Overview

The State of Victoria and Commonwealth of Australia have committed to working towards delivering a modernised and harmonised Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) framework to meet the needs of communities, industry and the environment.

As part of this process, the Victorian and Australian Governments want to understand the community’s views on opportunities to improve the five Victorian RFAs. Your input will directly inform this process.

An Independent Consultation Paper ‘Modernising the Victorian Regional Forest Agreements’ has been developed by Dr William Jackson to provide an explanation of what the Victorian RFAs are, how they operate, and how effective they have been. In the paper, Dr Jackson also recommends areas for improvement to Victorian RFAs.

The Victorian and Australian Governments are now seeking your views on these and other areas for potential improvement by posing a series of overarching and more targeted questions. You can provide your response by uploading a written submission (Word document or PDF) or via the online survey below. You may answer as many or as few questions as you choose.

You can respond to the survey by entering your responses under the 'survey' section of this page.

Please click the link below to download the Independent Consultation Paper which may assist you in responding to the following questions.

Opportunities to meet face-to-face with Victorian and Australian Government representatives and share your views will be provided in each of the Victorian RFA regions in June 2019. Further information on these events can be found at: www2.delwp.vic.gov.au/futureforests

Below is a map of the East Gippsland, Gippsland, North East, Central Highlands and West Victoria RFA regions. RFAs for these regions were signed between 1997 and 2000, and all are due to expire in March 2020.

Map of RFA regions in Victoria

The Independent Consultation Paper poses the five overarching questions on which we are seeking your views. It also identifies key areas for improvement to the Victorian RFAs. We are seeking your response to questions designed to help inform how we respond to these improvement areas. Remember, you can answer as many or as few questions as you choose.

Upload a written submission

Please include your organisation, name and contact details in your submission.

Survey

THEME ONE: ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

“Whilst the vision of Australia’s National Forest Policy Statement included a 'holistic' approach to managing forests for all their values and uses, so as to optimise benefits to the community (Commonwealth of Australia 1995), the Victorian RFAs have tended to focus on conservation of forest biodiversity and timber production.

Healthy forests have intrinsic value and can sustainably provide a wide range of benefits to Victorian society and its economy. The benefits that forests provide are known as ecosystem services. The ecosystem services provided by Victoria’s forests include:

  • Water supply, wood and fibre, honey
  • Regulation of the climate, carbon sequestration, regulation of water catchments, and pollination services
  • Opportunities for recreation and tourism, education and scientific research, cultural and historical heritage, and amenity and aesthetic values.

Victoria’s forests give us a sense of place and provide opportunities for social connection. Forests are central to the culture and identity of Aboriginal Victorians.

The Victorian RFAs should more clearly incorporate the wide range of values and benefits that forests provide.”

See Section 4 of the Independent Consultation Paper for further information.

1.2 CONSERVE FOREST DIVERSITY AND MAINTAIN ECOSYSTEM HEALTH

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

“Two decades ago, the RFA process supported the expansion of the CAR reserve system and included a focus on threatened species. However, despite these efforts, biodiversity continues to be lost from Victoria and further effort is needed to halt and reverse the decline.

The modernised RFAs should respond to the likely impact of climate change and other environmental pressures on threatened species, threatened ecological communities and key threatening processes by including the adaptation mechanisms needed to address these impacts. The RFAs should support:

  • Victoria’s biodiversity plan including broader scale threat management, specific threat management and supporting collaboration between stakeholders to drive improvement in biodiversity conservation (see, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning 2017)
  • Matters of National Environmental Significance under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The most relevant Matters of National Environmental Significance for forests include, national and world heritage, wetlands of international importance (listed under the Ramsar Convention), listed threatened species and ecological communities, and migratory species protected under international agreements (see, Department of the Environment and Energy n.d.). To conserve forest biodiversity and maintain ecosystem health, the modernised RFAs should include a range of conservation strategies, including changes to the formal and informal CAR reserve system, restoration of EVCs, improving connectivity between fragmented EVCs, and working with private landholders to conserve under-represented EVCs.

See Section 4 of the Independent Consultation Paper for further information.

1.3 PROMOTE TRADITIONAL OWNER RIGHTS AND PARTNERSHIP

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

“DELWP has already committed to building collaborative relationships and working partnerships with Victorian Traditional Owner groups. This includes increasing the involvement of Traditional Owner groups in the management of country (see, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning 2015a).

The RFA modernisation process provides impetus to include meaningful consideration of the rights and aspirations of Traditional Owners in the RFAs and Victoria’s forest management system.

The RFAs should support the recognition of the rights of Victoria’s Traditional Owners to partner in land management on parks, reserves and State forests, and seek economic and cultural opportunities for Aboriginal Victorians.”

See Section 4 of the Independent Consultation Paper for further information.

THEME TWO: THE LONG-TERM STABILITY OF FORESTS AND FOREST INDUSTRIES

2.1 ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE AND OTHER LARGE SCALE DISTURBANCES

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

“Climate change and other large-scale disturbances, including landscape-level fires and invasive species, are threats to Victoria’s forest biodiversity, forest-dependent industries and the communities that live near forests.

A modernised RFA process should ensure that forest management decisions are informed by up-to-date scientifically-credible information on the current and likely future impact of climate change and other large-scale disturbances. This includes improving our understanding of how the interaction between climate change and other pressures on the natural environment is leading to cumulative impacts, and amplifying the threats faced by forests.

Forest management strategies for State forests, parks and reserves should incorporate multi-scale actions that build the resilience of Victoria’s forests, including State-wide policy and guidance, landscape level actions across RFA regions, and local level forest management actions.”

See Section 4 of the Independent Consultation Paper for further information.

