30 November, 2011

Litany of unlawful rainforest breaches: VicForests’ logging operations must be halted

Media Release, Wednesday November 30, 2011

Yet more unlawful rainforest logging breaches in forest in East Gippsland have been surveyed and reported by independent conservationists.

“The latest survey results clearly show VicForests continues to violate regulations meant to protect Victoria’s rainforests”, said spokesperson for the group, Amelia Young.

“It is unlawful to log rainforest in Victoria, yet this week numerous instances of rainforest logging have again been reported to the authorities.”

A fortnight ago conservationists reported rainforest had been logged along Survey Road. The Department of Sustainability and Environment undertook to investigate the claims. Conservationists are now awaiting public release of their findings.

“While investigations into rainforest logging breaches are being carried out, VicForests’ logging operations should be halted; this data clearly shows that logging coupes are not being marked out lawfully and as a result we are losing magnificent rainforest to the woodchipper.”

This week conservationists lodged three more reports with the Department of Sustainability and Environment, detailing logging of ecological rainforest buffers north of Orbost.

Breaches reported this week include logging of Warm Temperate Rainforest along Old Bonang Hwy in the Curlip forest block. Rainforest species including Jungle Grape and Lilly Pilly and the bird Bassian Thrush were recorded at that site.

“Mount Buck Rainforest Site of State Significance along Major Creek has also been logged. Rainforest Sites of Significance are listed because they have outstanding values. Once logged, they are lost forever.”

Further west, along Cherry Tree Track, yet more logging of rainforest has been detected, clearly inside the 40 metre buffer required to protect rainforest in Victoria from logging operations.

“We need to ensure VicForests’ practice of shamelessly logging rainforest is stopped”, concluded Ms Young. “Why are VicForests still being given access to our forest estate when it’s been shown that they are repeatedly logging rainforests? This situation is unacceptable.”

For further information Amelia Young 0404 074 577    

23 November, 2011

DSE to probe rainforest logging claims

Gus Goswell
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), November 23, 2011

Anti-logging protesters have succeeded in stopping logging in a remote part of far East Gippsland.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has agreed to investigate the protesters' claim that rainforest is threatened by logging on the Errinundra Plateau, north of Orbost.

It is illegal to log rainforest in Victoria.

Protesters have been disrupting operations in the forest coupe over the past fortnight.

Police went to the remote site yesterday to dismantle a tree platform built by the campaigners.

Officers had travelled to to the same coupe last week to demolish another tree platform.

The protesters have also been cabling logging machinery together.

The State Government owned timber company VicForests says four days of logging operations have had to be abandoned over the past fortnight because of the protests.

VicForests says no logging will take place in the contested section of the forest coupe while the DSE investigates the protesters' claims.

22 November, 2011

Continued Unlawful Logging of Rainforest shows native forest logging industry still not policed, as promised

Amelia Young
Media Release, Tuesday 22 November, 2011

For the second day this week, and for the second week in a row, controversial logging operations on Survey Road in far East Gippsland have been stopped by conservationists on site.

Five logging machines have again been cabled off to a tree-sit occupied by protestors and suspended forty metres in the canopy in the logging coupe situated on the edge of the Errinundra National Park.

Last Thursday conservationists handed survey findings showing that rainforest had been logged within the coupe to the relevant authority, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, requesting that the logging be immediately stopped and that a proper investigation be undertaken.

Logging of rainforest is unlawful in Victoria, under both the Code of Forest Practice and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

Yesterday conservationists resumed protest activity at the site as VicForests’ contentious logging operations in the coupe have not yet been halted by either the responsible Minister, nor by the relevant authority.

“Before last year’s state election, the current Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh stated that under a Coalition government, the native forest logging industry would be properly policed”, said spokesperson for the conservationists, Amelia Young.

“That in 2011, and under his watch, rainforest is still being logged in Victoria is a disgrace.”

Logging within or adjacent to rainforest causes changes to the rainforest microclimate, making it drier. Indeed, the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act Action Statement notes that cool temperate rainforest is ‘in a demonstrable state of decline likely to result in extinction.’

