The Forest Practices Authority

The elements of the forest practices system

The Forest Practices Code

FPA research and advice

Forest Practices Officers

Forest practices plans

Three year plans

Private timber reserves

Land clearing controls

Maintaining forest cover

Treefern harvesting regulation

Other legislation and policies

Self-regulation

Compliance

Enforcement

The Forest Practices Tribunal

Opportunities for engagement

Objections

Appeals

Compensation

Complaints

Reporting

Adaptive management

International context

The Forest Practices Code

The Tasmanian Forest Practices Code was the first in Australia and is central to the forest practices system. It is the only forest code in Australia and one of a very few world-wide to apply equally to public and private land. The code is applied in accordance with a guiding policy that explains the contribution to be made by the code towards sustainable forest management in Tasmania. The guidelines and standards in the Forest Practices Code cover:

  • planning
  • building access into the forest (roads, bridges, quarries etc.)
  • harvesting of timber
  • conservation of natural and cultural values (soil and water, geomorphology, visual landscape, botany, zoology and cultural heritage)
  • establishing and maintaining forests.

The FPA developed the code through extensive consultation and public comment. It is reviewed periodically, incorporating suggestions from scientists, government, the forestry industry and the public. The code is legally enforceable under the Forest Practices Act 1985 for both public and private forests. The code can be purchased from some Service Tasmania outlets or downloaded from the FPA website.

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FPA research and advice

The FPA employs specialists in botany, zoology, soil and water, geoscience and cultural heritage. The specialists undertake research and monitoring in their subject areas - often in collaboration with experts from other organisations, including government agencies and Australian and international universities. Results are incorporated into the forest practices system through adaptive management.

The specialists provide advice to Forest Practices Officers (FPOs), which often requires liaison with other professionals. They have developed a variety of management tools to assist FPOs to identify issues and to prescribe management for the natural and cultural values of forests when preparing forest practices plans and when considering broader forest planning. They also take part in training FPOs.

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Forest Practices Officers

The Forest Practices Authority trains and authorises Forest Practices Officers (FPOs), who are either employees of forest managers or work as private consultants. Although FPOs are generally employed by industry or land owners, their responsibility under the Forest Practices Act 1985 is to the FPA.

FPOs prepare and certify forest practices plans (FPPs), which must be in accordance with the Forest Practices Code and legislation. FPOs liaise with neighbours and ensure that contractors are familiar with the FPP. They supervise the implementation of plans and modify forest operations where necessary. They have the authority to issue notices to cease operations and repair any damage.

FPOs must regularly inspect operations and lodge a certificate of compliance with the FPA upon completion of each operational phase in the certified FPP, such as road construction, quarry development, harvesting and reforestation. The certificate details the way in which the operation has complied with the FPP. The FPA closely monitors the performance of FPOs and undertakes regular FPO training and coupe assessments to ensure that uniformly high standards are achieved. Disciplinary action can be taken by the Board of the FPA against FPOs who are not carrying out their duties in a manner consistent with the Forest Practices Act 1985. Action can include warning, suspension or revocation of warrant.

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Forest practices plans

Forest practices plans (FPPs) are required for almost all forest practices on public and private land. The few exemptions are detailed in the Forest Practices Regulations.

FPPs must be prepared in accordance with the code and other legislation, such as the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 and the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (1997). Before operations begin, FPPs must be certified by a Forest Practices Officer (FPO) and applicants for FPPs must notify immediate neighbours and local government.

FPPs provide details of the operation area, boundaries, roads, snig tracks, landings, bridges, streams and forest areas retained for conservation purposes. They also include prescriptions for protection of natural and cultural values, planned harvest systems, and reforestation.

