Last week the Victorian Government quietly sneaked through changes to the law which governs logging, gutting environment protections which were already poorly enforced. The changes weaken already outdated East Gippsland protections for the threatened Greater Glider - set to be listed as endangered after the devastating fires.
This could result in areas that would've been protected for the Glider being logged. At a time when stronger laws are desperately needed to curb the extinction crisis faced by so many animals threatened by logging - the Andrews government is making widespread, systemic illegal logging legal. Read the ABC coverage here.
Credit: Justin Cally - Southern Greater Glider
Despite the new changes to the law, a new court case has been launched by local community groups Kinglake Friends of Forest and Environment East Gippsland. They argue that government logging agency VicForests have failed to properly survey for and protect Greater Gliders. Their expert witness says every glider should be protected by a 250m buffer in order to protect their habitat.
The community groups secured a temporary injunction which has halted logging in critical glider habitat in the Central Highlands and East Gippsland - including an important area on Jughandle Track where logging was set in the coming weeks. GECO citizen scientists had found a high density of Greater Gliders in the area - but the Environment Department failed to find the gliders.
Forests near Errinundra on Jughandle Track - temporarily protected by the EEG and KFF court case
The changes to the Code come after the Environment Department gave conservation groups less than a month to have a say on the complex adjustments. Similar changes had already been withdrawn in 2019 when the Environment Minister admitted there were serious concerns about changes which had profound implications for more than 100 legal protections. Those protections have now been essentially deleted from the Code and are no longer enforceable.
Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio claims the changes provide 'clarity', but the only thing that has been made clear is that the state government is trying to weaken laws and deregulate logging.
Less than a month ago the Environment Department was the subject of a scathing report that found it was failing to halt the decline of nearly 2,000 listed threatened species - which include the Greater Glider and other forest dependent species.
Senator Lidia Thorpe witnessing destruction of Greater Glider habitat in Errinundra earlier this year
Statement from Goongerah Environment Centre spokesperson Chris Schuringa
"Its been 2 years since we lived through the worst bushfires in living memory - yet the Andrews government is set to gut protections for forests and wildlife, including the Greater Glider - an animal in peril from years of industrial scale logging across their habitat."
"Some of the Greater Gliders best remaining habitat in East Gippsland is set to be logged in the next few months. Given numbers a plummeting, any Glider found should be protected. We already know that when their habitat is logged - they die. It's already hard to find enough Gliders to get an area protected, and these changes make it virtually impossible."
"Nothing has changed since the fires, it's just more of the same destruction. The damning reviews into the Environment Department, the reports of widespread illegal logging, the scathing audits, the Federal Court findings, the bushfires - nothing is getting through to this government that their logging is a complete disaster and must stop."
"If changing laws to make illegal logging legal is the only way the government can keep logging till 2030, then it's just another sign it has to end now."