An independent review of NSW’s Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) has confirmed that they are meeting all environmental objectives and affirmed the need for their long-term extension, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), Mr Ross Hampton and Chief Executive Officer of Timber NSW, Ms Maree McCaskill said today.

“We welcome the review’s findings and agree with the recommendations around additional resourcing to support the timeliness and transparency of the RFA reporting requirements. However, while most of the focus is on the environmental outcomes which are being met or exceeded, the five-yearly reviews and ongoing monitoring of the RFAs should give social and economic outcomes equal consideration,” Mr Hampton said.

“Future RFA reviews should give equal weight to economic and social objectives, such as annual investment in upgrading existing and developing new processing capacity, forest industry employment, innovation and R&D, and the economic health of communities dependent on forest industries.

Significantly, the independent review also found that decisions by successive NSW Governments over the past two decades to lock up large swathes of State Forests were in breach of the RFAs and created uncertainty for the forest industries,” Mr Hampton concluded.

“With 90 per cent of NSW’s forests in National Parks and Reserves (80 per cent, or almost 6 million hectares) or in State Forest Reserves and protected areas (10 per cent, or about 1 million hectares), and just 1-3 per cent selectively harvested each year and then regenerated as required by law, we should be demanding to know why our extensive reserves system is failing,” Ms McCaskill said.

“The native forestry industry is now at the point where it cannot sustain any further reduction in production forest. That is why it is vital, going forward, both Governments give much greater emphasis to providing certainty to industry in the extended RFAs.  

“We also recognise the commitment of the NSW Government’s more than $70 million for forestry allocated in the State Budget and the $20 million allocated by the Federal Government in its Budget.

“The NSW forest industries contribute $2.4 billion annually to the State’s economy, with an annual export value of $220 million and directly employing 22,000 people across the value chain. They need to be given proper consideration,” Ms McCaskill concluded.

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