During the preparation of the FPP, FPOs are required to identify natural and cultural values that may be impacted by proposed operations. The Forest Practices Code and associated approved guidelines prescribe measures to be incorporated into FPPs to protect certain natural or cultural values, or manage risks associated with forestry operations around them. For complex issues, FPOs may seek advice from FPA specialists, or the Forest Practices Code and its associated guidelines may require that advice is sought. FPA specialists provide advice on the basis of regulatory requirements, field observations and the results of research and monitoring. Liaison with other scientists may be required. The advice received may result in some areas being excluded from harvest or forest management being changed.

Forest operations may also need approval from local government, if required under the planning scheme and if the land is not a private timber reserve or State forest. The council may impose additional conditions on the proposed operations.

The FPA charges an application fee for FPPs to contribute to the cost of providing advice, conducting research and developing planning tools. The fee varies according to the area, forest type and operation prescriptions involved in the plan (for further information refer to the Forest Practices Regulations).

The FPA has a policy on communication of information in relation to FPPs.

The FPA has a policy on the circumstances in which an FPP may not be required in connection with exemptions in the Forest Practices Regulations for instruments such as Vegetation Management Agreements, Conservation Covenants, Fire Management Plans, electricity infrastructure and Environmental Management Systems.
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Three year plans

Companies harvesting, or causing to be harvesting, more than 100 000 tonnes of wood each year must lodge with the FPA a three year plan detailing proposed forest practices. Each year the companies and the FPA consult with relevant councils about the information contained in the three year plans. These plans include a detailed map and information on:

  • location where harvesting is to occur
  • approximate volumes of timber to be harvested
  • transport routes for the harvested timber
  • proposed reforestation measures for the areas to be harvested.

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Private timber reserves

Private timber reserves (PTRs) provide long-term security to private landowners wishing to grow or harvest trees on their land. Declaration  of a PTR is considered by many landowners to provide the necessary security for them to keep their land forested, rather than clearing for alternative land use. A forest practices plan is required for all forest practices conducted within a PTR, other than for circumstances prescribed in the forest practices regulations. However, forest practices within PTRs do not require approval by local government under planning. Land declared as a PTR must satisfy the criteria outlined in the Forest Practices Act 1985. For example, forestry must not be contrary to the public interest or local government zoning and the land must be suitable for forestry. Application for a PTR involves public notice. Local government and neighbouring landowners may object to the declaration of a PTR through the Forest Practices Tribunal.

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Land clearing controls

The FPA is responsible for controlling land clearing on both public and private land in Tasmania. A certified forest practices plan is required to authorise land clearing of either forest or threatened non-forest vegetation. Exemptions apply in some circumstances - details are in the Forest Practices Regulations, which are explained in the Land clearing controls information sheet.

The controls for forest vegetation apply to the clearing, removal or destruction of woody plants and seedlings that are or have the potential to grow to a height of five metres or more - this includes native plants and plants introduced to Tasmania and used for the processing and harvesting of timber.

The FPA is also responsible for controlling clearing and conversion of threatened non-forest native vegetation. Clearing and conversion is defined as the deliberate removal of native vegetation and its permanent or long-term replacement with introduced vegetation or other material. Continuation of existing land management practices in non-forest communities is not regarded as clearing, providing that the essential character of the vegetation is maintained. There are currently no controls under the Forest Practices Act 1985 on clearing of non-forest vegetation that is not threatened or at risk.

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Maintaining forest cover

The FPA implements the Permanent Native Forest Estate Policy, which was established through the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement in 1997. The policy ensures the maintenance of at least 95 per cent of the native forest estate that existed in 1996. Threatened forest communities are generally protected from clearing and conversion. The policy does not restrict the harvest of native forest types where the silvicultural system ensures successful regeneration and maintenance of that forest community. The policy is applied at both the state and bioregional scales. This results in constraints on some forest types in particular bioregions as different forest types have been cleared at disparate rates in different areas. The policy was most recently revised in December 2015. Broadscale clearing and conversion of native forest on private land is to be phased out by 1 July 2016, pending completion of the review of the overall policy during 2016.

Check the news items on the home page for quarterly updates of the Permanent Native Forest Estate Policy figures and the most recent FPA annual report for the annual figures.

