Recommendations report (December 2009)
Final assessment report—full (December 2009)
River red gums (NSW Government website)
The NSW Government asked the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to assess the river red gum and woodland forests in the Riverina bioregion in NSW under a terms of reference. The NRC's assessment provided information to Government about how the river red gum forests should be managed into the future, and allowed the Government to make decisions and put in place a forest agreement.
We delivered to Government a final assessment report that presented the best available science and knowledge on the current health and uses of these forests, together with the predicted implications of climate change and the consequent impacts on changes in water availability and flooding regimes on these forests.
Our assessment was informed by submissions received, extensive consultation with key stakeholders and experts, and public forums to gain a richer picture of the breadth and depth of values people placed on these forests. In addition, we held information sessions to explain our assessment and recommendations reports to the stakeholders and the community.
In response to our assessment and recommendations, the NSW Government enacted the National Park Estate (Riverina Red Gum Reservations) Act 2010 that came into effect on 1 July 2010 (see the Government's River Red Gums website). The Act transferred certain state forest land in the Riverina area to the national parks estate, and made provision with respect to forestry operations in that area. To give effect to Government's decision, an Integrated Forestry Operations Approval for Riverina Red Gum was signed that commenced on 1 January 2011.
|Final assessment and recommendations
Our final assessment report to the NSW Government contained six key findings on future management of the river red gum and woodland forests in the Riverina bioregion. These findings helped inform the recommendations report.
Key findings arising from our assessment were:
- Significant water reforms
Significant water reforms and closer collaboration in water and forest management between jurisdictions are needed to respond to the decline in forest ecosystem health.
- Active interventions to manage forests
All river red gum forest ecosystems in the Riverina will need to be intensively and actively managed through the inevitable transitions of a drying climate. Active interventions such as ecological thinning and water-delivery infrastructure will be necessary in all forests, whether managed primarily for conservation or timber production.
- Trans-border national parks with coordinated adaptive management
Managing key environmental assets and corridors as transborder national parks and reserves is a sound conservation planning response to water scarcity and climate change as it should help to align flooding regimes and enhance the status of red gum forests, as key ecological assets under the pending Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
- New funding models for forests
Sound reasons remain to manage some forests for multiple benefits and uses, such as timber production, conservation, tourism, and recreation, but new funding models must be developed to reflect the diversity of ecosystem services, products and values these forests support. Lower growth rates and increasing management costs are undermining the viability of a public trading enterprise managing the red gum forests of the Riverina on a commercial basis.
- Engagement with local communities
Indigenous and other local communities maintain strong cultural links with red gum forests and should be engaged in the management of all forests, regardless of tenure.
- Maintaining human and social capital
The Riverina region is deeply affected by the current drought as irrigated agriculture has reduced. The capacity of the Riverina communities to adapt to the challenges of a water scarce future depends on maintaining economic and social diversity, and investing in human and physical capital.
The final assessment report is available in full or as separate chapters and appendices. The supporting map book provides additional mapping detail, compared to the A4 maps provided within the final assessment report, to help the reader rapidly distinguish features of interest.
- Recommendations report (1.8 MB)
- Final assessment report (full) (1.8 MB)
|Further advice on long term sustainable wood yields
The final assessment report presented estimates of long term sustainable yields from the main river red gum forests of the Central Murray Management Area. To help inform its response to our recommendations, the government asked for a more precise estimate of the timber yield for each forest group in the Riverina bioregion.
We consulted with the former Forests NSW (now Forestry Corporation of NSW) and provided further advice on estimates of long term (100 year) sustainable yields of quota sawlogs, and Forests NSW estimates of standing stock of quota sawlogs.
This advice did not change any of the findings or recommendations contained in our assessment and recommendations reports.
Further advice on long term sustainable wood yields
Letter to the Premier
|Ecological thinning trial
As part of its overall recommendations to the NSW Government on river red gum and woodland forests, the NRC recommended large-scale trials of ecological thinning across all main river red gum forest groups.
Ecological thinning can potentially provide positive outcomes for biodiversity, such as enhancing survival of valuable large trees, increasing tree growth rates and the rate of creation of habitat trees, and reducing fire hazard from standing live or dead trees. However, there has been no formal appraisal of these potential positive effects in river red gum forests, especially under a declining water regime.
The NRC suggested the trials should be instigated promptly, applying the forest management principles in the NRC’s final assessment report. The NRC also suggested the NSW, Victorian, South Australian and Australian Governments should work towards establishing collaborative and adaptive management arrangements on relevant red gum forests along the Murray.
Since these recommendations, a joint NSW and Victorian ecological thinning trial is currently being implemented in the Barmah-Millewa forests to determine the effectiveness of ecological thinning to promote conservation outcomes in river red gum forests.
|Advice on boundary adjustments to river red gum reserves
The National Park Estate (Riverina Red Gum Reservations) Act 2010 includes provisions to adjust reserve boundaries, if necessary.
In 2012, the Minister for the Environment sought our advice on adjustments to boundaries of the red gum reserves, proposed by the Office of the Environment and Heritage. We recommended the Government:
- adopt the proposed boundary adjustments
- start a well-designed and independently monitored grazing trial (or trials), and complete this by the end of 2015, to allow for due consideration of whether ongoing grazing can provide conservation benefits before existing permits expire
- provide opportunities for landholders who have voluntarily surrendered grazing permits to request these permits be reissued in line with the Minister’s extension of all existing permits until 2016
- use the principles from the NRC’s 2009 forest assessment to implement active, flexible and adaptive management options, including continuing the ecological thinning trial, and using prescribed fire management to reduce fuel load and promote regeneration.
The NSW Government has since approved a scientifically monitored grazing trial in some river red gum reserves.
Overview of submissions
We received 5,534 submissions from organisations and individuals, of which 259 were unique and the remainder were form letters or emails. We reviewed and considered every submission during the preparation of our assessment report and the recommendations report.
These submissions were on our preliminary assessment report and the Government's terms of reference.