A landmark decision by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal will force the NSW Government to open its books and allow the community to see the true cost of logging the state’s native forests for the first time.
The tribunal has upheld the Nature Conservation Council of NSW’s appeal against a decision by Forests NSW to refuse access to details about wood supply agreements in the state’s north east.
In its judgment, the Tribunal ruled “there is a clear public interest in an agency that is dealing with public assets being accountable for the manner in which it contracts to sell those assets.”
The Tribunal went on to say that “This (public) interest is strengthened by the fact that the (wood supply) agreements were entered under a system that did not involve an open tender.”
The NSW Government will now be forced to throw open its books to public scrutiny for the first time, revealing the true costs and benefits of logging in our public native forests, NCC Chief Executive Officer Pepe Clarke said.
“This landmark ruling will enable the public to participate on equal terms with company interests when debating the costs and benefits of forest policy in NSW.
“Community members will be able use this information to develop alternatives for future management of the forests, to assess more sustainable and profitable options for forest management, and to better cost those options.”
The North Coast Environment Council, which originally applied to gain access to details of wood supply agreements in the state’s north east, said the Tribunal’s judgment is a victory for transparency and accountability in the public forest sector.
“For too long the high price the environment and the community is paying to see the state’s native forests cut down has been kept secret,” NCEC President Susie Russell said. “This decision will now contribute to more sustainable management of our native forests.”
The Tribunal referred to the findings of a 2009 Auditor-General’s report into native forest logging, which found that “to meet wood supply commitments, the native forest managed by Forests NSW on the north coast is being cut faster than it is growing back.”
Further, the Auditor General’s report identified that Forests NSW had entered into long-term agreements to sell more timber than would be produced within that period.
It also found that the community risks incurring economic loss if existing arrangements are rolled over without being subjected to a careful and fair review of pricing arrangements.
Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald: www.smh.com.au/environment/tribunal-orders-release-of-log-deal-details-2....