A national report on Australian forestry “One Stop Chop: How Regional Forest Agreements streamline evironmental destruction”, released today, makes it clear that State Government forestry agencies, including in NSW are not managing Australia’s forests for the long-term.
The report, was prepared by Environment Defenders Offices in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW, and edited by Lawyers for Forest.
“The current regulatory system for management of NSW’s public forests is clearly inadequate” said NCEC President Susie Russell. “Cumulative impacts are killing the possibility of much of our unique wildlife surviving into the next century. The regulations are no protection because they aren’t followed anyway. There is little auditing and virtually no monitoring of impacts.
“The Mining and Coal Seam Gas industry is running an advertising blitz calling for environmental decision-making, assessment and regulation to be taken away from the Commonwealth and handed back to State Governments. The Regional Forest Agreements are and example of all the problems with that approach.
“In the 21st century with our rivers, oceans and forests all suffering from over-extraction and pollution, and our iconic plants and wildlife under increasing threat, it is not the time to minimise environmental oversight. This Report sounds a warning and if we don’t heed the message we will repeat all the mistakes,” Ms Russell said.
NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said the Commonwealth has used the Regional Forest Agreement as its excuse for doing nothing, as the NSW Government has removed and ignored protections for federally threatened species.
“The Commonwealth did nothing when the area required to be protected around records of the nationally endangered Hasting River Mouse was slashed from a maximum of 200ha down to 12ha, despite this being in contravention of the federally adopted Hastings River Mouse Recovery Plan.
“The RFA has been the Commonwealth’s excuse for refusing to improve logging prescriptions for the nationally vulnerable Koala, or to do anything when existing requirements are routinely ignored.
“The Regional Forest Agreement should not be an acceptable excuse for the Commonwealth to ignore its obligations to protect nationally threatened species”, Mr. Pugh said.
Some quotes from the report: The report’s findings state that “the site-specific and unforeseen cumulative environmental impacts of logging within areas covered by RFAs are never assessed and managed.” p.13
And “There are serious concerns that the oversight of forestry activities is not effective as there are historic and ongoing breaches of forestry regulations.” p.14
It also suggests major problems with threatened species management, “There is an inherent conflict of interest in State forestry agencies having a significant role in implementing threatened species regulations at a site-specific, on-the ground level, without the requirement for government approval. State forestry agencies, who all have commercial objectives, seek to maximise the resource they are able to exploit and thereby maximise their returns. This objective is in direct tension with environment and threatened species regulations, which limit the amount of forest that can be cleared.” p.17
and “There is considerable evidence in both NSW and Victoria of systemic failures to comply with prescriptions designed to protect threatened species.” p.27
The report quoted a recent judgement of the NSW Land and Environment Court about the Forestry Corporation “Given the number of offences the Forestry Commission has been convicted of and in light of the additional enforcement notices issued against it, I find that the Forestry Commission’s conduct does manifest a reckless attitude towards compliance with its environmental obligations.” p.25
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