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A Federal Court may determine the future of native timber in NSW

Chris Minns up close with a koala

Today a Federal Court judgement may determine the fate of native timber harvesting in New South Wales. This sector deeply ingrained in regional, rural and remote NSW has for generations served as a sustainable cornerstone for communities, families and businesses. Source: Timberbiz

The Federal Court will hand down the decision on a case which was heard in March 2022, brought by environmental group North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) against the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of NSW in the first ever legal challenge to a Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) in NSW.

The Alliance argued that the 2018 agreement between the Commonwealth and NSW governments allowing harvest approvals was able to bypass federal environment checks saying that it failed to consider the impact on endangered species, old growth forests and climate change.

The outcome of this Federal Court decision comes hot on the heels of the closure of both Victoria and Western Australia’s native forest industry which has already caused major unemployment issues and placed heavy financial burdens on many communities.

For generations, native timber harvesting has been a vital source of livelihood contributing significantly to local economies within rural, regional and remote areas. The sustainable native timber sector supports countless communities, offering employment opportunities and fostering economic stability in towns as geographically diverse as Grafton, Eden, Kyogle and Barham.

Forest and Wood Communities Australia’s Mick Harrington says that the association is hopeful that the Minns Labor Government in NSW will continue to support the sustainable native timber sector and not give in to the anti-rural pro-activist tendencies of their Victorian Labor cousins.

In a statement he said that the Victorian experience shows us the potential impacts that a mismanaged sector-wide shutdown can have as those confronted with an uncertain future seek potential opportunities elsewhere.

Due to the actions of Dan Andrews and his successor Jacinta Allan many of these timber towns are now struggling to redefine their economic identity with the likely creation of a swathe of new welfare towns.

Rural communities that are already grappling with challenges such as depopulation, limited economic diversification and already high unemployment, stand particularly vulnerable to the potential fallout.

Historically, when major industries leave towns and cities – recovery or transition takes decades – if it works at all. This often means families feel the brunt quickly with unemployment, decline in essential services such as health and education alongside increases in family breakdown.

Mr Harrington said that the options for the New South Wales Government are clear – support the continued success of regional, rural and remote working-class families and their sustainable native hardwood sector or jump on the bandwagon with the extremist ideologs that seek to weaken families, our forests and our future.