Report highlights: Regulation of public native forestry

What this report is about 

The Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) is a state-owned corporation that manages over two million hectares of public native forests and plantations supplying timber to sawmills across NSW.  

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is responsible for regulating the native forestry industry in NSW. 

FCNSW must comply with Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs), which set out rules for how timber harvesting may occur.  

Most harvesting is undertaken under the Coastal IFOA, which commenced in 2018. 

This audit assesses how effectively Forestry Corporation of NSW manages its public native forestry activities to ensure compliance, and how effectively the Environment Protection Authority regulates these activities. 

What we found 

Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) clearly articulates its compliance obligations.  

While FCNSW undertakes monitoring of its contractors, it does not do so consistently and does not target its monitoring activities on a risk basis.  

FCNSW has largely fulfilled mandatory Coastal IFOA training requirements, but has not yet trained other staff who would also benefit from the training. 

Contractor compliance appears to be improving, but there are gaps and inconsistencies in FCNSW's documentation of this. 

FCNSW is not measuring its overall compliance to determine how it is tracking against its target. 

The EPA undertakes proactive inspections of Coastal IFOA harvesting operations on a risk basis. However, it does not assess the risk at harvest sites covered by other IFOAs.  

Most EPA compliance staff have received basic training, but few have received more advanced training required to effectively undertake forestry inspections.  

Some EPA offices do not have the necessary equipment to undertake forestry inspections. 

The EPA and FCNSW are not implementing all elements of a Memorandum of Understanding that aims to promote a cooperative relationship between the agencies. 

What we recommended 

The report made recommendations to FCNSW which aim to improve: 

  • staff training 
  • consistency of compliance reviews and data capture 
  • targeting of compliance activities 
  • measurement of performance. 

The report made recommendations to the EPA which aim to improve: 

  • risk assessments  
  • staff training  
  • staff equipment. 

The report also recommended that FCNSW and EPA should fully implement their Memorandum of Understanding.  

Fast facts 

  • 2 million approximate hectares of native forests and plantations managed by FCNSW
  • Zero FCNSW's target for non-compliances with environmental regulations
  • 100% high-risk Coastal IFOA operations assessed for compliance by EPA in 2021–22.

Further information

Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.