Social impacts of the Regional Forest Agreement on members of the forest industry in north-eastern New South Wales

Edwina Loxton, Jacki Schirmer, Peter Kanowski

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    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Reduced access to publicly-owned native forests for timber harvesting affects businesses and workers whose livelihoods depend on this timber. We explored the social impacts experienced by members of the forest industry, defined here to encompass businesses and individuals involved in native forest management and the harvesting, hauling, sawmilling and processing of timber from publicly-owned native forests. The study focused on one region in Australia, upper north-eastern New South Wales, where policy and management changes both preceded and followed a Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) signed by the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments in 2000. The process of developing the RFA was protracted and signified the culmination of some 20 years of activism by the conservation movement which had progressively restricted the forest industry's access to public native forest resources. The area of publicly-owned native forest in reserve increased by about 190%, and further restrictions were placed on the harvesting of the remaining area, thus requiring reductions in timber harvesting so as to maintain a sustained yield. The RFA process included ex-ante social impact assessments, and a Forest Industry Structural Adjustment Package to assist members of the forest industry to mitigate negative impacts and take advantage of new opportunities. Since the agreement was concluded, little follow-up (ex-post facto) social impact assessment has been undertaken to assess the negative and positive social impacts experienced by members of the forest industry, the ways in which businesses and individuals responded, or the effectiveness of government mitigation measures to assist them. Our study investigated each of these topics. Our results suggest that members of the forest industry experienced multiple negative and positive impacts over four stages: the anticipatory, initial-response, longer-term and subsequent-change stages. Participants' experiences of change and of positive and negative social impacts were influenced by their individual motivations, fears, skills and responses. These factors were influenced by the extent to which participants were able to respond proactively, the changes and impacts they anticipated they would experience, and their access to information and support via mitigation measures
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)251-263
    Number of pages13
    JournalAustralian Forestry
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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