“One Stop Chop” Regional Forest Agreements’ failure has broad lessons
An expert national review of Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) has given a decisive thumbs down to the legal framework for native forest logging and woodchipping on the NSW far south coast.
The report: “One Stop Chop; How Regional Forest Agreements Streamline Environmental Destruction” was released nationally today. It highlights the risks of handing over Commonwealth environmental powers to State Governments, as advocated by the Coalition, while the ALP sits on the fence.
“The example of forests, where powers were handed over to States 15 years ago provide a stark example of what not to do,” according to South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA) spokesperson, Harriett Swift.
SERCA was one of 3 environmental groups which commissioned the Environmental Defenders Offices (EDO) study in States with RFAs.
EDOs have today written to Prime Minister Rudd and Environment Minister, Mark Butler, advising that they are looking into legal options if the Commonwealth fails to fulfill its international environmental obligations.
Ms Swift said that the Commonwealth has turned a blind eye to repeated failures of the State systems and the study reveals RFAs for the far south coast are among the worst.
“Importantly for our region, we still do not have a realistic prescription to protect koalas from logging”, she said.
“In most States members of the public can take legal action against the State logging agency if it fails to abide by laws to enforce environmental and other standards.”
“In NSW this is explicitly prohibited. We have the absurd situation where only a government agency can prosecute for illegal logging, with taxpayers ultimately footing the bill in the event that the Forestry Corporation is fined.”
The report concludes that, with few exceptions, regulations, standards, monitoring and compliance by State governments have been weaker than they would have been under Commonwealth threatened species laws.
· State protections for threatened species have been inadequate;
· The opportunity for adaptive management (changing management to take account of new information or new conditions such as global warming) is severely constrained;
· Reviews of the operation of the RFAs have been inadequate;
· Monitoring, compliance and enforcement by States are inadequate; and
· Third party participation, so vital often in environmental protection, is limited.
The report comes as NSW is poised to further weaken protection for forest wildlife under a “remake” of its Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs) for the coastal regions. This is intended to save money and “simplify” native forest logging approvals, and to make it legal to burn native forest trees for electricity.
31 July 2013
The full report is available at: www.edovic.org.au/blog/RFA-report