Regional Forest Agreements
Regional Forest Agreements are bilateral agreements between the Australian Government and four state governments.
The Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) seek to balance economic, social and environmental outcomes for forests by setting obligations and commitments for forest management.
The RFAs provide a streamlined approach to satisfying Commonwealth legislative requirements for environmental planning and assessment and for conducting forestry operations to meet ecologically sustainable forest management (ESFM) objectives.
RFAs are given statutory effect under the Commonwealth Regional Forest Agreements Act 2002 (RFA Act).
There are 3 RFAs in NSW covering the Eden, North East, and Southern regions of NSW. In November 2018 the NSW and Australian governments agreed renew the three NSW RFAs. These agreements have been revised and extended until 2039.
The NSW RFAs including the 2018 variations are:
- Eden Regional Forest Agreement
- North East Regional Forest Agreement
- Southern NSW Regional Forest Agreement
Ecologically sustainable forest management
RFAs aim to provide for a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) reserve system, the ecologically sustainable management and use of forested areas, and long-term stability for forest-based industries. They set milestones and commitments for the governments to deliver the ecologically sustainable management of native forests.
The RFAs provide for the conservation and management of areas required for a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system, based on:
- including the full range of vegetation communities
- ensuring the reservation is large enough to maintain species diversity
- conserving the diversity within each vegetation community, including genetic diversity.
RFAs provide a framework that allows forestry operations to occur without any further Commonwealth approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and are legal instruments under the Export Control Act 1982.
The RFAs implement NSW and Australian Government commitments made in the National Forest Policy Statement.
The RFAs are reviewed every 5 years to assess performance.
Comprehensive regional assessments
A key step in the development of the RFAs was to undertake comprehensive regional assessments (CRAs) of the environmental, heritage, social and economic uses and values of forests.
Nationally agreed criteria, known as the JANIS criteria, were applied to create a reserve system that would help protect forest biodiversity, old-growth forests, and wilderness areas, through the creation of a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) reserve system.
The Australian, state and territory governments identified which forest areas:
- must be protected
- could be used for commercial timber harvesting and other purposes.
The assessments drew on existing material and a wide range of commissioned studies and technical reports to determine what the forests meant to the industries and people of each region, including Aboriginal Australians.
For further information on CRAs for the Eden, North East and Southern regions visit the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.