Tribunal rules New South Wales government must disclose details of wood supply agreements as in public interest; information will include what logging companies pay to harvest trees on public land

LOS ANGELES , September 20, 2012 () –

Forests NSW, the state forestry agency for New South Wales in Australia, must disclose details of its wood supply agreements because it is in the public interest to do so, according to a Sept. 20 ruling by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, reported The Age on Sept. 21.

The judgment was precedent-setting as far as how much information the government must reveal about its forestry operations, said Pepe Clark, CEO of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, which last year was denied certain details it sought. The council is an environmental group, The Age reported.

Clark said there are forests in New South Wales that are being logged unsustainably, and the Tribunal’s decision will reveal what price is being paid for different qualities of trees and logs.

The council received the documents requested at the time; but certain sections were blacked out, including those revealing timber price, types and amounts of trees, as well as compensation payments paid to logging companies for timber they were promised but could not harvest.

The Tribunal stated in its decision that an agency that deals with public assets should be held accountable for any contracts to sell those assets. The ruling is a test of the Government Information (Public Access) Act, which replaced freedom of information laws.

Besides the government, two Boral subsidiaries fought to block public access to the information, claiming it would breach commercial-in-confidence contracts, reported The Age.

The primary source of this article is The Age, Melbourne, Australia, on Sept. 21, 2012.

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