Federal Court upholds Regional Forestry Agreement in NSW

by | Jan 19, 2024

Forestry Australia and the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) have welcomed the Federal Court’s decision to dismiss a challenge on the validity of the New South Wales North-East Regional Forest Agreement (RFA).

AFPA New South Wales Chief Executive Officer James Jooste said it is a vindication that sustainable native forestry operations in NSW are well governed by the federal-state regulatory framework.

“The Federal Court decision is a vindication for the sector and the contribution it makes to the economy, environment, communities and society in New South Wales, Australia, and internationally. It is also a message to activists that the RFA framework stands, and the native forestry sector has a right to operate without their irresponsible legal meddling in the daily lives of timber workers and their families,” he said.

“The decision is also a major win for the climate, easing cost of living pressures and sovereign capability with so many renewable, sustainable and essential products created by the New South Wales native forestry sector.”

The New South Wales native hardwood forestry industry is worth $1.8 billion to the economy and employs 9,000 people, more than half of them in the state’s northeast in communities that have been built on the sector. For generations, they have provided a sustainable industry that selectively harvests forests for timber and fibre and manufactures it into high-grade construction timber, decking, furniture and other products.

“I call on the Minns Government to continue recognising the importance of native forestry to the state and to work with us as plans progress for a Great Koala National Park on North Coast. Without the sector, we face a future of more timber and wood fibre imports from countries without Australia’s high regulatory standards, fewer quality job opportunities in our regions, increased cost of living and a stalled progression on emissions reduction,” Mr Jooste said.

“The industry will now continue to get on with the job it is there to do. Providing sustainably sourced products that are essential for our way of living, while making sure our regions continue to be vibrant places to live,” Mr Jooste said.

Forestry Australia President Dr Michelle Freeman has also welcomed the Federal Court’s Decision to uphold the Regional Forest Agreement in New South Wales.

“Common sense has prevailed, native forestry can have a strong future in Australia,” Dr Freeman said in a media release.

“Forest managers, growers, scientists and workers will breathe a sigh of relief that the challenge by the North East Forest Alliance to the Regional Forest Agreement covering North Coast New South Wales native timber harvesting operations has been dismissed.”

“Our Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs), time and time again, have proven to be a successful way of sustainably managing Australia’s forests for all their values, and the Federal Court has confirmed this today.”

Dr Freeman said that in public native forests that are available for timber harvesting, RFAs have protections in place for conservation and heritage. This adaptable multi-layered approach ensures key forest types and biodiversity are managed and conserved across the landscape.

“The findings of the Federal Court confirm that RFAs achieve what they set out to do, with Justice Perry confirming the Court’s view that the RFAs provide an alternative mechanism through which the objectives of the national environmental laws can be achieved through a rigorous framework agreed by State and the Federal governments,” Dr Freeman said.

“It is clear, that RFAs strike the right balance between the sustainable harvesting of timber, and providing rigorous environmental protections. Our forestry sector, its workers, families and communities that depend on it, can now move on with certainty in their future.”

“Importantly, Australia’s entire forestry sector can keep on doing what it does best; sustainably managing our forests for their environmental, social, cultural and economic values,” Dr Freeman concluded.