The National Forests Policy – Asleep at the Wheel

The development of the National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS) and the regional forest agreements (RFAs) from 1992 was intended to address the conflict within the Keating Government between conservation and export earnings (see Forest Wars by Judith Ajani, 2007).  The NFPS was signed by the Australian Government and all mainland state and territory governments in December 1992 and by the Tasmanian Government in April 1995.

The Policy Statement hasn’t been updated since 1992!  There doesn’t seem to have been a review since 1992 to see whether it is achieving its original goals and objectives. Internal correspondence between the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and its Parliamentary Secretary, released under FOI, includes departmental opinion that parts of the policy statement are obsolete and that ‘some groups’ are questioning its relevance.

The NFPS includes admirable principles, goals and commitments. However under the NFPS and the RFAs, the Victorian Government has been able to proceed with unsustainable harvesting of native forests while the Commonwealth sat on its hands.  The Commonwealth has significant obligations and extensive powers to hold the states to account and has abrogated this responsibility.  See Commonwealth Environment and Heritage Obligations and Assessments for an overview of Commonwealth powers and responsibilities in relation to forests.

RFPG calls for an independent evaluation of the NFPS to ascertain the degree to which the goals of the Policy have been achieved and to draw out the lessons for more effective regulation of state forest management.

RFPG calls for a new national regime of forest regulation that holds state governments accountable for preserving rather than trashing native forests.