Questions and Answers
National Forest Policy Statement1 Who is responsible for the management of Australia's forests?
State and Territory governments have primary responsibility for forest management, including public and private forests. This is in recognition of the constitutional responsibility of the States for land use decisions and their ownership of large areas of forests.
The Commonwealth Government's direct involvement in forests is limited largely to the approval of woodchip export licences. Responsibility for this lies with the Minister for Resources.
2 What is the National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS)?
The National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS) sets out broad conservation and industry goals for the management of Australia's forests agreed between Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments.
Under the NFPS, Governments agreed to a framework and process for carrying out comprehensive assessments of the economic, social, environmental and heritage values of forest regions. Once completed, Comprehensive Regional Assessments (CRAs) will provide governments with the information required to make long term decisions about forest use and management. It will be possible to complete a national reserve system which will safeguard biodiversity, old growth, wilderness and other natural and cultural values of forests. At the same time, it will be possible to identify the optimal use and management of areas outside the reserve system in an ecologically sustainable manner.
Establishing a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve System
3 What are the Commonwealth's criteria for a National Reserve System?
The Commonwealth has developed a set of criteria for a national reserve system which includes broad benchmarks for the conservation of forest biodiversity, old growth forest and wilderness areas. These criteria were used in the determination of Deferred Forest Areas (DFAs) which is the first step in the longer term process of establishing the reserve system.
The Commonwealth's criteria include:
- a broad benchmark of 15 per cent of the pre-1750 distribution of each forest community to be protected within conservation reserves
- retention in reserves of at least 60 per cent of existing old growth increasing up to 100 per cent for rare old growth
- protection of 90 per cent or more wherever practicable of high quality wilderness
These criteria have been endorsed by the Chief Biodiversity Officer of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who said: "....I found this to be an excellent set of criteria which reflects extremely well the current art and science of reserve protected area system design. It draws on the best available science in Australia and elsewhere and appropriately reflects current thinking at an international level & quota.
4 How were the Commonwealth's reserve criteria determined?
The Commonwealth's reserve criteria were developed with an advisory panel of eminent Australian scientists. The panel was chaired by Australia's Chief Scientist, Professor Michael Pitman. A draft reserve criteria paper was released for public comment in March 1995 and the final position paper was endorsed by the Commonwealth Government and released in July 1995.
5 How will the reserve system be established?
The process of developing a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system is well underway. All States already include many forests in their existing network of national parks and reserves. Deferred Forest Areas (DFAs) set aside additional forests which may be needed to meet the Commonwealth's reserve criteria. This cautious approach will ensure that potentially important forest areas are not logged while complete assessments are undertaken to finally determine the reserve system.
This will be part of the process of developing Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) between the Commonwealth and each relevant State government. RFAs will include comprehensive assessments of national estate values, World Heritage values, Aboriginal heritage values, environmental impacts, protection of endangered species, biological diversity, economic and social impacts.
Deferred Forest Areas6 What are Deferred Forest Areas (DFAs)?
In line with the NFPS, the first step towards establishing a world class forest reserve system is to give interim protection to forest areas which might be required for the reserve system. These areas are known as Deferred Forest Areas (DFAs). No logging will be allowed within DFAs in order to ensure that options for establishing the reserve system are not foreclosed. The States will now be asked to sign agreements with the Commonwealth on DFAs as a prelude to RFAs.
7 How were the DFAs decided?
A scientific process was established by Commonwealth and State officials to identify DFAs based on the application of the Commonwealth's reserve criteria. Draft DFAs were identified in consultation with conservation, industry, unions and community groups. Following a period of public consultation, the Commonwealth formed its final position on DFAs.
8 How will DFAs protect endangered species?
A number of the areas set aside from logging include habitat for endangered species. Outside of the DFAs, endangered species will be protected by management prescriptions and recovery plans. DFA reports contain details of plans to protect species listed under the Commonwealth's Endangered Species Protection Act. The preparation and adoption of recovery plans for endangered species will form an important part of the comprehensive regional assessment of forests leading to RFAs.
9 Will DFAs and RFAs affect native forests on private land?
DFAs only include native forests on public land. For RFAs, the benchmark of conserving 15 per cent of forest types which existed prior to 1750 will, generally, be reached through the protection of forests on public land. Where this may not be possible, co-operative mechanisms will be developed to protect forests types on private land. The Government is committed to working with landholders to promote sustainable management of native forests on private land.
10 Why are some previously logged forests included in the DFAs?
The impact of over 200 years of European settlement on our forests makes it inevitable that a comprehensive reserve system will have to include some areas of previously logged and disturbed forests. It is simply not possible to meet the Commonwealth's reserve criteria using only unlogged forests. Many existing forested national parks contain areas of forest which have been previously logged or disturbed.
11 But some areas have been logged as recently as this year?
DFAs incorporate far more area than would be required to meet a strict application of the Commonwealth criteria. This precautionary approach inevitably includes forests of varying quality, including some areas that may have been recently logged. The inclusion of such areas does not necessarily indicate that they will be included in the final reserve system.