“This isn’t the first time VicForests’ logging contractors have been caught logging rainforest in East Gippsland”, said Ms Young. “In 2009 rainforest was positively identified in a coupe adjacent to this one, along the same gully system. In that instance, the Department confirmed the facts, concluding that logging activities had caused major environmental impact.

“These repeated rainforest logging infractions make mockery of claims that logging in Victoria is lawful and is among world’s best practice”, concluded Ms Young.

For further comment: Amelia Young 0404 074 577


21 November, 2011

Rainforest logging breach: Protestors on site at Survey Road

Amelia Young
Media Release, Monday 21 November, 2011 

This morning conservationists have again halted logging in rainforest on Survey Road in far East Gippsland. Five logging machines have been cabled off to a treesit in the forest canopy. 

"As if it wasn't enough that VicForests had sent their logging contractors into a coupe containing precious old-growth forest; conservationists have now verified that rainforest has been logged on site as well", said spokesperson Amelia Young.

Logging of rainforest in Victoria is in breach of regulations governing logging operations, including the Code of Forest Practice and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

"State government regulation requires that stands of rainforest be protected from some of the impacts of logging by a buffer of at least forty metres. On site in this logging coupe on Survey Road there are various locations where logging has occurred within what should be a forty metre buffer.

The conservationists  allegations have been presented to the relevant authority.

"We would like the Department of Sustainability and Environment to properly investigate these issues, immediately halt logging operations and ensure adequate rainforest buffers are implemented and adhered to."

Rainforests are an especially vulnerable ecological community and are listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. 

"Increased exposure to light and wind causes major drying out of this sensitive ecological community that, due to decades of logging and land clearing, is already reduced to covering less than one per cent of the state. This isn't the first time VicForestsf logging contractors have been caught logging rainforest in East Gippsland", said Ms Young. 

"In 2009 rainforest was positively identified in a coupe adjacent to this one, along the same gully system. In that instance, the Department confirmed the facts, concluding that logging activities had caused major environmental impact. These repeated rainforest logging breaches make mockery of claims that logging in Victoria is lawful and is among world's best practice", concluded Ms Young.

For further comment: Amelia Young 0404 074 577


09 November, 2011

Activists outraged at use of protected Tassie timber

Conor Duffy
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), November 09, 2011

Environmental groups say the use of Tasmanian timber on a London Olympics building site is evidence the Federal Government's forest peace deal is failing.

Activist group Markets for Change tracked the wood to an Olympics training site to be used by Team USA.

Markets for Change spokeswoman Louise Morris says the timber is from highly valued conversation forests earmarked for protection under the inter-governmental forest peace deal.

"It really does shed some harsh light on the current IGA [intergovernmental agreement] process," she said.

Ta Ann Tasmania, the Malaysian-owned company that manufactured the veneer, says the London product was sold two years ago and came from regrowth forest.

The company's director David Ridley says he is thrilled the Tasmanian eucalypt is being used at such a high-profile event.

"I'm rapt that some of the world's best athletes can make use of a fantastic timber product," he said.

Forestry Tasmania says the amount of timber supplied from high conservation value forests is less than half a per cent of the 430,000 hectares locked up under the deal.

08 November, 2011

Log grade an issue

Trevor Brown, Heyfield
The Age (letter), 8 November 2011

MANY letters (4/11) were published in response to the article ''New law in pipeline to aid loggers'', The Age, 3/11). No more forest will be available to the industry; changes to the code will only alter how the forest is managed.

Also, the industry cannot just transition to plantations and stop harvesting native forests. Appearance-grade sawlogs are not available in significant commercial quantities from plantations. Without access to these sawlogs, many businesses would close. Australians would either buy products made from other materials with higher carbon footprints, or import more timber from countries with weaker environmental regulations.

07 November, 2011

Premier backs new mill

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), November 07, 2011

The Tasmanian Premier has confirmed she will back a new woodchip mill in the state's south.

