The Age, Business Section, June 4, 2007
The 2005-06 Environment Protection Authority audit of native forest harvesting has found a 93 per cent compliance with the Victorian Government's environmental requirements.
The main aim of the audit is to assess compliance with the Code of Forest Practices. The state's commercial forestry arm, VicForests, is now responsible for the harvest and regeneration of native forest areas.
A total of 45 coupes, about 10 per cent of those harvested in 2005-06, were evaluated, including six in Melbourne's water supply catchments. A coupe is a designated logging area of between five and 40 hectares.
Assessment criteria included the potential risk to the environment from slopes, soil erosion and the silvicultural system used, and special land protection requirements.
The EPA audit found the average coupe score for code compliance was 93 per cent, higher than the 2005 audit (91 per cent) and higher than the coupe scores of previous audits (90 per cent in 2004 and 87 per cent in 2003).
Coupe scores ranged from 80 per cent to 100 per cent. The best performing region was Latrobe, which averaged 96 per cent for 17 coupes.
The audit team observed a number of positive practices. These included the quality and detail of documentation, greater attention to habitat tree retention, improvements in boundary tracks and improvements in rainforest identification.
No severe environmental impacts were recorded, but six major, 43 moderate and 27 minor impacts were found, mainly in roading, reserved area protection buffers, snig and forwarding tracks and log landings.
In general, more than 90 per cent compliance was found in coupe planning, landscape values, water yield protection, habitat trees, management of flora and fauna areas and reserved area protection buffers.
Code areas where non-compliance was more persistent were log landings and dumps, boundary tracks and reserved area protection filters. A total of 15 coupes (33 per cent) did not comply with soil standards.
Regeneration of 25 coupes harvested in 2002-03 were found to be 88 per cent compliant with the code, with 16 coupes (64 per cent) fully compliant.
A spokesman for the Australian Conservation Foundation said the ACF had not had the time to assess the audit.
The EPA also announced that an independent review of the annual forest audit program would be undertaken this year and be completed by October.