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Tuesday, 28 September 1993
Page: 1251

Senator COULTER —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. By way of preamble, I point out that the national forest policy agreed to by the Commonwealth and all the states, with the exception of Tasmania, undertakes to `avoid activities which may significantly affect those areas of old-growth forest or wilderness that are likely to have high conservation value'. Minister Kelly has sent an indicative list of areas which required interim protection until the reserve system was established to each state. The list included the Nalbaugh State Forest in New South Wales. Given that the minister considers the Nalbaugh State Forest to be of high conservation value, what is she doing to prevent its destruction by the New South Wales Forestry Commission, in complete defiance of the agreed national forest policy? Secondly, does the government put cooperation with recalcitrant state governments ahead of implementation of its own policy?

Senator SCHACHT —On 22 December 1992 Minister Kelly wrote to the relevant New South Wales ministers, outlining action necessary to meet the conservation initiatives of the national forest policy statement. She specifically noted the commitment to avoid activities in areas likely to have a high conservation value, pending assessment of these areas for determination against agreed reserve selection criteria and advised that funding assistance for assessments of old-growth forests and wilderness was available from the Commonwealth. Attached to her letter was a list of areas, including the Nalbaugh State Forest, that warranted consideration by the New South Wales government in light of the NFPS conservation policies.

  On 31 May 1993 Mrs Kelly wrote to the New South Wales Minister for Land and Water Conservation seeking support for old-growth studies in New South Wales as a matter of priority. To date, no reply has been received. She shares the community's concern that the NFPS commitments are honoured by signatory governments. However, we must emphasise that the national forest policy is a joint Commonwealth-state policy statement and its implementation depends on the willingness of state governments who have signed the policy to give effect of its intentions. To this end, Mrs Kelly has requested information from the New South Wales Minister for the Environment on how current forest management practices applying to the Nalbaugh and Dewar areas serve to protect the high conservation values that have been identified in the region. She has also written to the Commonwealth Minister for Resources, given his responsibilities for export approvals, regarding the Nalbaugh special prescription area and the conservation initiatives of the NFPS.