The FPA's offset policy outlines the use of offsets to compensate for the loss of significant biodiversity values within forest practices plans.

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Treefern harvesting regulation

The only trunked treeferns that can be harvested or traded in Tasmania are Dicksonia antarctica and treeferns propagated in nurseries. The FPA regulates the commercial harvesting of treeferns by issuing treefern tags. All harvested Dicksonia must have a Tasmanian treefern tag attached securely at the point of harvest, before being removed from the area covered under the forest practices plan (FPP). The secure attachment of treefern tags to treeferns is the responsibility of the treefern harvester.

An FPP is not required for the harvesting of Dicksonia if the owner has consented to harvest, and no more than six treeferns are harvested on each property during one calendar year. The Dicksonia must be for personal use only and must not be traded or used for commercial purposes.

Regulation of treefern harvesting in Tasmania - information sheet

FPA Flora Technical Note 5 - Treefern identification and management

Tasmanian treefern management plan

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Other legislation and policies

The forest practices system provides a consistent state-wide approach to the regulation of operations in forest and threatened non-forest vegetation. In contrast, the regulation of operations by local government - such as forest clearing for subdivisions - varies between councils. The forest practices system is designed to be complementary to and integrated with other land use policies and legislation. These also need to be considered when planning for forestry operations. They include:

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Self-regulation

The Tasmanian forest practices system is based on a co-regulatory approach, involving self-regulation by the industry with independent monitoring and enforcement carried out by the FPA. Self-regulation is implemented through the following processes within the forest practices system:

  • Planning of forest practices plans (FPPs). Section 18 of the Forest Practices Act 1985 provides that any person may prepare an FPP. The larger companies and Forestry Tasmania generally employ staff to meet their own requirements for the preparation of plans. Consultants generally service smaller companies and private landowners.
  • Certification of FPPs. FPPs are certified by Forest Practices Officers (FPOs) accredited following completion of training who hold delegated powers from the FPA. These FPOs are appointed by the FPA from suitably qualified staff who have undertaken training in forest practices and are employed by forestry consultants, forest companies, Forestry Tasmania and Private Forests Tasmania. Certification of FPPs is the process whereby an FPO must check that the FPP has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Forest Practices Code and all administrative instructions issued by the FPA.
  • FPOs typically explain FPPs to landowners and forest contractors prior to commencing operations to ensure that natural and cultural heritage values, and other values, are clearly understood and afforded protection consistent with the FPP.
  • Daily, on-ground protection of forest values during operations. Contractors, particularly those employed by larger forest managers, are trained in the identification and protection of forest values. Contractors implement the FPP and also alert the supervising FPO to any additional special values uncovered during operations.
  • Monitoring and inspection of forest practices. Forest practices are supervised by FPOs and other staff employed by forest managers . FPOs have the power to issue notices under s. 41 of the Forest Practices Act 1985 in order to ensure that operations comply with the Act or with the conditions of a certified FPP.
  • Internal environmental audit. Some of the major companies and Forestry Tasmania have formal environmental audit systems that are consistent with standards such as ISO 14001.
  • Reporting on compliance under s. 25A of the Forest Practices Act 1985. Certificates of compliance must be lodged with the FPA within 30 days of the completion of discrete operational phases detailed within an FPP. Such certificates must be completed by an FPO.

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Compliance

The compliance system is designed to detect any breaches of the forest practices plan (FPP) early, so that environmental effects are minimised. This process of early detection is aided by the many tiers of checks and balances in the system to determine the degree of compliance of operations with FPPs:

