Federal Court says native forest logging while deemed technically lawful in NSW is political


The Federal Court has today handed down its decision about the validity of agreements that allow native forests to be logged in NSW. The Court examined the validity of Regional Forest Agreements (RFA), that were first made in 2000 and extended for 20 years in 2018, that exempt native forest logging from complying with federal biodiversity assessment and approval laws. The decision is that the technical requirements for extending the RFA were met but the Court was unable to assess the evidence of the impact caused by native forest logging and that such matters are wholly political.

Greens MP and spokesperson for the environment Sue Higginson said “The decision by the court, that native forest logging is technically lawful, is a devastating blow for our forests but should not be mistaken for an endorsement of native forest logging and should rather be seen as a warning shot to the NSW and Commonwealth Governments that native forest logging must be reviewed urgently and ended as soon as possible. The court confirmed that in no uncertain terms, this matter is wholly political,”

“The continuation of an exemption for native forest logging from federal biodiversity laws was granted under the former Morrision and Berejiklian Governments and was not subject to any fresh review of evidence or circumstances. This is a massive failing of the law and shows that the current system is failing to protect our precious public native forests and threatened species that are facing extinction, despite massive changes occurring since the exemptions were first granted in 2000,”

“The finding by the Federal Court may be technically correct under a strict assessment of the lawful requirements, but it confirms what experts and reviews are consistently saying, that our federal environmental laws are outdated and ineffective and represent political failure. The evidence of serious, and in some areas irreversible, impacts on the environment by native forest logging is beyond dispute. The fact that the law would allow this to continue is an indictment on all Governments that have allowed the logging to continue without review,”

“The responsibility for changing the law and ending the pointless destruction of native forests now sits firmly with the state and federal environment ministers. The NSW Minister for the Environment, Penny Sharpe, made it clear in 2018 that the RFA should not be extended without a thorough review of the system and health of the environment and our forests. This is her opportunity to conduct that review and place a moratorium on all native forest logging while the review is undertaken,”

“Everyday that native forest logging is allowed to continue is another day that threatened species, healthy ecosystems and climate impacts are disregarded in favour of vested interests in the logging industry. Workers and communities should be resourced appropriately to accept that native forest logging must come to an end,”

“The community movement of forest defenders will continue to step up and oppose native forest logging through whatever means they can including protest and other non-violent civil disobedience actions until Government policy matches scientific knowledge and community expectation, and native forest logging is brought to an end,” Ms Higginson said.

Lines attributable to Senator Janet Rice, Australian Greens Forests Spokesperson:

“The Regional Forest Agreements have allowed for decades of reckless destruction of native forests across Australia, pushed native wildlife to the brink of extinction, endangered our water supplies, heightened bushfire risk, and made the climate crisis worse.”

“The logging industry should be subject to the same environmental standards as all other industries. Today's decision has shown once again that our federal environment laws including the regional forest agreements are broken. 

“The Government has a responsibility to stop this destruction, protect our native forests and fix our broken laws. Yet, Labor has failed to act on both a state and federal level.

“Last year we saw the end of native forest logging in Victoria. The momentum is building for a complete ban on logging native forests across this continent.

“The Labor Government needs to stop prioritising corporate profits and industry lobbies over people and the environment. It’s time to end native forest logging across the board.

“Australia’s native forests need urgent protection - for their role in soaking up and storing carbon, as the traditional lands of First Nations peoples, for their totems and songlines, water, wildlife and beauty.”

For media contact 
Sue Higginson: 0428 227 363
Janet Rice: 0447 798 935