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Tasmanians have the chance to comment on the State's RFA.



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JOINT STATEMENT

Federal Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald Tasmanian Minister for Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, Paul Lennon

AFFA02/58MJ 7 May 2002

Tasmanians have the chance to comment on the State's RFA Tasmanians have the opportunity to comment on the first five years of the State’s Regional Forest Agreement (RFA), the Federal Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald, and the Tasmanian Deputy Premier and Minister For Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, Paul Lennon, announced today.

The Ministers said that they have chosen the Tasmanian Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC) to formally review the RFA’s implementation. An important part of the process is allowing Tasmanians to contribute their comments.

“It’s important to emphasise that the RFA is a 20 year agreement. This is a review of how well the RFA has been implemented over the last five years and is not an opportunity to renegotiate or cancel the agreement. It is about determining what has been achieved and what still needs to be done,” Senator Macdonald said.

“The first part of the process will involve the public having 60 days to provide feedback on a background report published by the RPDC based on two reports jointly prepared by the Federal and Tasmanian Governments,” Mr Lennon said.

The RPDC will hold public hearings as required. It will produce a draft recommendations report that will be released in August for a further 30-day public comment period.

The RPDC commissioners are the Independent Chair Isobel Stanley and Jeff Gilmore.

Ms Stanley has had a long distinguished career in environmental science in both the government and non-government sector.

The background report is divided into two main parts. The first covers all the RFA’s milestones and commitments. The second part includes the first systematic assessment of how Tasmania’s forest management practices measure up against a set of international sustainability indicators.

Mr Lennon said the overall message was one of achievement.

“The facts speak for themselves. The report provides irrefutable evidence that Tasmania has one of the best forestry systems not only in Australia but the world," he said.

“If you read the report the overall message is one of achievement. The RFA has achieved balance.

“Where else in the world would you see such large areas of land protected and at the same time access guaranteed to resources for the timber industry?

“There are now more trees in Tasmania since the RFA was signed and the area of reserves has grown by 30 per cent or 458,000 hectares.

“The RFA has resulted in forty per cent of the state being reserved.

“Also in the same period the area of old growth forest placed in reserves has increased by 169,000 hectares or 25 per cent.

“Thanks to the RFA Tasmania is now, without question, the greenest state in Australia.

“The report also outlines areas that need more work. They include meeting the private forest reserve program targets, finalising the Reserve Management Code of Practice and Tasmanian Nature Conservation Strategy, and the introduction of voluntary ways of encouraging native vegetation retention on private lands.”

The Ministers said the RFA is a 20-year plan that includes five-yearly checks on the progress made with its implementation.

Both Ministers reaffirmed their governments’ commitment to the RFA as an important long-term strategy aimed at providing environmental, economic and social benefits for Tasmania.

For details on how to lodge your comments, and access to the background report, please call the RPDC on (02) 6233 2795, or email enquiry@rpdc.tas.gov.au, or visit the web site — http://www.rpdc.tas.gov.au/

A summary of the two reports is attached.

A Summary of the First Five Years of the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement

Background

The following information is a summary of two reports released by the Commonwealth and State Governments as part of the five-year review of the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA).

The summary outlines progress with implementation of the RFA including what has been done to date and what still needs to be done.

The information contained in these reports has been developed by experts from the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments with detailed knowledge of the RFA and forest management.

Performance Report

CAR Public Reserve System

Public Land An enhanced Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) forest reserve system has been developed. This system ensures a minimum level of representation of all different forest types in Tasmania’s reserve system.

This has resulted in the creation of an additional 458,000 ha of new reserves containing 293,000 ha of forest.

Private Land To 30 June 2001, 6,411 ha of reserves had been secured by covenant or agreement with a total of 15,000 ha agreed but not yet secured. While this is less than originally planned the uptake is increasing rapidly.

Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management

Strategic Planning The Threatened Species Strategy and management plans for all State forest and most National Parks have been completed. Other key strategies such as policies to retain minimum levels of forest cover are under review. The Nature Conservation Strategy is close to completion.

Threatened Species The threatened species lists have been upgraded and progress has been made on recovery plans and management systems.

