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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
3 February 1997
The East Gippsland Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) signed today by the Prime Minister and Premier Kennett has improved protection for the environmentally significant forests of the region.
I welcome the fact that the Commonwealth and Victorian governments have been able to achieve the biodiversity, old growth and wilderness targets set for the RFA process.
Under the agreement, at least 60 percent of old growth forests, 15 percent of each type of forest ecosystem and 90% of wilderness has been protected. For many types of forest, the East Gippsland reserve system will protect considerably higher levels than those targets.
I am particularly pleased that Ellery's Creek will be added to the Errinundra National Park and that the Martins Creek and Goolengook Flora Reserves will be created. In total, 13,000 ha have been added to the reserve system as a result of the Agreement.
The Agreement is a demonstration of the Government's resolve to provide certainty for regional communities. This Agreement, which will last for twenty years, will provide considerable opportunities for industry to invest in value-adding operations. It will provide a major boost for jobs and small business in the region.
Today's signing of the Agreement is a tangible demonstration of our commitment to fulfilling the objectives of the National Forest Policy Statement.
The former Keating government promised that a comprehensive, adequate and representative forest reserve system would be established across Australia by the end of 1995. Yet when Labor left office last year, not a single Regional Forest Agreement had been signed.
I join the Prime Minister in acknowledging the work of Victorian and Commonwealth officials who have been involved in developing the Agreement announced today.
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