Lara Giddings says her government will consider financially backing the construction of a new mill, if Triabunna does not open.

She did not rule out the possibility of exporting woodchips from Hobart's waterfront.

"I could not rule out that you'd never, ever, ever have a ship come to Hobart that didn't end up taking woodchips away."

But Ms Giddings wants Triabunna re-opened and has called on the managers and owners to advertise for tenders.

Manager Alec Marr says that can not happen because they can not secure a vital wharf lease from the state-owned Tasports.

The Premier says that is rubbish.

"What it shows to me is that they have no intention of opening this up."

The Government has also suggested the owners could sell back the mill to the industry.

Ms Giddings says Triabunna Investments should start advertising for tenders to operate the mill.

"We need an alternative export facility in the south of the state and if you can't have Triabunna Investments open their gates because they refuse to open their gates we have to look to alternatives."

"But the other solution, of course, is for Triabunna Investments to step out of this and perhaps look at selling back to industry," the Premier said.

At the weekend, Mr Marr asked the Premier to stop making public statements because it was undermining the process.

Greens Leader Nick McKim says the party would not support a single taxpayers dollar going into the construction of a new mill.

The forest industry has called for an end to the stalemate over mill's re-opening.

Barry Chipman from Timber Communities Australia says the stand-off is creating uncertainty in the industry.

"We really do need to get over this problem and again get Triabunna open again," he said.

"If that fails an export facility out of Hobart or again, let's turn that resource into bioenergy and use it locally in our local power grid."

04 November, 2011

Scars will tell the story

Sue Roberts, Lower Plenty
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

THE scars will tell the story - of betrayal and loss, of creatures crunched by bulldozers and numbers in their last stand for survival.

Ted Baillieu's hit list

Lynn Frankes, Kew
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

WHAT else that I hold dear is on Ted Baillieu's hit list? Wind farms, carbon targets and now diminished protection for endangered species and old-growth forests via a sneaky back door.

Back to their roots

Samuel Moore, Hawthorn
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

THE Baillieu government is stuck in the old-school mode of thinking that says environmental preservation and economic growth are incompatible. Logging native forests has continually lost the state money, so all this proposal is doing is attempting to make VicForests a little less unprofitable than it already is. Relying entirely on plantations, as Gunns is now doing in Tasmania, is the economically rational thing to do and the environmentally obvious approach. If the Liberal government truly lived up to its economic ideology, and didn't let the Nationals run the show, it would stop subsidising an increasingly unprofitable, government-driven native forest industry, and let the competitive advantages of plantations be realised by private industry.

Morally challenged

Andrew Parsons, Ringwood East
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

WHEN I was a kid facing defeat in a contest on home territory, it was considered unacceptable and morally wrong to simply change the rules to get your own way. Now we see the Baillieu government doing exactly that in response to the landmark ruling in 2010 when the Supreme Court banned VicForests from logging old-growth forests at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland. Environmental laws are designed to protect threatened species and it is not often nature scores a win. But now, by attempting to water down the law and prop up the destructive logging industry, the government is guilty of the unacceptable and immoral behaviour of changing the rules when the outcome is unpalatable. Shame.

A lawless act

Michael Bond, Richmond
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

IT IS outrageous that the Baillieu government plans to protect the logging industry at the expense of endangered species. Old-growth forests are some of our best carbon sinks, and for the sake of a minority of dwindling logging jobs they will be lost forever, with the wildlife they contain. Massive subsidies keep this industry alive - money that could be better spent. This assault on native forests is environmental terrorism at its finest and appears to be a case of "if you can't beat the law, change it". An outrageous use of Parliament.

