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NCOP Briefed on National Forests Amendment Bill

June 9, 2020

Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

The environment, forestry and fisheries department has briefed the national council of provinces (NCOP) on the National Forests Amendment Bill.

The national assembly passed the bill and sent it to the NCOP for concurrence in August 2018.

The bill was tabled in parliament in July 2016.

The portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries called for comment on the bill in 2017.

The committee, during deliberations, introduced a new Chapter 6A on Appeal which focuses on right to appeal, composition and membership of Appeal Committee, vacancies in appeal committee, investigation and consideration of appeal by appeal committee and consideration of appeal by minister.

The NCOP sought comment on the bill at the beginning of 2019.

The bill lapsed at the end of the 5th parliament but was revived by the NCOP in October 2019.

The aim of the bill is to amend the National Forests Act of 1998 and to:

• provide for clear definitions of natural forests and woodlands;
• provide for public trusteeship of the nation’s forestry resources;
• increase the promotion and enforcement of sustainable forest management;
• increase the measures provided for in the Act to control and remedy deforestation;
• provide for appeals against decisions taken under delegated powers and duties;
• reinforce offences and penalties; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

In the briefing, the department pointed out that the aim of the National Forests Act of 1998 is to promote sustainable management and development of forests and provide for the protection of certain forests and trees.

According to the department, amendments were necessary due to a need for changes, legislation is not static but moves with time, existing sections need to be enhanced and to make the legislation more responsive to the operational realities and challenges on the ground.

The department emphasised that the proposed legislation will not affect the current provincial mandate with regards to the management of forests.

The department also highlighted that the principal act already has various mechanisms to promote the use of forests for the benefit of all that will not be affected by the proposed amendments.

In response to the briefing, the select committee on land reform, environment, mineral resources and energy called for reference to traditional leaders and healers to be clearly specified in the bill.

Forests on traditional land also need to be addressed in the amendments.