Following is a factsheet on the RFAs produced by The Wilderness Society, re-published with permission.
RFAs have failed to meet their core objectives:
- The reserve system created is inadequate to conserve biodiversity;
- Forests are not being ecologically or sustainably managed;
- Logging industry continues to be plagued by instability and uncertainty.
RFAs are out of date, and no longer fit for purpose:
They do not take into account the social, economic and environmental threats and impacts of climate change, nor the role of forests in sequestering carbon, nor the cumulative impacts of successive bushfires.
The RFAs grant one industry—native forest logging—an exemption from the assessment and approvals process under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (‘EPBC Act’); this exemption is disastrous for forest biodiversity.
Wildlife is being pushed to extinction, with tens of thousands of hectares of critical habitat for forest dependent threatened species, such as the Leadbeater’s possum and the Greater Glider, being logged under the RFAs.
More than 20,000 hectares of old-growth forest has been logged in the Central Highlands and East Gippsland since the RFA regulatory arrangements were signed.
Jobs and skills in the logging industry continue to decline as does the supply of native forest wood and fibre volumes.
- Expiry of the Victorian RFAs provided a long overdue opportunity for removal of the native forest logging industry’s unique exemption from national environment law, and instead strengthen environmental laws, create new national parks and reserves and transition the logging industry to plantations.
- The two-year extension of the Victorian RFAs continues this special treatment for the logging industry.
- The mooted review must be comprehensive, and deliver radically different forest management arrangements.
Expire - The Wilderness Society strongly recommends that, when they reach their new expiry dates, the Victorian RFAs be allowed to expire, and that native forest logging operations be subject, like all other industries, to the assessment and approvals provisions of the EPBC Act. This is particularly important considering the industry’s considerable impact on ‘matters of national environmental significance’ under the EPBC Act, such as nationally-listed threatened species.
Value all uses - Any future forest management arrangements that replace RFAs should value and account for the full range of forest uses including; conservation, tourism, recreation, water, carbon and any limited native forest logging that may form part of a rapid industry transition.
Reassessment - Any future arrangements must be based on a thorough and comprehensive consultation and reassessment of the RFAs including the changed social, environmental and economic context of forest management.