EDO: “We’ll keep fighting to protect NSW forests after disappointing court decision.”

Environmental Defenders Office:

“I have an important update to share with you about our case to protect NSW forests and native wildlife.  

The bulldozing of forests is driving Australia’s extinction crisis. Yet under the RFA, native forest logging is exempt from federal biodiversity assessment designed to protect nationally threatened species and ecosystems. 

The North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement (North East RFA) covers around four million hectares of native forest, including vital habitat for threatened species such as koalas, grey-headed flying foxes and greater gliders.  

There are 10 RFAs across New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, signed between 1997 and 2001 as 20-year agreements.  In 2018, the Federal Government waved through a 20-year extension of the North East RFA to avoid the costs of conducting a proper assessment, failing to assess how climate change will impact our native forest ecosystems.  Since then, the condition of our forests has deteriorated significantly while logging has continued.

That’s why in 2021 we brought the first ever legal challenge to a regional forestry agreement in NSW on behalf the North East Forest Alliance. EDO argued that the Federal Government failed to assess the impacts of climate change, endangered species and old-growth forests when it renewed the RFA in 2018 for another 20 years. Sadly, today the court dismissed our arguments.

Without law reform, native forest logging in the region will be exempt from Commonwealth environmental assessment until 2038, with scope for indefinite future extensions and without any updated impact assessment. 

This was a rare opportunity to challenge an outdated regional forest agreement. Today’s outcome is devastating for our client and the native animals that live in these forests. 

Large areas of north-east NSW burned in the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, followed by devastating floods in 2021 and 2022.   Our forests need time to regenerate and recover from disaster.  Instead, these outdated logging laws continue rubberstamp the destruction of our native forests, push native wildlife toward extinction, heighten bushfire risk, and make the climate crisis worse. 

We will be looking at this decision closely and speaking to our client over the coming days to discuss the next steps. It is vitally important that our remaining forests are properly protected from the damaging impacts of logging.   We will continue to push to overhaul these ineffective native forest management laws through the current reform of our national environment law, the EBPC Act. 

Managing Lawyer,
Environmental Defenders Office