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Report Details


Committee Name:

Ecologically Sustainable Development Committee (1997 - 2001)

House:

Legislative Council
Report Type:Report

Title:

Report in relation to Management of and Planning for the Use of State Forests in Western Australia: The Regional Forest Agreement Process
Report No:2
No of Pages:103
Physical Location:Legislative Council Committee Office

Presentation Date:

08/27/1998
Related Report(s):Report No 4 - Management of and Planning for the Use of State Forests in Western Australia - The Sustainability of Current Logging Practices (16 Dec 1999)


Click here to view the report


Hide details for Executive Summary and RecommendationsExecutive Summary and Recommendations

Introduction

The Regional Forest Agreement or RFA will be a 20 year agreement between the Western Australian Government and the Federal Government about management of Western Australia’s south-west forests.

In May 1998 the Joint Commonwealth and Western Australian Regional Forest Agreement Steering Committee released the Public Consultation Paper for the RFA process, titled “Towards a Regional Forest Agreement for the South West Forest Region of Western Australia -a Paper to Assist Public Consultation”. At that time this Committee determined to report on the RFA process as soon as practical.

The Committee sees its primary task as assessing how effective the RFA process has been to date in achieving the outcomes intended by the Western Australian Government.

There is some inconsistency within RFA documentation about whether a draft RFA will require assessment by Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority. The Committee proposes that the Western Australian Minister for the Environment ensure that the intention of the 1995 Scoping Agreement for the RFA be carried out, by release of a draft RFA for public comment and assessment by the State Environmental Protection Authority.


Compliance with Commonwealth laws

When an RFA is signed, the Commonwealth’s legal requirements in respect of native forest woodchip exports will be met. This will remove a degree of uncertainty faced by Western Australia’s sole native chip exporter, West Australian Chip and Pulp Co Pty Ltd.

If the Commonwealth’s Regional Forest Agreements Bill 1998 becomes law, other potential Commonwealth powers over Western Australia’s forest region will no longer apply.


Comprehensive Regional Assessment

Much of the conflict and mistrust surrounding the RFA process stems from the lack of acceptance of the generally agreed definitions for terms used in the RFA process. It is essential to the success of the RFA process that the process establish credible, repeatable baseline data and commonly agreed, consistently used definitions. The Comprehensive Regional Assessment conducted for the RFA is ideally placed to achieve this outcome.

The work done to prepare the Comprehensive Regional Assessment is clearly valuable, regardless of what shape the RFA takes.

However the opportunity offered by the RFA process for the Governments to produce credible, repeatable baseline data using commonly agreed, consistently used definitions may not have been utilised to the full.

This shortcoming does not mean that the RFA process has not produced a valid Comprehensive Regional Assessment, but that work remains to be done so that the full benefits of the Comprehensive Regional Assessment may emerge. The Committee sees two means by which this intended outcome of the RFA can be promoted.

First, information produced in the remainder of the RFA process should be clearly presented and explained so that interested members of the public can come to an understanding of how the information relates to current forest management.

Second, the baseline data established in the Comprehensive Regional Assessment should be adopted for all forest-related materials and information produced by the Western Australian Government in future, particularly the Forest Management Plan which will follow the RFA.


Legislated resource security

As the degree of security available to industry in a legal sense is already high, there is limited scope for it to be improved by the RFA.

The major achievement of the RFA in offering increased certainty is therefore not a change in the law but simply the length over which it is intended to operate. The RFA is offering industry guaranteed levels of access for 20 years.

The Committee supports the proposed RFA outcome of improving the timber industry’s resource security by implementing a 20 year Forest Management Plan, to promote better forest management, long term industry planning and investment and workforce security in timber-related industry.

If there were an independent body empowered to review and regulate forest management, there would likely be less concern about instituting a 20 year plan and greater public confidence in forest management.

The Committee therefore takes the view that the Government should introduce legislation to allow for the independent scrutiny and regulation of:

-forest management; and
-the formulation, implementation, assessment and review of Forest Management Plans.

