The first Victorian RFA Annual Meeting of Officials took place on 29 March 2021. 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).
On 30 March 2020, the Victorian RFAs were modernised to include improvements and extend the agreements until 30 March 2030. 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 since the RFAs were extended.
Officials discussed progress and achievements against the milestones of the modernised RFAs including:
- the delivery of a Threatened Species and Communities Risk Assessment by the Victorian Government in October 2020.
- the commencement of a review of the Victorian Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) Reserve System, for delivery by December 2021 as per the RFAs.
- the scoping of key outcomes to deliver Permanent Protections for Listed Species and Communities by April 2022.
Officials assessed the progress of agreed research projects currently underway through DELWP and DJPR. It was noted that research priorities continue to build on work undertaken as part of RFA modernisation, is supporting the Major Event Review to assess the impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires on the Victorian RFAs, and will inform the first Five-yearly Review of the RFAs (in 2025).
Officials considered compliance processes and programs in place to ensure the ecologically sustainable management of forestry operations. The Office of the Conservation Regulator provided an update on compliance issues and actions arising in the 2020-21 financial year.
Officials discussed progress on the Major Event Review to assess the impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires on the Victorian RFAs. It was noted that the Review’s independent panel has been constituted and that planning is underway to commence public consultation and engagement.
Officials discussed the progress made in the preparation and implementation of Statutory Conservation Planning documents for Listed Species and Communities and agreed to consider additional measures for further strengthening communication, to track commitments established by the RFAs.
Officials considered a number of other matters relating to the performance of the modernised RFAs, including progress in improving Traditional Owner consultation and engagement, review of timber harvest levels following the 2019-20 bushfires and forward planning for the first Five‑yearly Review of the modernised Victorian RFAs.
Officials agreed that the next annual meeting will be held before 30 March 2022.