Sustainability Three key projects include:

Red Myrtle - A review of the red myrtle timber resource has been undertaken to establish where best to harvest required supplies; ●

Sawlogs - A further review of the sustainable harvest of eucalypt sawlogs on State forest is close to completion. ●

A set of indicators for tracking the sustainable management of Tasmania’s forests has also been prepared. ●

Forest Practice Systems Tasmania has implemented a review of the Forest Practices Code and amended the Forest Practices Act to improve reporting on compliance and to improve the independence and transparency of the Forest Practices Board.

Industry Development

Infrastructure $10 million dollars of RFA money has been allocated on infrastructure including: roads to get wood from the forest to the market, regional tourism centres such as the Freycinet Visitors Centre and the Great Western Tiers Visitor Services Complex and to assist with visitor management in National Parks.

●

An additional $67 million dollars of RFA money is committed to the development of plantations to increase wood supply. ●

In total, there has been an increase in the plantation estate of 56,000ha. ● $1.6 million dollars of RFA money has been allocated to develop new processing technology to add value to Tasmania’s wood products. ●

Certainty of Resource Access

Forestry and Mining Legislation is in place in Tasmania to ensure access to wood supply. The Commonwealth Parliament passed legislation in March 2002.

Legislation is in place to provide access to some reserve classes for mineral exploration and mining.

Sustainability Indicators Report The Commonwealth and State have agreed on a number of measures to assess how well we are managing Tasmania’s forests.

Conservation of Biological Diversity

The following key points are reported for the five year reporting period (1996-2001):

The area of native forest has decreased by approximately 40,000ha or approximately 1.2 per cent. ● 40.1 per cent of native forest is now in reserves. ● 69 per cent of old growth forest is now in reserves. ● 0.6 per cent of old growth forest was logged in the period. ●

No extinctions of forest species recorded. ●

The status of 36 threatened species has been revised, with nine species moved to lower categories of risk and 27 species moved to higher categories of risk.  Most of these re-classifications are due to improved information on the distribution and abundance of the species.

●Four previously thought to be extinct species have been rediscovered.

Wood Resource

The amount of public land available for wood production has declined by 2.9 per cent due to the increased amount of land going into the reserve system.

The amount of wood harvested during the first five years of the RFA has been within the sustainable yield.

Ecosystem Health

The major threat to eucalypt plantations is browsing by native animals.

The major threat to pine plantations is needle cast disease caused by a fungus especially at high altitudes.

Forest fires have burnt less land on average during the reporting period than has occurred in the past.

There are no significant new threats to the health of the native forests.

Soil and Water

The indicators show that the managers of Tasmania’s forests have effective soil erosion control systems.

Socio-Economic Benefits

Production and consumption The total annual harvest of timber in Tasmania over the past five years in Tasmania has remained relatively constant. Forest industry turnover has increased by $100 million to a total of $1.2 billion. Wood product manufacturing accounts for 22 per cent of Tasmanian manufacturing industry.

Recreation and Tourism Almost all public forest is available for recreation and visitation levels remain high.

Wilderness reservation has increased by 9 per cent to 95 per cent.

Cultural, Social and Spiritual Thirteen areas of land have been transferred to the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania. 7,500 ha of State Forest have been zoned for Indigenous cultural heritage.

18,000 ha of State Forest have been zoned for non-indigenous cultural heritage.

Employment Total employment in the forest industry is estimated at over 8,000. It is becoming a safer industry for its employees with injury frequency rates decreasing.

Institutional Framework for Indigenous involvement An Aboriginal Partnership Agreement has been enshrined in the World Heritage Area Management Plan. Aboriginal people have been employed in National Parks and by the Forest Practices Board to manage indigenous values.

Development of further indicators The Commonwealth and Tasmania intend to further develop the indicators over the life of the RFA to continuously improve the information on management of Tasmania’s forests. Additional indicators are expected to be available for the next five-year review.

Further inquiries:

Senator Macdonald's office: David Fraser (02) 6277 7270 or 0438 644 030. Minister Lennon's office: Craig Martin (03) 6233 6752

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