  • Forest contractors are skilled operators and typically have a high level of understanding on the Forest Practices Code. Where further advice is required, e.g. a stream which is not shown in the FPP is detected during operations, contractors seek advice from an FPO to avoid environmental harm.  Where a breach may have occurred, contractors typically report this to supervisors and/or FPOs.
  • Forest Practices Officers supervising FPPs are often the first people to identify a breach. They have the authority to require compliance with the plan and repair any damage.
  • FPP applicants are required to submit to the FPA a certificate of compliance at the end of each stage of the FPP. These certificates detail the compliance of the operations with the FPP and alert the FPA's Compliance Program to any breaches.
  • An annual assessment of FPPs is facilitated by the FPA's Compliance Program. This systematic assessment is based on a stratified random sample of certified forest practices plans and is one of the FPA's statutory obligations.
  • Anyone can report a suspected breach of the Forest Practices Act 1985 to the FPA, such as a breach of an FPP or forest practices taking place without an FPP.

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Enforcement

The FPA investigates all alleged breaches of the Forest Practices Act 1985. In the four years up 2010, investigations revealed no breach in around 25% of complaints. Where breaches are identified, the FPA prefers corrective action including: repairing any damage; education; and improving systems to ensure similar issues do not arise in the future.

Legal enforcement may be taken in several ways:

  • Forest Practices Officers (FPOs) may give verbal or written notification (under s. 41(1)) in order to inform persons that they must comply with the Forest Practices Act 1985 or an FPP.  If this notice is not complied with, an FPO may issue a second notice (under s. 41(2)) to direct the person to cease operations and carry out any work required to ameliorate any damage incurred as a result of the breach. Failure to comply with a s. 41(2) notice is considered a breach under the Forest Practices Act 1985 and can lead to prosecution.
  • The FPA may prosecute for failure to have operations covered by an FPP (s.17), for failing to comply with an FPP (s. 21) or for failing to lodge a certificate of compliance (s. 25A).
  • The FPA may impose fines as an alternative to prosecution (s. 47B).
  • The FPA may pursue prosecution in serious breaches where the breach is not dealt with under s. 47B.

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The Forest Practices Tribunal

The Forest Practices Tribunal is an independent body established under the Forest Practices Act 1985 to hear appeals against decisions of the FPA, including objections to private timber reserve applications and appeals by landowners about the refusal of an FPP application and/or about constraints in FPPs. The tribunal comprises a panel of experts in forestry, land management and conservation and is chaired by a legal practitioner.

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Opportunities for engagement

There are various mechanisms for the public to have their say in both land use decisions and the technical standards set by the Forest Practices Code . These are designed to give the public an opportunity to have some input during the planning stage.

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Land use decisions

  • Dedication of state forest is a parliamentary process . Forest management plans are prepared by Forestry Tasmania and approved by the Minister following consideration of public input.
  • Private timber reserve (PTR) declarations . Prescribed persons may object to a PTR declaration. Prescribed persons are: the local council; a state authority; a person who has a legal or equitable interest in either the land, or the timber on the land, to which the application relates; a person who is the owner of land that adjoins or is within 100 metres of the boundary of the proposed PTR.
  • Local government planning schemes are developed with public participation.
  • Planning permits are advertised if forestry is a discretionary activity.

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Operational standards

The Forest Practices Code was initially developed after extensive consultation and public comment. It is reviewed periodically, incorporating suggestions from scientists, government, forest managers and the public.

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Objections

Objecting to a private timber reserve

Objections to land being declared a private timber reserve (PTR) can be made by the people or authorities as prescribed in the Forest Practices Act 1985. The following can object to a PTR:

  • a local council
  • a state authority
  • a person who has a legal or equitable interest in either the land, or the timber on the land, to which the application relates
  • a person who is the owner of land that adjoins or is within 100 metres of the boundary of the proposed PTR.

If you have objected to a PTR application that has been approved, or if you have had your application for a PTR refused, you can appeal the decision through the Forest Practices Tribunal. Further information can be obtained from the Registrar of the Forest Practices Tribunal: telephone (03) 6233 6464.

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Objecting to a forest practices plan

Most forest practices require a forest practices plan (FPP). The few exceptions are detailed in the Forest Practices Regulations. There is no formal mechanism for objecting to an FPP if forest practices occur in accordance with a certified FPP on land that has been approved for forestry (i.e. state forest, private timber reserves, permitted and 'as of right' zones in local government planning schemes).

