Private native forestry (Codes of practice)
Farm Forestry (also known as Private Native Forestry) is the sustainable management of native forests on private property for timber production in line with the objects of Part 5B in the Local Land Services Act 2013. The rules for forestry on private land are established in four codes of practice (the codes), which cover Northern NSW, Southern NSW, River Red Gum Forests, and Cypress and Western Hardwood Forests.
In November 2021, the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces sought advice from the Commission under a Terms of Reference to assist in finalising the codes.
In March 2022, the Commission delivered its final report on the final draft codes to Government. The Commission’s advice supported the Government in making the final codes.
The Commission found that the final draft codes are a substantive improvement on the existing codes and fulfil the requirements identified in the Terms of Reference. This included the Government’s dual objectives for robust protections for koalas in high value habitat, and certainty and consistency for landholders.
For example, more koala trees will be retained in over 2.8 million hectares of high value koala habitat. New harvesting prescriptions make it easier for landholders to implement and comply with, while still maintaining ongoing habitat values for native fauna.
Overall, the Commission determined the final draft codes met the objects of Part 5B of the Local Land Services Act 2013 (including the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management). In addition, the Commission determined the final draft codes meet the recommendations outlined in the Office of Chief Scientist and Engineer’s 2021 advice.
As such, the Commission recommended that the NSW Government approve the final draft codes and develop protocols and guidelines to support their implementation and enforceability. In addition, the Commission advised that the NSW Government increase support to Local Land Services to ensure it can build landholder capacity and best practice farm forestry.
The Commission’s final report details its recommendations in full.
After the Commission delivered its advice, Local Land Services updated the draft codes following further discussions with the Commission, relevant agencies and expert advice. These updates substantially related to stream and threatened species protections. This note explains the actions and outcomes.
Under a Terms of Reference, the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces requested the Commission to:
- advise on whether the final draft codes fulfil the Objects of Part 5B of the Local Land Services Act 2013 (including the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management), other government policy objectives, and recommendations in the NSW Office of Chief Scientist and Engineer’s 2021 report on koala protections
- advise on steps to develop and implement a Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting framework under the NSW Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program overseen by the Commission.
The Commission convened an expert group to inform its review:
- Prof. Patrick Baker – University of Melbourne – Professor of Silviculture and Forest Ecology, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences
- Dr. Alistair Melzer – Central Queensland University – Adjunct Research Fellow, Koala Research CQ, School of Medical and Applied Sciences and research program leader for koala research at Central Queensland University
- Dr. Chris Armstrong – NSW Office of Chief Scientist and Engineer – NSW Deputy Chief Scientist, Chair of the NSW Koala Strategy expert panel.
The Terms of Reference directed the Commission to consult with Local Land Services, Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, NSW Department of Planning and Environment - Energy, Environment and Science and other relevant agencies as required, noting that the review scope did not allow for consultation with external stakeholders.
The Commission also considered government legislative requirements, relevant policy objectives and previous work by independent experts, available literature and community submissions on the draft codes.
The Commission is currently undertaking ongoing work in relation to Farm Forestry and the codes, including overseeing the design and implementation of a Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting framework and improvements to the Koala Prescription Map.
Improving the evidence base for Farm Forestry
The codes establish the need to monitor, assess and adaptively manage the codes (s4.3  ). Specifically, the codes task the NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee (the Committee, which is independently chaired by the Commission) with developing a Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER) framework. The MER framework will require joint approval by the CEO of Local Land Services and the Secretary of Department of Planning and Environment.
The Committee oversees the overarching NSW Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program (the program). This program improves the evidence-base for decision-making for forest management across tenures. Activities under the MER framework will align with and inform the broader program.
As required by the codes, the Committee will conduct annual checks to ensure the evidence base is up-to-date, identify emerging evidence from monitoring and research and opportunities to improve the codes. The Committee will also formally assess the data and evidence every five years and advise relevant Ministers whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a review of the codes.
Improving the Koala Prescription Mapping
As part of its review, the Commission worked with scientists at the NSW Department of Planning and Environment - Energy, Environment and Science group and Department of Primary Industries Forest Science Unit to develop a fit-for-purpose interim PNF Koala Prescription Map for each code region. These maps are adopted in the codes.
The codes specify that the NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee (independently chaired by the Commission) will oversee updates to the map. The Commission and Committee will continue to work with agency scientists and experts on to further refine the PNF Koala Prescription Map over time and will provide updates as this work progresses.