Alarming changes to the Code of Practice, or "the Code" are being rushed through by the Andrews government. The Environment Department have given communities less than a month to respond to the changes which are spread out over more than 350 pages of documents.
Submissions have officially closed, but you can keeping sending them directly to the Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio. Check out the Friends of the Earth guide and example submission.
Don't have time to make a submission? Victorian National Park Association (VNPA) have set up an easy email action here.
Forests in Swifts Creek, Credit: Friends of Bats and Habitat Gippsland
The proposed changes reveal the government's stance on last year's federal court ruling that VicForests had failed to protect the endangered Leadbeater's possum and threatened Greater Glider from the impacts of logging, and had broken a number of clauses in the Code. The ruling was upheld by the federal court following an appeal by VicForests. The government have so far failed to act on similar breaches ruled on by Justice Mortimer, instead opting to make changes to the law which undermine community legal battles.
A number of environment groups including GECO wrote to the Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio TWICE to extend the consultation period, but this was ignored and the Department have refused to give an extension. One of the documents doesn't show what's been changed.
In September 2019 the Department attempted to make similar changes to the Code, after strong opposition from community groups and supporters, Minister D'Ambrosio withdrew the proposed changes. The Environment Department were planning to axe over 400 specific protections for the environment. But not much has changed and some of the changes go even further to remove protections for forests and wildlife.
The protections are still being removed from the Code, but are now being put in another document, which makes them 'targets' rather than legal protections. At a time when stronger protections are desperately needed for forests and wildlife after the catastrophic bushfires and years of unsustainable logging, the Department is hell bent on weakening the laws which govern logging.
Here's a break down of the problems:
- The consultation is far too short to enable meaningful submissions with a full understanding of all the proposed changes. It's ridiculous to expect community members to be able to respond to changes which have been described by the government as "a major overhaul"
- Weakens East Gippsland Greater Glider prescription and other threatened species protections
- Special Protection Zones have now been replaced by "exclusion areas" which appear to be significantly weaker than protections offered by SPZs
- Removal of whole clauses which hold VicForests responsible for long term planning and management of forests
- No additional protections for forests or wildlife after the bushfires, nor any changes which address the damning federal court findings and failure to act on multiple breaches reported by community groups
- No changes to properly protect mapped and un-mapped old growth forest
- Gives VicForests the power to approving it's own logging in protected areas for threatened species or large trees
- Changes laws which are currently subject to court cases to undermine community legal cases
- Removes the Environment Department's legal obligations to put in specific protections for threatened species and forests
- Removes accountability of the Environment Department for where protection zones for threatened species are placed and leaves it mostly up to VicForests which is extremely problematic
Take action by reading Friends of the Earth guide and example submission, then put in your submissions on the Vic government website here.
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That was in ’62, another world entirely, and, albeit in response to chemical poisoning not deforestation, the metaphor of a silent spring, empty and devoid of life, remains terrifyingly fitting and relevant to our current situation. We cannot continue to destroy these ecosystems; old-growth forests are not renewable. They are irreplaceable, once gone, gone forever, and are fragile subtle places, sensile to harm and tipping-points. And they must be preserved as they are. A tree is no longer a tree when it is a table. A forest is no longer a forest when it is a plantation. Whole is no longer whole when it is fractured. This might sound foolish but what is crazy is throwing away something so precious for the sake of something so commonplace. Would we demolish the Opera house to build bollards or a sidewalk? I would protest against that and I hope you would also. It is our shared history after all. History is what makes us who we are. Our Forests are our evolutionary history and so much older and more noble than the opera house, or indeed anything it is in our power to build or create. Grand complexities, so full of life and genetic history, billions of years in the making, brought to heel and destroyed in an afternoon by a bored man with an axe and uncaring society. There are other options to deforestation. You speak for us and we speak for the trees. You have an obligation to do whatever you can to protect what is mine, yours and our children’s and not to squander Mona Lisa’s for housepaint.
Please protects the forest we are stewarded to protect.
Not so Mr Andrews.