National Forestry Bill: discussion & hearings

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

18 August 1998

Documents handed out:
Department of Water Affairs and Forestry reply to items raised by the Portfolio Committee on the National Forests Bill
Presentation to the National Assembly Portfolio Committee Agriculture, Water Affairs and Forestry on the National Forests Bill, 1998, prepared by the Forest Industries Association
Additional Comments submitted by the Forest Industry Association

The committee heard the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry initial clarifications and comments to the Portfolio Committee’s earlier concerns. The Forest Industry Association made a submission on the National Forestry Bill.

The Chairperson invited the department to take the committee through the departments document. The department read through the document, answering questions where they arose.

The Forest Industries Association made their presentation. Mr Dobson made the initial presentation, which was followed by Dr. Scotcher and Mr Woods.

The Department asked whether the changes to clause 28 affected the presentation. Mr Wood said it was an improvement, but the key problem remained. Contracts should not be regulated by legislation, and the five years time limit is not appropriate for the forestry industry.

Ms Ntuli (ANC) asked why the Association did not want the industry to be required to apply criteria and standards. Dr Scotcher stated that the Association saw there being a hierarchy of concepts, from principles, through criteria, indicators and finally standards at the bottom. The association supports the Minister setting minimum standards for well managed commercial forestry. The standards must be easy to see, simple and published, with offences made clear. The minister may then determine indicators and criteria for well managed commercial forestry, which are voluntary and have incentives.

Mr. Ligege (ANC) asked why the Northern Province forestry figures were not included in the presentation. Mr. Dobson did not have the figures, but undertook to get them to the committee within a few days.

Mr. Mentz (IFP) asked for suggested amendments to clause 28. Mr. Wood answered saying any mention limiting a contracts duration should be removed.

Ms Mabuza (ANC) asked whether the presenters did not feel that the Advisory Council’s make up was not adequately covered in the Bill. Dr. Scotcher replied that good management of commercial forestry is a specialist field, and that competent people should be involved. The industry would be the best people to recommend these competent people.

Ms Mabuza followed up, asking whether this would not exclude previously disadvantaged people who were not in the industry. Ms Mabuza asked whether these people should not be included to learn. Ms Seperepere (ANC) asked whether there were any programs in place to train previously disadvantaged people so that they would in future be able to represent the industry. Mr Wood stated that there were no direct programs. However the companies had initiatives that included people from the communities in the industry, and integrated them into the running of the companies. Mr. Wilson added that the big companies did have development programs. There are other people in the Advisory Council who represent other sectors of the industry. The association was requesting that those that are meant to represent the industry should be nominated by the industry.

Mr. Williams added that the council puts in place a committee that would be charged with setting criteria and standards. Nominations should be invited for this committee.

Mr Ganinda (ANC) noted that the termination of contracts by the Minister is due to current players in the industry showing no interest in allowing new entrants. The cancellations would therefor allow new entrants. Mr. Wood stated that security in contracts was a business principle which was negotiated by two parties, and should not be legislated. The issue was about people in the industry working together.

Mr Van Wyk (ANC) noted that the two contracts used as examples by Mr Wood were both renegotiated in 1993, which looks a little suspicious. Mr Wood explained the circumstances that had led to the negotiations in 1993, stating there was no reason for suspicion.

Ms Mabuza asked for clarity on the proposal from the Association on excluding plantations from the definition of Forests. Dr Scotcher explained that the bill should use two different concepts. The first, defined as forests, should include indigenous forests and woodlands. The second should refer to commercial exotic plantations. In this way the bill could be clear about the provisions and principles that would apply to each classification.

Mr Ligege asked why the association was against the 5 year contract. If it was the minister that was party to the contract, why not have it in the legislation. The reply was that contracts should not have part of them legislated, and that five years was inappropriate for the forestry industry.

Ms Ngwenya (ANC) noted that the Department had a role to play in making previously disadvantaged people a part of the industry, as independent business operations.

The Chairperson ended the meeting, noting that the Portfolio Committee had heard comments over two days, and the committee would take these in to consideration when making its final deliberations.


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