Exemptions allowing logging to occur in Australia’s native forests without approval under the federal environmental law are being challenged in court as lawyers claim the agreements creating them are not being adhered to in an area of Victoria.
The case, brought by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) on behalf of Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, could have national implications, with other groups raising similar concerns around the country.
Australia’s 10 regional forestry agreements (RFAs) in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Western Australia were signed between 1997 and 2001, each running for 20 years.
The agreements between state and federal governments mean proposals to log in designated native forests are not required to be approved through the usual federal process, under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).
They were seen by many as a historic peace deal that attempted to preserve conservation values while allowing the forestry industry continued access to native trees.
But the agreements require performance reviews to be conducted every five years. EJA will argue that since those reviews have not been undertaken in Victoria, some logging in the forests covered by the Central Highlands RFA, which threatens Greater gliders and Leadbeater’s possums must gain approval under the EPBC, which has not occurred.