12 What activities are allowed in DFAs?
No commercial harvesting for sawlogs or pulp logs or associated roading will be permitted in DFAs. Traditional activities such as grazing, bee keeping, mineral exploration, existing mining and recreational uses may continue. The full impact of all these activities on the forest estate will be examined in the comprehensive regional assessment process leading to RFAs.
13 Has the Government taken account of the effect of DFAs on jobs?
Part of the DFA process has included the rescheduling of logging operations in order to keep the impact on jobs to a minimum. The Wood and Paper Industry Strategy and related structural adjustment measures, just released, will assist businesses, employees and communities in achieving a sustainable, competitive, value adding forest industry. RFAs will examine the social and economic impacts of conservation and industry proposals.
14 Do the DFAs meet the Commonwealth's Criteria?
The DFA process has achieved the objective of setting aside sufficient forest areas to ensure that options for a comprehensive, adequate and representative resource system based on the Commonwealth's reserve criteria are not foreclosed.
Wood and Paper Industry15 How much is the forest-based wood and paper industry worth to Australia?
Over 82,000 people are employed in Australia's wood and paper industry: over 10,000 in forestry and logging and around 72,000 in the manufacture and processing of wood and paper products. The industry has an annual turnover of $9.91 billion (1992-93), contributing about 1 per cent to gross domestic product.
16 Why do we need a Wood and Paper Industry Strategy?
The industry is currently considering $4-6 billion worth of investment which will mean increased value adding of our forest resources and jobs growth. The wood and paper industry makes an important contribution to Australia's economy. The Federal Government's Wood and Paper Industry Strategy will create a stable policy environment in which the industry can plan and invest with minimum risk and maximum confidence.
The Strategy encourages investment in ecologically sustainable development. It is a key element in the integration of conservation and industry objectives.
17 What are the key elements of the Wood and Paper Industry Strategy?
The Strategy will:
- encourage value adding innovation and competitiveness, and future investment in the industry using both plantation and native forest resource
- ensure a skilled and flexible workforce and improve regional job opportunities
- remove impediments to investment in industrial plantations and encourage farm forestry
- provide greater certainty of access to resources consistent with the NFPS
- provide a Labour Adjustment Package for workers, including the self-employed, who may be displaced from the native forest industry and assistance for businesses in structural adjustment, retooling or exit from the industry
A Wood and Paper Industry Council drawn mainly from industry and unions will drive the Strategy.
18 What is the role of plantations in meeting Australia's wood and paper needs?
Plantations account for more than half of the domestic resource used for production of wood and paper products in Australia. Plantations will also provide the basis for much of the further growth of the wood and paper industry in Australia. The plantation based industry sector is characterised by integrated processing operations which utilise the resource to produce a wide range of high value added products including sawn timber, medium density fibreboard and pulp and paper. At present, there are 1.1 million hectares of plantations in Australia. The expansion of the plantation and farm forestry estate is a goal of the National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS) and the Government's recently announced Wood and Paper Industry Strategy will further encourage this expansion.
19 What is the Government doing to encourage the full utilisation and expansion of plantation and farm forestry?
The Government's Wood and Paper Industry Strategy sets out a range of initiatives which promote the expansion and full utilisation of the plantation and farm forestry resource. These include removal of export controls (subject to protection of environmental values); removal of taxation anomalies; identifying and removing impediments related to land use planning, harvesting rights and transferability of ownership; expansion of plantations on farms; research and development; and facilitating access to information.
Woodchips20 What are woodchips?
Woodchips are forest products created by processing logging waste and sawmill residues. Woodchips are used mainly in the production of wood panels, pulp and paper products.
21 What is the value to Australia of woodchip exports?
Australia is a net importer of forest products. In 1994-95, its trade deficit in forest products amounted to $1.99 billion. Woodchips make a valuable contribution to the growing value of forest product exports. In 1994-95, woodchip exports returned over $564 million to Australia, over 50 per cent of the total value ($1 billion) of forest product exports. The Wood and Paper Industry Strategy encourages investment and value adding in the industry, one major aim being to ensure that a greater proportion of woodchips are processed domestically.
22 Is the Government phasing out the export of woodchips by the year 2000?
The Government is committed to greater domestic value adding of material currently being exported as woodchips. It has said that it will ban the export of woodchips from those areas of Australia's native forests which are not covered by RFAs by the year 2000. The Government has said that from 1996 the export of woodchips from native forests not covered by the RFA process will be reduced by 20 per cent a year. The Wood and Paper Industry Council, which was announced under the Wood and Paper Industry Strategy (WAPIS) will be asked to examine ways to enhance value adding and downstream processing of woodchips from plantations and native forests, in line with the objective shared by Commonwealth and State governments of phasing out woodchip exports from native forests in favour of downstream processing of the resource by the year 2000.
23 How does the Minister for Resources decide on the allocation of woodchip licences?
Applications for woodchip licences are assessed in the context of achieving the best utilisation of forest resources. Licences are allocated subject to strict criteria including domestic value adding processing by applicants, economic and social considerations and past adherence to licence conditions. Environmental impacts are assessed by the Environment Protection Agency and the Australian Heritage Commission & quota