On 18 August 2017, the Prime Minister and the Premier signed a variation to the Regional Forest Agreement, extending the existing Agreement for an initial 20 years, with automatic renewal following each subsequent satisfactory five-yearly review.
A Conservation Assessment reviewing the CAR Reserve system was also released in support of the extension.
Variations to the RFA are largely technical, but include the following material changes:
- Explicitly provides that the Forest Management System protects Environmental, National Heritage, Commonwealth Heritage and Aboriginal Heritage Values, rather than requiring that those values be protected.
- Requires new management prescriptions to have a sound scientific basis and provide for the maintenance of species, and planning tools to be implemented, but no longer makes this requirement legally enforceable.
- Commits the State government to have regard to climate change, and to manage forests for the “effective management of carbon within the carbon cycle.”
- Expressly recognises that Special Species Timbers can be harvested in accordance with statutory management plans (such as the proposed Special Species Management Plan currently out for comment).
- Commits to “a policy of open access to information.”
An analysis of significant changes is available here.
Forestry operations conducted in accordance with the revised RFA will continue to be exempt from the EPBC Act. For a detailed analysis of the problems arising from this exemption, read our earlier report, State Forests, National Interests.