The Victorian Regional Forest Agreements (RFA) have stood the test of time and support mature policy decisions that balance the RFAs environmental, social, economic (including timber harvesting), Indigenous, and cultural values. Arising from the 2019-20 bushfires, the first-ever Major Event Review is underway. The Victorian Forest Product Association (VFPA) urges the Review Panel to maintain this balance through a principled approach to this review.
“Since 2000, the number and extent of bushfires have decimated the RFA values and has also destroyed thousands of hectares of privately owned plantation forests,” said Ms Kerr, VFPA CEO.
“In terms of bushfires, we cannot control the weather, so the only thing we can control is the fuel load within our public forests”.
“The scientific consensus is that it is essential to employ mechanical fuel reduction and low-intensity fires of a sufficient scale to reduce fuel loads.”
“Numerous Bushfire Royal Commissions have recognised this scientific consensus and called on the Victorian Government to ensure that a minimum of 5% of our forests is subjected to controlled burns. The effect on fuel loads can last up to 20 years.”
“However, at present less than 2% of Victoria is controlled burnt and most is rightly targeted at protecting communities and essential infrastructure.”
“None of the current Victorian programs will address the landscape scale reduction needed to protect our forests, meaning that it is just a matter of time before another catastrophic mega-fire will occur.”
“Moreover, the Victorian Government’s decision to close Victoria’s native forestry industry ignores the role that responsible and sustainable forest management plays in supporting the health of our forest ecosystems and in supporting fuel reduction in our public forests.”
“The decision is also short-sighted. Our foresters, harvest contractors and haulage workforce play an essential service in fighting fires and recovery from bushfires. Their expertise, knowledge, experience, and specialised equipment will be gone next time a mega-fire comes along,” concluded Ms Kerr.