Legal Challenge to Forest Management
The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is challenging the NSW Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) in the Federal Court on behalf of the North East Forests Alliance (NEFA). The North East RFA, which covers logging in the coastal area from Sydney to the Queensland border, was renewed in 2018 for a further 20 years with rolling extensions that could continue indefinitely.
There are ten RFAs around Australia with three in NSW – the North East, the Southern and Eden.
The RFAs signed between the State and Commonwealth exempt native forest logging from federal biodiversity and approval requirements under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
NEFA has for years been concerned about the impact that the RFA has had on vulnerable and endangered species such as koalas, greater gliders, regent honeyeaters and rufous scrub-birds in our region’s native forests. This impact has been made worse following the devastating North Coast fires of 2019-20 which killed so many native animals and damaged so much habitat.
David Morris, EDO Chief Executive Officer said, “We are challenging the Federal Government over its failure to assess how another 20-plus years of logging, against a background of a changing climate, will impact our forest ecosystems, endangered species and old growth forests.
“The Commonwealth didn’t want to incur the costs of conducting a proper assessment, waving through a 20-year extension of native forest logging without proper scrutiny.
“Under the current system, if a population of koalas is being threatened by a new development, the project needs to be assessed at the Federal level. But if the same population of koalas is being threatened by a logging project, it’s been rubber stamped on the basis of 20-year-old environmental assessments.”
Mr Morris emphasised the importance of agreements such as the RFAs being founded on the latest scientific knowledge on both climate and the state of our forest ecosystems.
Conservationists hope that historical case will lead to positive change in the management of our state forests and protection of the important native species which rely on them as habitat.