Socio-political resource security

The RFA process is falling short of delivering resource security to industry in a social and political sense.

It is critical that the Government should seek to enhance acceptance of the RFA process and thereby to promote resource security in a political and social sense for native forest-based timber industries. The Committee believes that achieving social and political acceptance for native forest-based timber industries is possible.

The Committee proposes two steps to promote public acceptance of the RFA process and thereby enhance resource security.

-That the Department of Premier and Cabinet be given lead agency status for the remaining stages of the RFA process, to overcome the perceived conflict of interest that CALM is both the key agency affected by the outcome of the RFA process and also the lead agency in the RFA process.
-That the Minister for the Environment establish and adequately fund an accord process to assist in the Minister’s review of the RFA process thus far and in the preparation of the Agreement itself.

A Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative reserve system

No model for determining which areas should be reserved can satisfy all the demands for use and management of forests. Broadly speaking, the JANIS reserve criteria provide an appropriate, objectively verifiable benchmark.

Greater consideration should be given, in the course of the RFA process, to the impact that decisions about reservation will have on local communities and on particular forest areas. The flexibility provisions in the JANIS criteria could be used to promote local conservation and recreation needs and to improve the distribution of reserved areas.

As part of the accord process, the question of what areas qualify as “old growth” and “reserved” under the JANIS criteria should be determined in a way that is accurate, objective and generally acceptable to the Western Australian community.

The Committee is of the view that the RFA should deliver to Western Australia a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative reserve system, taking into account the recommendations in this report, and in accordance with the flexible targets for reservation forming the JANIS reservation criteria.


Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management

Remaining below maximum sustainable yield is a critical element in achieving ecologically sustainable forest management. Most industries reliant on renewable resources have accepted the need to remain within sustainable yield, for the reason that in the long term it benefits the industry.

It is disappointing that the Approaches in the Public Consultation Paper do not propose levels for jarrah first and second grade sawlog harvest which are in the vicinity of CALM’s estimated level of 300,000 m/yr.

The accord process should consider how first and second grade jarrah sawlog volumes harvested should be taken into account in the final RFA, if the RFA outcome of achieving ESFM is to be achieved.

The accord process should consider options for minimising the impact on businesses and workers likely to be affected by the achievement of sustainable yield, and to promote new industry value adding through structural adjustment provisions and other measures. Options which could be considered are:

-whether the lowering of cut should be phased in over a number of years so that sustainable yield of first and second grade jarrah sawlogs is achieved in, say, 2004, with stepped cuts in the intervening years;
-applying the Commonwealth’s Forest Industry Structural Adjustment Package; and
-encouragement of other timber-related industries such as plantations, downstream processing and other value adding measures in both native forest and plantation sectors, and the proposed pulp mill, so as to create jobs in those areas to replace any jobs lost in the sector of the industry reliant on the jarrah resource.

In the long term the issue of achieving ESFM is probably more important than the other intended outcomes of the RFA process, both for industry and conservation. Given that achievement of ESFM has been consistently put forward as one of the key goals of the RFA process, it is somewhat disappointing that so little attention is paid to ESFM indicators in the Comprehensive Regional Assessment and in the Public Consultation Paper.

The Committee is impressed with the commitment of the Institute of Foresters to adopting the Montreal process for assessing ESFM.


Forest-related industries other than the timber industry

The Committee is concerned that although the RFA is nominally intended to offer improved resource security to and promote the development of forest-related industries generally, the Public Consultation Paper does not consider the possible effects of the RFA on any sector other than the native forest timber industry.

The RFA process should consider employment and investment in all forest-related industries, including but not limited to tourism, downstream timber processing, agriculture, plantation timber industry, bee-keeping and wildflower picking.


Recommendations

Recommendations are grouped as they appear in the text.

Page 28:

Recommendation 1: that the WA Minister for the Environment ensure that the intention of the “Scoping Agreement for a Western Australian Regional Forest Agreement”, Attachment 1, Paragraph 5, be carried out by release of a draft RFA for public comment and assessment by the State Environmental Protection Authority.

