NSW’s Timber Industry Backs Federal Court Ruling on RFA’s

Timber NSW wants to work with the NSW government "in a sensible and methodical way."

Thu 11 Jan 24


The NSW timber industry has welcomed the decision by the Australian Federal Court to reject a challenge to the validity of the intergovernmental North East Regional Forestry Agreement (NERFA), which commenced in 2000 and renewed in 2018.

Yesterday, Wood Central reported Justice Perry – the Federal Court responsible for the decision – noted that Regional Forestry Agreements (or RFAs) “are an alternative mechanism to deliver the EPBC requirements through the states” and that opposition to the agreements “are essentially political decisions.”

In responding to the ruling, Timber NSW Chair Andrew Hurford – who operates a substantial timber business in the region covered by the RFA, said the decision “paves the way for those who are serious about achieving ecologically sustainable forest management and a sustainable timber industry to keep working together in a sensible and methodical way.”

“This judicial outcome is positive for timber communities, disaster relief agencies, home buyers and builders, and anyone else in NSW concerned about the rising cost of living,” Mr Hurford said.

“The NSW timber industry not only supports thousands of jobs and contributes billions of dollars to our economy, but its continued operation is vital to shield NSW residents from further cost blowouts in housing, home renovation, energy, transport and consumer goods.”

He said that without a supply of locally sourced timber, “power poles, pallets, railways sleepers, flooring, decking, cladding, and ferry wharves will all be in jeopardy and subject to import.”

“Make no mistake, if the targeted disruption of the timber industry by ideologues armed with nothing more than a political agenda is allowed to continue, there will be cost impacts for everyone in NSW who visits a supermarket or heats their house. That is why today’s decision is important.”

Mr Hurford said recent major flooding events in south-east Queensland, which have led to a surge in demand for timber to replace thousands of affected power poles, is just one example of the critical need to maintain a sustainable domestic timber supply chain.

“The reckless opposition to the NSW timber industry increases the risk of forcing us down the Victorian path of paying more to compete for limited domestic supplies or importing timber from countries with inferior environmental protections.”

“That will force up prices for Australian consumers, detract from Government emission reduction targets, and leave us dangerously exposed to global supply chain shocks.”

Mr Hurford said NSW has some of the world’s strictest regulations and highest environmental standards for forestry operations, all overseen by the Environment Protection Authority.

“Of the 20 million hectares of forest in NSW, less than a third of one per cent is selectively harvested annually. On the NSW north coast, that is an average of just six trees in every 10,000 harvested yearly and then regenerated.”

“Further to today’s decision, Timber NSW looks forward to working constructively with the Government, which has committed to a sustainable timber industry for everyone in NSW.”

Key facts about Forestry and Timber on the NSW north coast:

 There are just over three million hectares of public forest on the north coast, which supplies three-quarters of the State’s hardwood.

 88% of the total public forest area is already managed for conservation. The remaining 12% is available for timber harvesting each year – only 0.3% is harvested annually – an average of six trees in every 10,000.

 All harvesting operations are subject to extensive seasonal surveys to determine what flora and fauna species are present or likely to occur.

 The North Coast timber industry employs 5,700 people in forest management, harvesting, transport and processing. It generates $1.8 billion in economic activity each year.


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