Minister supporting Regional Forest Agreements

Friday 26 Mar 2021

Native forestry in Australia will continue to be exempted from federal threatened species regulations, Assistant Forestry Minister Jonathon Duniam says, despite a major review finding national conservation law was failing to protect wildlife.

Former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel’s once-in-a-decade review of the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, published in January, said there are “fundamental shortcomings” in Regional Forest Agreements and he had “low confidence” they were upholding Commonwealth protections for native forests subject to logging operations.

Regional Forest Agreements are made between state and federal governments. The state provides a plan to “balance” the impact of logging on flora and fauna with economic factors, and in return, commercial logging operations are exempted from national laws that protect threatened species.

“Regional Forest Agreements rely on the states to undertake monitoring, compliance and enforcement, with little Commonwealth oversight,” Mr Samuel said and recommended the federal government remove the Regional Forest Agreements’ exemption from the EPBC Act.

Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie asked Mr Duniam in a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday how he would respond to the Samuel review. “Our pathway forward will be guided by industry, they will tell us what they need and my job is to deliver for them,” Senator Duniam said.

The native forestry industry is dominated by state government-owned corporations that have supported Regional Forest Agreements. “My job, broadly, is to maintain the Regional Forest Agreements in their current form,” Senator Duniam said. “We are pro-forestry, we want to grow the sector.”

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For more on the industry's response click here

Source: SMH, AFPA

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