26/06/2013 - 15:29

Greater transparency needed for native forests

26/06/2013 - 15:29

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Greater transparency needed for native forests

A report tabled in parliament today has indicated a lack of transparency and accountability in the state government's management of native forests.

The report, by Auditor General Colin Murphy, found that the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Forests Products Commission could improve a number of processes to ensure both public and industry confidence.

Mr Murphy said that the Department of Environment and Conservation's (DEC) decision making processes regarding the planning of what areas of forest could be harvested and by how much lacked transparency and accountability.

He added that the Forests Products Commission (FPC), which manages the harvest of the state's native forest and the contracting of the sale and supply of forest products in accordance with the DEC's plans, had room for improvement.

"During the course of the audit we saw instances of waste and breaches of environmental standards in the forests that are not adequately followed up." Mr Murphy said.

He also said the FPC needed greater transparency in how it sells forest product.

"We reviewed eight private treaty contracts and found that in five the reasons for the sales decision were unclear and only three of the eight were displayed on the Tenders WA website," the Auditor General said.

The Forest Management Plan, which governs how native forests are used, expires this year with a new ten year management plan currently in development.

While the Auditor General acknowledged that both government organisations had complex and challenging roles their lack of transparency and accountability didn't do them any favours in regards to earning public trust.

"Because of these competing interests and values it is important that those tasked with managing our forests do so in accordance with the agreed Forest Management Plan in a transparent and accountable manner, which includes that required environmental standards are met," he said.

The DEC has stated that it welcomes the auditor's report and that some of its processes may require better documentation.

However the DEC also said that it there are no significant risks that harvesting is inconsistent with the key settings and requirements of the Forest Management Plan.

The FPC have also responded to the auditor's report and have commenced a project to implement a new forest planning and management system which will allow for continuous real-time monitoring of contract performance.

The Commission says this will address many of the Auditor General's concerns over the next 12 to 18 months.

This is in despite of the fact that the FPC said that they feel that the complexities of managing the native forest products industry had not been fully understood in the report.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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