultation a ‘sham’

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Opponents of Regional Forest Agreements have been protesting outside ‘sham’ consultation sessions. Photo NCEC

The NSW and Federal governments are coming under increasing pressure to scrap Regional Forest Agreements from the Greens and environmental groups which say the current review process is a sham.

North Coast Environment Centre coordinator Susie Russell said both governments were asking people to ‘drop-in’ and comment on whether the RFAs should be extended for another 20 years.

‘Our answer is a resounding no,’ Ms Russell said.

‘Both Governments have failed to complete the reviews that were required to occur every 5 years. They have belatedly cobbled together a ‘review’, also out on public exhibition, but they aren’t waiting for the results, which is typical.

‘The main function of the RFA is to exempt logging from Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation law. This has been a disaster around the country. Logging is like a law unto itself, with minimal State Government oversight and community groups banned from taking legal actions when breaches of the law are identified.

‘We know both Governments are promoting intensification of logging, the introduction of clearfelling across most of the Mid North Coast, and weakening environmental protections for threatened species and headwater streams. They are also touting wood-fired power stations as ‘renewable’ energy. Locations identified for such smokestacks are Bulahdelah, Kempsey and Grafton..

‘At a time when Australia and the world are looking down the barrel of a climate change cannon, we should be building resilience into our natural ecosystems, not carving them up and burning them. We should be protecting our catchments to maximise water yield, not trashing them. We should be protecting and repairing the habitat of threatened species, to give them a fighting chance, not destroying it. We should be investing in genuine renewable energy technologies, not propping up unsustainable and uneconomic industries.

‘If we are to have a future, we will need to stop repeating the errors of the past. There really is no time to lose, global temperatures are rising. Unfortunately political stupidity seems to be rising as well.’

RFAs a ‘failure

Meanwhile, NSW Greens MP Dawn Walker has branded the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) a ‘failure’ and called for them to be scrapped as part of the current review process.

‘The RFAs have been a manifest failure by allowing over-logging in our precious forests, polluting waterways and destroying vital habitat for threatened species,’ Ms Walker said.

‘The RFAs were supposed to end the ‘forest wars’ between communities, Governments and loggers when they were signed approximately 20 years ago, but they have resulted in intensified logging and an alarming crash in koala populations by 50 per cent in parts of NSW.

‘Part of the problem is that the current RFAs only value of forests in a very narrow way and there have been continued breaches of regulations that were supposed to protect native species, often with zero consequence for loggers. Many of these breaches have only been documented and uncovered because of the work of conservationists.

‘It is time to move away from this outdated model of forest management and recognise our forests as more than a timber resource to log.

‘We are concerned that the Government intends to automatically renew the RFAs for a further 20 years without the rigorous studies required to underpin such an extension, and are calling for the community to make submissions against the RFAs via the submission template on my website (www.dawnwalker.org.au/regional_forest_agreements).

‘Put simply, the RFAs are a failed model of forest management and the Greens want them scrapped so we can move our wood products industries to sustainably managed plantation sources.

Opponents of the RFAs have held protests at Lismore and Coffs Harbour this week and this morning will be gathering outside the consultation session at Buladelah.

 


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2 COMMENTS

  1. It’s incredible that the EPA have recently released the 10 and 15 year compulsory reviews due in 2009 and 2014 for comment and failed to even mention over 4,000 instances of breaches of environment and threatened species legislation by Forests NSW and the 3 times they successfully sued them in the Land and Environment Court. I had to compile these breaches from the EPA annual Implementation Reports (https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/native-forestry/integrated-forestry-operations-approvals/annual-reports).
    Surely any assessment of the success or failure of the RFAs must include details of these endemic failures to follow the law. 4,000 breaches from 187 audits of between 5,000 and 6,000 native forest operations give some indication of the probable level of actual non-compliance out there in our forests. With insignificant penalties for these breaches, there has been no reduction in their occurrences over the 10 years of the review and they certainly continue to this day.
    This 384 page, 152,000 word report is a mere propaganda exercise designed to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. It’s absolute garbage that can’t be used to justify rolling over the RFAs.

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