Page 37:

Recommendation 2: That the Minister for the Environment note that much of the conflict and mistrust surrounding the RFA process stems from the lack of acceptance of generally agreed definitions for terms used in the RFA process.

Recommendation 3: That the RFA process establish credible, repeatable baseline data and generally agreed, consistently used definitions.

Recommendation 4: That information produced in the remainder of the RFA process be clearly presented and explained so that interested members of the public can come to an understanding of how the information relates to current forest management.

Recommendation 5: That the baseline data established in the Comprehensive Regional Assessment be adopted for all forest-related materials and information produced by the Western Australian Government in future, particularly the Forest Management Plan which will follow the RFA.

Page 47:

Recommendation 6: That the Government support the proposed RFA outcome of improving the timber industry’s resource security by implementing a 20 year Forest Management Plan, to promote better forest management, long term industry planning and investment and workforce security in timber-related industry.

Recommendation 7: That in conjunction with Recommendation 6, the Government introduce legislation to allow for independent scrutiny and regulation of:

- forest management; and

- the formulation, implementation, assessment and review of Forest Management Plans.

Page 59:

Recommendation 8: That the Government seek to enhance acceptance of the RFA process and thereby to promote resource security in a political and social sense for native forest-based timber industry.

Page 61:

Recommendation 9: That the Government ensure that the Department of Premier and Cabinet is given lead agency status for the remaining stages of the RFA process, to overcome the perceived conflict of interest that CALM is both the key agency affected by the outcome of the RFA process and also the lead agency in the RFA process.

Recommendation 10: That the Minister for the Environment seek to enhance acceptance of the RFA process by establishing and adequately funding an accord process to assist in the Minister’s review of the RFA process thus far and in preparation of the Agreement itself.

Recommendation 11: That the accord process include representatives from at least the timber industry, the Australian Workers’ Union, the conservation movement, indigenous people, the Institute of Foresters, the Forest Protection Society, the Department of CALM, local government, the tourism industry and non-timber forest-based industry.

Recommendation 12: That the outcomes of the accord process be transparent and publicly available.


Page 67:

Recommendation 13: That the flexibility provisions in the JANIS criteria be used to promote local conservation and recreation needs and to improve the distribution of reserved areas, particularly in areas where little old growth is identified by the Comprehensive Regional Assessment.

Recommendation 14: That the Minister for the Environment recognise community support for more reservation of interim heritage listed karri forest of the ecosystem type “karri main belt”.

Page 70:

Recommendation 15: That the question of what areas qualify as “old growth” under the JANIS criteria be determined by the accord process in a way that is accurate, objective and generally acceptable to the Western Australian community.

Page 71:

Recommendation 16: That the question of what areas qualify as “reserved” under the JANIS criteria be determined by the accord process in a way that is accurate, objective and generally acceptable to the Western Australian community.

Page 74:

Recommendation 17: That the RFA deliver to Western Australia a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative reserve system, taking into account the recommendations in this report, and in accordance with the flexible targets for reservation under the JANIS criteria.

Page 80:

Recommendation 18: That the accord process consider:

(a) how the projected long-term non-declining level of first and second grade jarrah sawlog harvest is to be achieved in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable forest management; and

(b) what steps might be taken to minimise the impact, if any, maintaining such a level would have on the timber industry and timber workers.

Recommendation 19: That the accord process consider what initiatives might be adopted to promote new industry value adding through the use of structural adjustment provisions.

Page 84:

Recommendation 20: That the RFA allow timber harvesting levels to be such as to promote maintenance of the quality of timber harvested in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable forest management.

Recommendation 21: That as part of the RFA process a representative range of baseline ESFM indicators as set out in the Montreal process be established.

Page 88:

Recommendation 22: The accord process should consider the extent to which the RFA will impact on employment and investment in forest-related sectors other than the native forest timber industry, including but not limited to tourism, downstream timber processing, agriculture, plantation timber industry, bee-keeping and wildflower picking.