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New Regional Forest Agreements signal move to lower value products and less protection

“The new Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) for the Eden and Southern Regions in NSW are signalling a path of even more destructive logging and lower value processing,” according to forest campaigner, Harriett Swift.

New RFAs were signed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Gladys Berejiklian on 28 November but only released over a week later after a Senate resolution demanded that the papers be tabled. The resolution was moved by Greens Senator Janet Rice.

The Deed of Variation[i] shows the original RFAs and extensive changes to them. 

Ms Swift, who is convener of the Chipstop Campaign said that the “Deed of Variation” is a sleight of hand to give the impression that these are not really a new agreements, only a variations on the old ones.

“We believe this is because of legal doubts about whether they have followed a proper process in renewing them for a further 20 years.”

Important changes are:
- firewood and ‘biomaterial’[ii] have been added.
- an unambiguous tick to whole log exports. In the first RFAs there was a reference to the lifting of Export Controls on “woodchips or unprocessed wood.” It is now "woodchips and unprocessed wood."

“Both of these changes favour the woodchipping industry at Eden which we understand has plans for exporting sawlogs.”

“These changes either legitimize what is already happening, such as felling trees for firewood, or past failed projects like the wood fired power station and pellet plant at the Eden chipmill.”

“The first RFAs did not mention climate change, which has been added now[iii] but it is vague and hard to see how it will tap the potential of forests to sequester and store carbon.”

“From the new RFA it is clear that there are many more threatened species now than 20 years ago. They also show that many species are now listed at a higher risk status.”

“There are extensive changes in the new agreement, but the move to lower value products and less processing is what stands out, especially for the Eden Region.”

“The most positive thing in the new RFAs is that termination is possible, albeit by a fairly convoluted process,” Ms Swift said.
6 December 2018


 

[i] You can download them from links on https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/forestry/regional-framework

[ii] Biomaterial is wood to be burned for electricity or wood pellets for burning.

[iii] Climate changes provisions 67C

The parties acknowledge:

(a) Climate change is driving more extreme weather events that will impact on Forest Management, including Biodiversity and Listed Species and Communities, resource availability, and risk management for projected increases in frequency and magnitude of hazards including fire, floods, Regional Forest Agreement for the Eden Region of NSW storms, sea level rise and heatwaves;

(b) integrating climate change adaptation into Forest Management is required to build resilience and manage climate risks and meet the objectives of ESFM; and

(c) the need to manage Forests to maintain or enhance the contribution of all elements of the Forest Estate to the effective management of carbon within the carbon cycle.