Department of Primary Industries close public submissions on Regional Forest Agreements

Glenbog State Forest in 2016. Picture: Carolyn Green
Glenbog State Forest in 2016. Picture: Carolyn Green

The Department of Primary Industries has now closed public submissions regarding the renewal of the NSW Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs).

The NSW DPI received more than 2100 submissions during the public consultation process.

RFAs are 20 year agreements between state and federal governments regarding the management and conservation of Australia’s native forests.

The Eden RFA will expire on August 26, 2019 and the Southern RFA will expire on April 24, 2021. 

NSW DPI invited the public to have their say via an online form, email or mail before 5pm on March 12 to shape how they will improve the agreements when they are renewed.

Local opinions regarding these RFAs were also sought through community consultation sessions in Eden on February 13, Batemans Bay on February 14 and Tumut on February 15. 

The sessions were attend by representatives of the logging industry, local government, conservation groups and individuals.

NSW DPI representative Nick Milham said the drop in sessions, facilitated by independent consultancy firm Elton Consultancy, produced productive and important conversations

“Hopefully these forums have clarified issues of frustration so we can move forward and receive good input,” Mr Milham said after the session.

“If we can address questions that lead to submissions we have obtained our objective.”

But at the close of the consultation and submission period, a conservation group opposing the RFAs are contesting the validity of the consultations.

Paul Payten of Great Southern Forest said that while the feedback forms allowed respondents to comment on future RFAs, they did not give an option to oppose their renewal.

“We’ve taken the issue to the ombudsman and developed a paper against the consultation”, he said.

The paper is a brief written by Great Southern Forest’s Dr Bronte Somerset outlining her concerns with the consultation process. 

Dr Somerset argued the consultation sessions were not adequately advertised and did not give people enough time to evaluate the extensive amount of accompanying documentation provided through the NSW DPI.

For privacy reasons, the NSW DPI comment on Dr Somerset’s brief, but said the department was upfront from the beginning of the consultation process that the NSW RFAs would be renewed, and it was the shape of future RFAs that was on the table for consultation.

“The NSW Government recognises that RFAs are complex agreements, however, concise fact sheets and presentations were delivered at in-person consultation sessions,” A NSW DPI spokesperson said.

“Details about the community drop-in sessions were advertised in local newspapers, mentioned through local media outlets and promoted on social media in the lead up to the events.”

Public submissions will be analysed over the coming months and the NSW DPI will seek to balance the social, environmental and economic needs for the sustainable management of the state’s native forests through the renewal process.