A loss now and for eternity

Dave Archer, Frankston
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

IT IS with much sadness, and not a little anger, that I read of Ted Baillieu's proposal to sacrifice our endangered wildlife and magnificent old-growth forest for some woodchips that we can produce in plantations (''New law in pipeline to aid loggers'', The Age, 3/11). Does Mr Baillieu not care about his grandchildren? None of us will ever see a Tassie tiger again but the long-footed potoroo and other threatened species are still hanging on, just, for future generations to view in the wild and not stuffed in some glass display case, which is where the Premier is proposing to drive them. We need to give these endangered animals and irreplaceable forests a voice. Yes, we need wood products, but we don't need to source them from areas where endangered species live.

Let's not be the generation that oversaw the demise of so much more of our native wildlife, to temporarily sustain an industry in its death throes. These creatures need more protection. Please take a deep breath, Mr Baillieu, think again and do the right thing.

Unethical at best

Sarah Rees, MyEnvironment, Healesville
The Age (letter), November 4, 2011

THE Department of Sudden Extinctions (DSE) has been handed the pen of god to cull threatened species to continue woodchipping native forests. Why? After Black Saturday, the forests were stripped of their capacity to operate duly as a woodchip source and maintain catchment health, but don't let that get in the way of growth. Empowering the DSE to selectively cull threatened species is unethical at best. As for our state's faunal emblem, let's hope Melbourne Zoo can reserve a room for the last Leadbeater's possum - they don't take up much space.

03 November, 2011

New state law in the pipeline to aid loggers

Tom Arup
The Age, November 3, 2011

LOGGERS can seek exemptions from state environment laws protecting endangered species under proposed changes quietly released by the state government.

The proposed amendments to the code for timber production - outlined in a document posted on a government website - hands power to the Secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

The secretary would be able to exempt a logging project from the requirements of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, which protects the state's endangered and threatened species.

The government has so far released nothing on the proposed changes, but a spokeswoman said last night that there would be sufficient time for public comments on the proposed changes, due February.

The proposed changes follow a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court last year banning VicForests from logging old-growth forest at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland, after an endangered long-footed potoroo was filmed in an area to be felled.

The change will mean proponents of a new logging coupe can make applications to the secretary for exemption.

The secretary will consider, among other things, the numbers required to maintain a viable population of a listed species in the area to be logged, and the amount of habitat near the proposed coupe already protected in national parks.

"Variations to the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2007 are proposed to improve the certainty of timber supply to Victoria's native forest timber industry," the document, dated October 26, states.

"The objective of the variations is to achieve a better balance between the protection of threatened species and sustainable timber production from public native forests."

Wilderness Society campaigner Luke Chamberlain said this was "a sneaky move" by the government to exempt logging from endangered species legislation, and would "betray Victoria's unique wildlife to the chainsaws".

"It puts us on a par with governance of logging practices in Indonesia," he said. "This is world's worst practice of lawless logging."

The Age first revealed in August potential changes to the way endangered species are looked after in Victoria.

At the time, the spokeswoman for Environment Minister Ryan Smith said the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act was currently not under review.

The government reserved the right to review legislation to ensure that it was current, and fit for the purpose, she said.

Yesterday, the spokeswoman said the changes were to the timber code, which fit under the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act, which was not a legislative instrument.

That was contradicted at the time by parliamentary secretary for forestry, Gary Blackwood, who said the government intended to "revisit or review" the way the law applied to the management of threatened species.

Timber code chance could result in more native forest logging in Victoria

Kath Sullivan 
ABC rural news, Thursday, 03/11/2011

The Victorian Government is proposing changes to Timber Production Code of Practice that could result in increased logging in native forests.

The changes give the final say on logging in protected areas to the secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Under the changes, the secretary could over-ride the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act protections and allow logging in previously protected areas.

Parliamentary secretary for Forestry, Gary Blackwood, says the changes would also lead to comprehensive studies of endangered species in native forests.

"It's about allowing us to use that 10 per cent of public native forest estate that we have available for timber production," he said.

"It's about allowing us to use that in a more common sense and practical manner and it's about perhaps providing the opportunity to take a bit of pressure off that production forest because of the threat of a threatened species being found in that area."

Green groups are opposing the changes, saying they'll be detrimental to the protection of endangered species.