Private Interests Govern
themselves in the Forest
East Gippsland Logging (EGL) was awarded the
contract put out by the DNRE to supply all of the timber across the East Gippsland forest management area
(around 800,000m3 annually). The directors of this company include Bob Humphries and TJ Andrews two of
the biggest chipmill owners in the district.
Effectively this contract means that they are paid by the government to supply themselves with
timber and they get a cut of the $$$ from every tree felled. They are responsible for the supervision of the
clearfelling operations and the
roading, grading, measurement, delivery etc. When a logging operation is finished an EGL representitive
signs off on the coupe completion certificates, and are supposed to check that all appropriate
environmental regulations and the code of forest practices are followed. Given the poor history of the
DNRE in supervising forest operations it is a grave concern that the private interests are now governing
themselves in this manner.
Bob Humphries when questioned on radio about this said, "we need to be left alone to go about our business".
Which is exactly what the Department has set up for them.
To make matters worse, the Department official who headed the selection panel that awarded this
contract is now their Chief Executive Officer.
Gary Squires having secured the monopoly situation for EGL has now leapt in to reap his own private
Given all this corruption and obvious conflict of interest a group of 25 protesters in late December
descended upon the EGL office. Once all of us were inside we began to ask questions of Gary Squires who
became fairly angry and physically started pushing protestors out of the office. We pressed to have him
answer the questions of the whole group but he consistently refused and the police were called in.
Eventually he agreed to meet with a small group. The group then went up to the Department office and
asked similar questions of the acting head forester Peter Geary. Again the police were called to move people
out and a smaller meeting was held.
The protests against EGL continued with the Cann River Chip Mill action.
More recently in late January a group of protestors served an Eviction Notice on EGL. The notice informed
them of the requirement for them to vacate their Orbost premises and all the native forests of East
Gippsland on the grounds of corruption and mismanagement of public forests. (Strangely it seems they
have ignored this notice and are still operating).
One Log Load : Bonang Rd
near Goongerah in early 1999.
Going, going, gone ...... at 9 cents a tonne
No one here was really suprised when a leaked government document confirmed that the
government have been flogging off our forests for as little as 9 cents a tonne. The figure
refers to royalty rates received for residual logs (ie chip logs), an additional 33 cents as a
licence fee and about $3.80 as a roading fee are collected per cubic metre. The total paid then
amounts to just over $4.00. This is what the public recieves in return for the destruction of its old growth forests.
The department ends up about $40 million dollars down each year, spending far more to make our forests available for plundering than they make back. It caused quite a media storm with front page of The Age, television and lots of radio coverage. Even Jeff Kennett had trouble explaining why our old growth forests are being sold at such prices as he stumbled with his words on Melbourne radio.
This ridiculous royalty rate was charged to TJ Andrews mills. Andrews just so happens to be one of the Directors of EGL and one of its two shareholders. Andrews has a licence for 100,000 tonnes of woodchips across Victoria and is transporting logs from East Gippsland half way across the state to be exported from Geelong. It is only the fact that he is getting our forest for next to nothing that makes this financially viable. There is also a rumour circulating that Andrews owes the DNRE over a million dollars in unpaid royalty rates, licence and roading fees. This means he is not even paying nine cents a tonne.