2.2 SUPPORT THE DEVELOPMENT OF FOREST DEPENDENT INDUSTRIES

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

“The Victorian RFAs have not achieved long-term stability of supply for the timber industry. Without certainty of supply, it is difficult for the timber industry to invest with confidence, to develop value added approaches to processing wood products or to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using low embodied energy building materials that store carbon.

In addition, there are a range of industries that are dependent or partially dependent on healthy forests. These include the tourism and recreation industry, apiary, and the water industry.

The RFA modernisation process should consider how governments can best support the development of forest-based industries, including the forest and wood products industry, tourism and recreation industry, apiary, and the water industry, and ensure that these industries are sustainable into the future.

This process should include consideration of climate change, severe fires, invasive species, Matters of National Environmental Significance, and other factors that present a challenge to the viability of forest dependent industries.

The RFA modernisation process should also consider opportunities to encourage investment in innovation and new market opportunities.”

See Section 4 of the Independent Consultation Paper for further information.

THEME THREE: GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT OF VICTORIA’S FORESTS

3.1 SUPPORT THE VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT EFFORTS TO IMPROVE FOREST MANAGEMENT PLANNING

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

“Victoria’s approach to forest management planning has served the State well, but forest management plans now require renewal. The Victorian Government has indicated an intention to update forest management plans and it is important that this happens.

Changing the approach to forest management planning and extending the new approach across the State will take time. The RFA modernisation program provides an opportunity to identify milestones to help the Victorian Government work towards achieving the necessary reforms over the coming years. It also is an opportunity for the Victorian Government to obtain feedback from stakeholders on forest management planning, and to collect information that will help in the development of a more inclusive, adaptive and consultative approach to forest management planning.

Overall, forest management planning for public forests (including State forests, and forested parks and reserves) should aim to deliver ecologically sustainable forest management and work towards the State’s vision for forests. It should be undertaken in partnership with Traditional Owners.

Moreover, as new knowledge is acquired, and circumstances related to forests change, the forest management planning system will need to adapt. For this reason, the reforms to forest management planning should be an ongoing process of improvement.”

See Section 4 of the Independent Consultation Paper for further information.

3.2 IDENTIFY RESEARCH PRIORITIES

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

“The Australian and Victorian Governments recognise that continuing research can contribute to improved outcomes for adaptive management and continual improvement in forest management, as well as in the management of Matters of National Environmental Significance, social impacts and benefits, and industry development (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources et al. 2018). The Governments also recognise that research priorities will change and evolve over time as new information is generated and as circumstances change.

The RFA modernisation process should facilitate negotiations on forest research priorities between the Victorian and Australian Governments, including identifying how existing research programs and investment can be better utilised. There is, for example, a need for more research into:

  • The state and trend of pressures on forests, and the effectiveness of management actions to address pressures
  • The implications of an increasing gap between demand for wood products and the ability of Victoria’s forests to supply these products
  • The implications of the steady decline in the number of forestry graduates from Australian universities.”

See Section 4 of the Independent Consultation Paper for further information.

3.3 IMPROVE MONITORING AND REPORTING

The Independent Consultation Paper suggests that:

“Forest management needs to be based on robust data and systematically monitoring, evaluating and reporting on the objectives of forest management (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources et al. 2018).

The Victorian Forest Monitoring Program has already begun to provide information, including baseline data for long-term trend detection, which is being used to inform continuous improvement in the management of Victoria’s forests. The Victorian Government has also engaged in the development of environmental-economic accounting to provide better, integrated and more consistent information and analysis on environmental assets, including forests.

The RFA modernisation program presents an opportunity to continue to improve monitoring and reporting to enhance evidence-based decision making and improve the transparency of forest management with the community.

Actions to be considered in the RFA modernisation process include:

  • Review the current suite of indicators used to report the state and trend of forests and forest-dependent industries, including a review of gaps (e.g. socio-economic values, climate change and emerging pressures), and the relevance and cost effectiveness of current indicators
  • Continue and improve the Victorian Forest Monitoring Program
  • Provide better information on the effectiveness of the informal reserve system and forests on private land in protecting biodiversity
  • Expand efforts to engage people in monitoring and citizen science in State forests, parks and reserves
  • Enhance reporting on key sustainability indicators, including indicators of the effectiveness of forest and park management, in formats that are readily understood by decision makers and the community
  • Improve the alignment between the various forest-related reporting systems, including the State of the Forests Reports, the State of the Parks Reports and the RFA reports and reviews, to enable stakeholders to have a more transparent view of the state and trends of the entire forest estate
  • Improve the RFA review and reporting processes and the reporting on the outcomes of, and responses to, forest audits
  • Continue to develop environmental-economic accounting and use the results to build a shared understanding with the community about the state and trend of all values provided by forests
  • Promote regular engagement between forest management agencies, Traditional Owners and the science and research community.”

See Section 4 of the Independent Consultation Paper for further information.

Privacy Statement

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is committed to protecting personal information provided by you in accordance with the principles of the Victorian privacy laws.

The personal contact information you provide will be kept separate from the body of your submission and used to administer the public consultation process only.

Your personal contact information will not be circulated outside of DELWP. Your contact details may be used by DELWP to update you on the results of the consultation process. We might also need to seek clarification from you on your submission.

For more information read DELWP's Information Privacy Policy at www.delwp.vic.gov.au/privacy.

Confidentiality of Your Submission

Your Submission has been collected by DELWP for the purpose of informing the Victorian Regional Forests Agreement. DELWP may do the following with the content of your submission.

1. Publish a copy of your submission on the DELWP website or other Victorian Government website.

2. Quote directly from your feedback in the DELWP response to feedback.

If you do not wish your submission to be published or to have content from your submission quoted in the DELWP response to consultation, please tick the box above (before the submit button). All submissions are public documents. Please do not include personally identifying information in the body of your submission.