Media Releases - 02 April 2020

The bushfires change everything: Victorian RFA Major Event Review must be triggered ASAP

  • Governments must urgently implement new Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) Major Event Review mechanism in wake of 2019-20 bushfire crisis
  • Bushfire-affected forests need care and support to recovery, not another ten years of logging
  • RFAs must fast-track the Victorian logging industry’s planned transition out of special forests and into plantations 

The Federal and Victorian governments have just re-signed five controversial Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) for up to another 10 years of native forest logging, continuing the logging industry’s controversial exemption from national environment law. This is a disastrous move for both Victoria’s logging industry and the jobs in it, as well as Victoria’s native forests and wildlife.

However the renewed Victorian RFAs now have a new mechanism to review logging practices, the level of protection for forests and wildlife, and the stability of forest-dependent industries where a major event, such as bushfire occurs. The Wilderness Society has called for the inclusion of such a clause since 2017, if RFAs were to be continued with at all. 

“Governments must move without delay to commence a Major Event Review. Last summer’s terrible bushfires have severe consequences for forests, wildlife, community and industry in four of Victoria’s five RFA regions. Logging clearly cannot go on as before,” said Amelia Young, National Campaign Director for The Wilderness Society.

“We now call upon the immediate triggering of the major event clause in these Victorian RFAs in the wake of devastating bushfires and for the same clause to be incorporated into other RFAs around the country. Given the extent of the recent bushfires in NSW, and the importance of removing damaging logging from recovering forests, it’s unconscionable that the NSW RFA continue unamended.”

The Victorian government conducted a two-year review of Victoria’s RFAs which found deep community expectation that public native forests be managed inclusively for all values such as water supply and carbon storage, not just unsustainable logging and woodchipping operations.

“The Victorian government’s RFA review clearly shows the Victorian public overwhelmingly support protecting forests from logging, a desire for improved recreation opportunities, and a future for the wood and fibre industry in plantations.”

“Now, given the bushfires, and the uncertainty for species and for the industry, a Major Event Review is warranted, timely and critical for community, forests and industry to recover.”

Even before last summer’s devastating bushfires, Victoria’s native forest logging industry was faced with dwindling wood volumes due to the impacts of successive bushfires, and decades of poor forest management. 

“There is an urgent need to bring forward the Victorian Government’s commitment for planned industry transition out of native forests by 2030. It must also rapidly implement new Immediate Protection Areas and old-growth protection measures on the ground. Yet the logging industry is controversially pushing for immediate access to burnt areas as well as ongoing access to green unburnt areas—both highly damaging forms of logging that will harm recovering and living forests.”

The RFA CAR reserve—which must be Comprehensive Adequate and Representative—is already failing to protect Victoria’s threatened forest animals, including from extinction. 

“The existing RFA CAR reserve system does not protect areas of critical habitat, nor areas known to be the minimum required to enable recovery of threatened species, like Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider. After this summer’s bushfires, a Major Event Review is critically needed to help secure a future for these species which live nowhere else on the planet.”

“There is an urgent need to formally protect critical forests, and ensure the CAR reserve system is adequate—as is required under the RFAs—while transitioning industry. Now, the Great Forest National Park is needed more than ever before.”

Victoria’s RFAs need to facilitate rather than impede reform, and truly “modernised” RFAs would:

  • promote reform of forest management, in line with science and community expectations
  • protect forests from harmful logging
  • immediately trigger a Major Event Review to ensure assessment of the forests following bushfire and rapid industry and management response
  • end the special treatment for this one industry, by discontinuing its exemption from national environment law.


For further comment and information contact:

Amelia Young, National Campaign Director 0404 074 577

Tim Beshara, Federal Policy Director 0437 878 786