The second Victorian RFA Annual Meeting of Officials took place on 28 March 2022. The meeting was attended by officials from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment; the Victorian Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP); and the Victorian Government Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR).
In accordance with the requirements of RFA clauses 35A and 35B (Central Highlands RFA clause reference), the Parties held an annual meeting to monitor the implementation of the agreements and discuss any matters or issues which had arisen in the preceding year.
Officials discussed progress and achievements against the milestones of the modernised RFAs including:
- the implementation of interim protections for a range of threatened species and communities put in place by the Victorian Government in response to the Threatened Species and Communities Risk Assessment.
- progress of the Victorian Government’s review of the Victorian Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve System.
Officials heard updates on the progress of research projects currently underway through DELWP, addressing the themes of Listed Species and Communities, Climate Change, Active Forest Management, Fire and Technology and Innovation.
Officials discussed recent updates to the regulatory framework for timber harvesting compliance processes as well the process for considering future changes over the course of 2022. Discussion included updates made to the Code of Practice for Timber Production in November 2021 aimed at improving the clarity of the Code. Officials also discussed amendments to legislation that came into effect in March 2022 which enable the development of compliance standards and the introduction of enforceable undertakings as additional compliance tools. The meeting noted that the development of compliance standards is intended to improve clarity for meeting obligations under the precautionary principle. They will also support the role of the Victorian Conservation Regulator who will enforce the standards.
The Conservation Regulator (CR) provided an update on compliance issues. The CR outlined its response to stakeholder allegations regarding harvesting on steep slopes and explained its investigations into reported failure of some post-harvest regeneration outcomes. The CR also noted its focus on proactive inspection of harvesting coupes based on risks, which is leading to improvements in compliance. Officials also discussed the Victorian Government’s announcement of funding to support the development of a best practice Forest Coupe Regeneration and Reintegration Procedure to increase confidence about the completion of regeneration requirements.
Officials discussed the progress made in the preparation and implementation of Statutory Conservation Planning documents for Listed Species and Communities and agreed to consider opportunities to improve the alignment of state and Commonwealth processes for preparation of these documents.
Officials noted the publication of the Harvest Level Review on DJPR’s website. The report considers the 2019-20 bushfire impacts on the available timber volumes.
Officials considered a number of other matters relating to the performance of the modernised RFAs, including progress in improving Traditional Owner consultation and engagement, and forward planning for the first Five-yearly Review of the modernised Victorian RFAs.
The next annual meeting will be held before 31 March 2023