Where forestry is a discretionary activity within the local government planning scheme, the Development Application is advertised by the council. Any person may then make a representation to the council concerned. Appeals against a local council's decisions are heard by the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal.

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Objecting to a local government Development Application for forest practices

The opportunity for lodging an objection to a local government planning permit for forest practices is limited to instances where forestry is discretionary in the local government planning scheme. Where forestry is a permitted use, council approval is also required but only the applicant can object to conditions imposed within the planning permit.

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Appeals

Private timber reserve or forest practices plan refused

If you are a landowner and have had an application for a private timber reserve refused or if your FPP is refused by an FPO, you can appeal the decision through the Forest Practices Tribunal. Further information can be obtained from the Registrar of the Forest Practices Tribunal: telephone (03) 6233 6464.

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Development Application for forest practices refused or additional conditions imposed

If you are a landowner and have had your Development Application refused by your local council or you do not agree with the conditions imposed on a permit by the council, you can appeal through the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal. Further information can be obtained from the Registrar of the Forest Practices Tribunal: telephone (03) 6233 6464.

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Compensation

Landowners may be entitled to apply for compensation in certain circumstances if a private timber reserve is refused.

Where an application for an FPP is refused by the FPA because of the presence of threatened native vegetation communities or threatened species, the affected landowner may be entitled to apply for compensation.  The Nature Conservation Act 2002 sets out the processes and criteria for compensation.

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Complaints

Possible breaches of forest practices plans or the Forest Practices Code can be reported to the FPA by members of the public. The FPA investigates all complaints relating to alleged breaches. Penalties for breaches include orders for corrective action and/or financial penalties.

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Reporting

The FPA has a statutory responsibility to report annually to parliament on:

  • the FPA's financial statements of the FPA
  • the FPA's operations and performance
  • the degree to which the forest practices system is self-funding and self-regulating
  • the implementation and effectiveness of a representative sample of forest practices plans
  • any information relating to the FPA required by the Minister by written notice to the Authority to be included
  • any other information that the FPA considers is appropriate.

The FPA's annual report contains details on the above, plus background information on the forest practices system.

Since 2002, the FPA must provide parliament every five years with a report on the state of Tasmania's public and private forests. FPA prepares this report in consultation with other state authorities and government departments that have statutory responsibilities in relation to forests or forested land. The most recent was the State of the forests Tasmania 2012. In 2002, the statutory report was entitled 'The State of the forests report 2002' and in 2007 the statutory reports was entitled 'Sustainability indicators for Tasmanian forests 2001-2006'. The FPA also produces a booklet summarising these statutory reports (State of the forests Tasmania 1996-2001 and State of the forests Tasmania 2006 and State of the forests Tasmania 2012) .

The FPA must also provide parliament with a report every five years, starting in 2007, on the operation of the forest practices, including the provisions and operation of the Forest Practices Code.

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Adaptive management

An adaptive management approach ensures that results from research and monitoring lead to continuing improvement of the system.

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International context

A paper published in 2014 provides a case study of 25 years of forest regulation in Tasmania, explaining how the system works. The paper concludes that well-designed co-regulation can deliver good standards of forest practices.  However, these will not in themselves mitigate public concern about forest management practices unless the policies governing those practices have broad support in civil society.

Wilkinson, GR, Schofield, M and Kanowski, P 2014, 'Regulating forestry - Experience with compliance and enforcement over the 25 years of Tasmania's forest practices system', Forest Policy and Economics, volume 40, pp 1-11

A 2007 report by Yale University compared Tasmania's forest practices system with other systems around the world. For more information, read

McDermott, Constance L, Cashore, Benjamin and Kanowski, Peter 2007 A global comparison of forest practice policies using Tasmania as a constant case, Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry

Content last modified April 4, 2016, 2:09 pm