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A breakdown of the NSW RFAs

The New South Wales forestry industry will have access to about 340,000 cubic metres of quality saw logs annually from native forests over the next five years under the recommitted 20-year regional forest agreements. More than 1 million cubic metres of non-high quality logs will also be available from native forests annually under the sustainable yield estimates of the three RFAs – the North East, Eden and Southern regions. Source: Philip Hopkins for  Timberbiz

The three NSW RFAs, which were finalised late last year, have initial sustainable yield estimates for the five-year period from 2019 to 2023. The RFA agreements were tabled in Federal Parliament before Christmas.

The total annual sustainable yield estimate is 1.396 million cubic metres – 341,000 cubic metres of high quality logs and 1.055 million cubic metres of non-high quality logs.

The breakdown over the three RFAs is:

  • North East – 230,000 cubic metres of high quality logs and 660,000 cubic metres of non-high quality logs.
  • Southern (South coast sub region) – 50,000 cubic metres and 160,000 cubic metres.
  • Southern (Tumut sub-region) 35,000 cubic metres and 40,000 cubic metres.
  • Eden – 26,000 cubic metres and 195,000 cubic metres.

The three RFAs, which expire on 26 August 2039, have a 15-20 year rolling life, depending on completing a set of five-year reviews.

Under the agreements, NSW has committed to supply the wood from the RFA regions at or below sustainable yield, removing the timber volume commitments of the original RFAs.

“Although determined using the best available information at the time, the volumes became out-of-date,” the agreement says.

They did not reflect refinements in modelled sustainable yields, reductions in the area available for timber harvesting, or cutbacks in wood supply to industry to cater for the lower sustainable yield estimates.

“The amended RFA commitments provide a rigorous process for determining sustainable yield,” the agreement states.

Sustainable yield calculations must now be updated and published every five years, and independently reviewed.

This approach recognises that sustainable yield and forest ecosystems are not static, the agreement says.

“This approach provides greater flexibility in managing the NSW public forest estate, increased longevity in the RFAs, and importantly, greater transparency through improved and more regular communication of sustainable yield estimates with the public,” the agreement says.

Estimated yields compared with actual timber yields will be reconciled at least twice every five-year period. The last reconciliation was published in 2016 and the next is due to be released this year, says the agreement.

All sustainable yield figures will be updated before the next five-yearly review of the RFAs, which is due to start in 2024. The last independent review of sustainable yield systems and processes was in 2017.

There are more than 20 million hectares of forest in NSW, including native and plantation forests, of which about half is on public land.

In the NSW RFA regions, the total forested area is 8.13 million hectares, with more than 4.35 million hectares of forest ecosystems protected in the Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) Reserve System on public land.