The Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014 (‘the Act’) has been passed by the Tasmanian parliament following amendments by the Legislative Council.
The Ministerial Statement, presented prior to the introduction of the Act stated:
the main role of the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Bill is to halt the reserve making process established through the TFA, thereby ensuring that future possibilities and opportunities remain available to Tasmania.
The Act repeals the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Act 2013 (‘the TFA Act’). The Act also amends the following laws:
- Forest Management Act 2013;
- Forest Practices Act 1985;
- Forest Practices Regulations 2007;
- National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002;
- Nature Conservation Act 2002.
This briefing note provides a general overview of the terms of the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014.
Changes to the Tasmanian Forestry legislation
Protection of Forests
Under the TFA Act approximately 500,000 hectares of forest became future reserve land. This land was largely protected from logging whilst the reserve making process in the TFA Act proceeded.
The Act confirms that approximately 100,000 hectares of reserves proclaimed in December 2013 under the TFA Act will remain reserved. While the Act provides that the proclamation may be “altered, amended or rescinded”, no detail is provided on the process that must be followed before any such changes may occur.
The original Bill gave the Crown Land Minister power to convert existing reserve land that was excluded from the World Heritage List to FPPF land without Parliamentary approval. However, given the World Heritage Committee’s decision to retain all listed forests on the World Heritage List, it is unlikely that those powers could be exercised.
The remaining 400,000ha identified for reserves under the TFA Act has been renamed future potential production forest land (‘the FPPF land’). With one minor exception, it appears the land area and location of FPPF land is the same as the future reserve land identified in the TFA Act (see Notes on Lots below).
The harvesting of native forest in the FPPF land is prohibited, other than in coupes specifically excluded by the Act (subject to special species harvesting, see below).
The Act replicates the compensation provisions of the TFA Act and inserts them into the Forest Management Act 2013.
Logging on FPPF land
Special species harvesting
The most significant changes introduced by the Act are designed to allow “special species timber harvesting” in the FPPF land.
The Act requires the Forestry Minister to make a special species management plan (SSMP), following consultation with “any person the Minister considers appropriate” and public exhibition of a draft SSMP. SSMPs are to identify sustainable supplies for special species timber resources by reference to conservation, environmental and cultural heritage values.
The Minister must have regard to any advice and public comments received before approving the SSMP (with or without modification). The final SSMP does not require parliamentary approval.
Special species timber harvesting is defined as the harvesting of listed species by partial harvesting.
Partial harvesting is defined as harvesting of single or groups of trees whilst retaining other trees including advanced growth trees, seed trees and shelter wood trees.
Special species management plan is a plan establishing a level of supply of special species timber in a certain area.
Any person may apply to the Crown Land Minister for a permit to carry out special species harvesting on FPPF land. However, a permit for harvesting may only be granted:
- No earlier than 3 years after the Act commences; and
- If the Minister is satisfied that the special species is not available on land outside the FPPF land; and
- If the harvesting is consistent with a SSMP.
Note: The Crown Land Minister is required to seek the advice of the Forestry Minister in relation to special species harvesting, but is not expressly required to have regard to the implications of special species harvesting for management of conservation values or forest management certification.
The Act sets up two processes (exchange and conversion) which would pave the way for logging in FPPF land (other than special species harvesting):
- The Crown Land Minister, on the request of the Forestry Minister, can exchange FPPF land for permanent timber production zone land. The order formalising the exchange must be approved by both Houses of Parliament.
- The Crown Land Minister, on the request of the Minister responsible for forestry, can convert FPPF land into permanent timber production zone land.
Significantly, the Forestry Minster cannot make a request to convert FPPF land before 8 April 2020.
This restriction is presumably the basis for the claim in the Ministerial Statement that “[t]he Bill establishes a moratorium on native harvesting in the Future Potential Production Forest Land that will be in place for 6 years.”
For both exchange and conversion, the Act sets out the issues that must be considered prior to approval being granted. These include:
- The size, location and conservation values of the land;
- Impacts on availability of special species timber and the values outlined under an SSMP.
- The implications for Forestry Tasmania’s forest management certification.
In contrast to the specific reference in the TFA Act to FSC certification, the Act defines “forest management certification” as:
An internationally recognised forest management certification of forest management practices of an entity based on an independent assessment by an accredited forest management certification body.
While this approach could mean that a certification process other than FSC could be undertaken, the Minister has stated:
The Government fully supports Forestry Tasmania’s application for Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification… The Government recognises that FSC certification could bring significant benefits to the native forest industry.
Changes to National Parks legislation
The Act alters the objectives of Conservation Areas and Regional Reserves to explicitly include “to provide for…special species timber harvesting”.
Following the conversion of former forest reserves under the Forest Management Act 2013, there are currently:
- 407 conservation areas, covering over 650,000 hectares.
- 147 regional reserves, covering over 450,000 hectares.
The Forest Management (Consequential Amendments) Act 2013 had already made this change in part with regard to regional reserves.
Notes on the Lots The lot numbers used in the TFA Act appear to have been replicated in the Act. The total area of FPPF is 392,428 hectares. The following are the lots from the TFA Act future reserve land not included in the FPPF: 1, 6, 13, 49, 70, 89, 140, 142, 146, 157, 167, 174, 181, 196, 197, 198, 200, 202, 203, 204, 211, 240, 243, 244, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 268, 275, 276, 277, 278, 279, 280, 282 and 283 These total an area of 122,543 hectares. In addition: – Lot 113 has been reduced in size from 579 to 573 hectares. – Lot 152 has been reduced in size from 6682 to 6645 hectares – Lot 245 has been increased in size from 192 to 236 hectares.