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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

31 March 2000


The Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) for North East NSW provides a significant boost in protection for the region's outstanding environmental values, Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill said today.

Welcoming the announcement of the RFA by the Prime Minister and NSW Premier, Senator Hill said the agreement established a conservation reserve system covering well over half the region's public land.

"In the Upper North East region, the comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) reserves cover about 55.4 per cent of the public land, while the proportion of public land in reserves in the Lower North East is now more than 67 per cent," Senator Hill said.

"The RFA goes as far as was practicable in meeting the nationally agreed criteria for reserving biodiversity and old-growth, with strengthened forest management -practices, including prescriptions on State forest, providing considerable additional protection to rare non-commercial forest ecosystems and non-forest ecosystems like rainforest, grassland, wetland, heath.

"Voluntary conservation by private landowners will also be important, because many of the region's forest ecosystems occur mainly on private land."

Fifty-seven per cent of the 654,600 hectares of old growth in the UNE and 72 per cent of the 1.03 million hectares of old growth in the LNE is in the CAR Reserve System. Additional protection for High Conservation Value Old Growth is provided under the Integrated Forest Operations Approvals.

The RFA strengthens protection for more than 109 threatened and/or forest dependent species of plants and 144 animal species, including the barking owl, masked owl, southern barred frog, squirrel glider and yellow bellied glider.

Senator Hill said he looked forward to the completion of the RFA for Southern NSW, which will mark the completion of the RFA process both in NSW and for Australia.

"RFAs have achieved a careful, scientific balance in Australian forest policy, with conservation outcomes of which Australia can be proud," he said.

"While opposing sides of the debate will continue to campaign for their interests, Australians can be confident that their forests under RFAs will be among the best managed and the most thoroughly protected in the world."

Rod Bruem (02) 6277 7640 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia