By District Bulletin.
THE NSW LABOR Opposition is demanding a full scientific assessment of the state’s Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs).
Three NSW forest agreements are due for review after 20 years. The NSW Government knows the science underpinning the RFAs is out of date and incomplete, according to Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe.
Government ministerial briefing notes released to The Guardian describe “legal uncertainty” as to whether the original environmental impact studies that underpin the existing RFAs remain valid. It is stated that “it is in both parties ‘interests’ to avoid any new assessments that might require significant alteration of the RFAs, because it might be ‘costly’ ”.
The Opposition has criticised the Berejiklian Government’s consultation on the long-overdue reviews of the RFAs and called for a proper assessment without a predetermined outcome.
Consultation again missing in action
Echoing the same consultation dynamic as with the National Party-driven new native vegetation laws, scientists and environment groups have withdrawn from the consultations because the Government announced that it is committed to renewing the RFAs regardless of the consultation.
Labor says the assumptions of the 20-year-old RFAs need to be revisited.
Climate change has happened since the last round; environment minister absent
The RFA assessment must include climate change as a consideration. Given the key role of forests for carbon storage, no RFA should be renewed without balancing forest benefits and impacts for mitigating climate change.
Labor points out the disinterest of NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton, with the briefings showing that she failed to attend a high level ministerial meeting to discuss the RFAs last year – instead she is pictured on Twitter campaigning for factional colleague James Griffin at the Manly by-election.
“These revelations show that the Berejiklian Government is willing to put at risk precious habitat for native wildlife, soil and water quality, and risk our ability to adequately address climate change, all because they think a proper, responsible scientific assessment might be ‘costly’, said Sharpe.
“No one has been fooled by this all-in-one review and sham consultation exercise being undertaken in NSW – a review for which the outcome has already been decided is not really a review, so it is no wonder that numerous key stakeholders abandoned the consultation process.”
Here is what you need to know about RFAs
RFAs are 20-year agreements between the NSW and Australian Governments on a framework for the conservation and sustainable management of native forests. In NSW there are three RFAs: Eden (expiring on 26 August 2019); North East (expiring on 31 March 2020); and Southern (expiring on 24 April 2021).
Performance reviews are required every five years to assess progress on ecologically sustainable forest management. The NSW Government failed to undertake the second and third five-yearly reviews. A belated review report covering both periods was recently put to public consultation.