Environment Minster Lisa Neville MP has slammed VicForests conduct in the logging coupe where GECO reported illegal rainforest logging last month. The Minister said she was 'disturbed' by the logging, labeling it 'extremely poor practice'. The investigation into our allegations concluded VicForests retained 'a degree of culpability' as they allowed the unnecessary destruction of rainforest canopy species. See the media reporting here. The Minister's condemnation comes after the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP), dismissed our allegations of illegal logging, due to what they claim is inconclusive evidence. The department's report concluded that 'due to the highly disturbed nature of the site, a proper physical assessment was not possible'. In other words the evidence had been destroyed! This is typical of the DELWP who go out of their way to let VicForests off the hook and facilitate dodgy logging practices. We are calling for an independent review of the decision and for VicForests to be prosecuted.
DELWP failed to investigate one of the allegations we raised. This was in relation to the illeagl logging of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest ( a type of transitional rainforest that is recognised as as separate community from rainforest and is listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Gaunrantee Act). The Minister has ordered them to investigate this allegation, and so the saga continues.
These devastating pictures below are of ancient rainforest species such as Southern sassafras and Black olive berry. These trees are extremely slow growing, fire sensitive rainforest trees that can live for well over 500 years. In this case, VicForests has allowed logging contractors to bulldoze the entire rainforest gully for no reason what so ever.
Despite providing overwhelming evidence that rainforest was logged, DELWP's investigation still returned an inconclusive ruling due to 'inconclusive evidence'. This basically means the rainforest has been destroyed, so they couldn't tell if the area was rainforest or not. DELWP initially refused to release the findings of the investigation report, however after applying pressure through the Minister they were forced to release it. You can down load it here.
DELWP's refusal to release this report is typical of their approach to dealing with the public. They actively allow VicForests to operate under a veil of secrecy. You would think if they had nothing to hide, then why would they refuse to release the report. Perhaps they didn't want to release it as it shows how weak they are as regulators of the forest industry, where instead of actually doing their job and ensuring that VicForests logging operations comply to the law, they are actively shielding them from scrutiny. This appalling rainforest logging would never have been investigate if GECO had not reported it. Unfortunately it is up to us to act as the unofficial regulators of the forest industry in the face if a inadequate regulation from DELWP.
The investigation report had the names of the DELWP workers redacted to protect their privacy. This is fair enough, however the entire VicForests Rainforest Field Identification form was also redacted. the entire form was blacked out, providing no evidence what so ever that VicForests had even bothered to look for rainforest in the logging coupe before they allowed the loggers in with their bulldozers.
This is what VicForests rainforest identification looks like!
DELWP failed to investigate one our of allegations into the illegal logging of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest. The Minister has since ordered them to investigate. It seems like the Minister is learning fast about the corruption and dodgy practices of the DELWP and is struggling to regain control over her own department. At least she is actually forcing them to act and do their job, it's more than previous governments have done. We are looking forward to increased transparency and accountability in how the DELWP manage our forests under the leadership of Minister Neville.
The DELWP will investigate the Mixed Forest allegation and so the saga continues! Stay tuned.