State-Federal forest deals – a 15 year failed experiment

“One Stop Chop” legal report released States’ forest destruction shameful

Who remembers the RFAs? They are a 15 year failed experiment of handing all environmental powers for our forests to the states. A damning legal report titled “One Stop Chop” has just been released and takes a look at the states’ forest management over that time. It shows what happens when Commonwealth environmental powers are handed to the states; something the big end of town (developers, miners etc) currently wants the federal govt to do in all environmental areas. ‘Cutting green tape’ they call it!

Regional Forets Aggreements Null and Void

This report shows clearly that the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) urgently need to be abandoned as legally void agreements, and a new model for forest care and management drawn up. They must never hand the states full control of any other environmental laws again. Felicity Millner, Principal Solicitor with the Environment Defenders Office in Victoria has written to the Federal Government informing them that if they fail to fulfill their international environmental obligations, legal options will be further investigated.

State Governments have exploited and mismanaged public forests for 15 years too long, all to aid a reckless insatiable industry. From the start, the states have dishonoured and breached the RFAs, at great cost to Australia’s wildlife and forests.

“One Stop Chop:…” is a detailed legal review of the RFAs conducted by Environment Defenders Offices on behalf of an alliance of three regional environment groups, including EEG. A summary can be downloaded here. SUMMARY-RFA_Report.pdf
The full report can be downloaded here.

RFAs were touted to be all about balancing the environment and logging industry jobs. It’s done neither. In East Gippsland there were about 20 mills when this deal was signed in 1997. There are now six. But the woodchip export volumes were maintained or increased after signing the RFAs. In the Tambo region (around the Bairnsdale hinterland) woodchipping increased 700% after that region’s RFA was signed! You can start to see what it was all about!

The report concludes that the regulations, standards, monitoring, compliance, and enforcement by State governments have been appalling and far weaker than they would have been if managed in conjunction with Commonwealth environmental laws.

The terrible tragedy is that we have lost forever so many beautiful forests, the wildlife and our clear streams, as a result. It has been up to protest and court actions by individuals to try to stop the unending damage.

The states can’t be trusted. That’s clear. The federal government should take control, not contract out its responsibilities. It was the Feds that saved the Franklin River from Tasmania’s then government, and the Feds that booted cattle out of the Alpine National Park, and stopped mining under the Great Barrier Reef.

This story will not end here with yet another report – it is a sound base for more follow up work with the lawyers.

Read The Guardian coverage here. and ABC Environment content here

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