LOCAL community and environmental groups opposed to logging in the Otways have spoken out against plans to update Victoria’s forest management system, arguing the existing agreements are already effectively cancelled and should not be renewed.
The state and federal governments have signed an agreement to modernise the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) framework and are running a second phase of public consultations (known as Future of our Forests) in Victoria throughout June.
The existing West RFA (which covers the Geelong region) was signed about 20 years ago and is due to expire in March 2020.
Otway Ranges Environment Network spokesperson Simon Birrell said the RFA had been superseded by policies to ban logging in the Otways by 2008 and create the Great Otway National Park – an election pledge by then-premier Steve Bracks in 2002.
“Community and environmental groups in South Western Victoria thought the West RFA had already been cancelled and was dead,” Mr Birrell said.
“The state and federal bureaucracies are failing to recognise that the past mandate to ban native forest logging in the Otways also extended to cancelling the West RFA.”
Joan Lindros of the Geelong Environment Council (GEC) said many community groups had worked closely with the GEC on a campaign to have the West RFA cancelled.
“Yet, I have been told by departmental staff seeking to renew the West RFA that they will only selectively consult with community groups. Groups like OREN will not be formally consulted.”
A drop-in session was held in Forrest on Tuesday this week, but environmentalists criticised the session for being held in a small town some distance from Geelong on a weekday during business hours.
Future of our Forests has commissioned and released a consultation paper from an independent environmental consultant that explains what the Victorian RFAs are, how they operate, and how effective they have been.
To download a copy of the paper or provide an online submission, head to https://engage.vic.gov.au/future-of-our-forests.