Two conservationists from Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) had charges dismissed in the Orbost Magistrates Court today. Ed Hill and Joe Henderson were prosecuted for entering a logging area where they documented and reported logging of protected rainforest in East Gippsland in April 2015.
Hill and Henderson submitted a report documenting the logging breach to the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP). The DELWP investigation found a rainforest area that was consistent with the minimum requirements to trigger legal protection, had been subject to ‘unwarranted destruction’ by loggers under the control of VicForests. Despite this conclusion the Department decided not to take any regulatory action.
“Instead of prosecuting those responsible for what the Environment Minister described as ‘extremely poor practices’ the government has wasted taxpayers money by prosecuting the community members for acting in the public interest,” said GECO spokesperson Ed Hill.
“Despite hundreds of community reports of unlawful logging in threatened species habitat and protected rainforest areas, the Andrews government has not brought a single prosecution against VicForests,” said Ed Hill.
“The government should focus their attention on upholding our environment laws, rather then pursuing costly and pointless prosecutions against the community who are forced to step in and do the work the environment department is responsible for”, said Ed Hill.
“Victoria now logs more native forest than any other state in Australia. Under the current dysfunctional regulatory system, protected environmental values are being compromised, while VicForests log under a veil of secrecy and operate as a law unto themselves,” said Ed Hill.
“The Andrews government consistently prioritise the interests of logging companies over enforcing laws that protect Victoria’s irreplaceable flora and fauna. Environment Minster Lily D’Ambrosio must create an independent body to regulate logging, to date her department has been unable to enforce the laws that protect threatened wildlife and rainforest,” said Ed Hill.
VicForests’ archaic and lawless logging operations are what most Victorians would expect to see in developing nations where regulation is weak or non-existent. Victorians expect better from a government that is keen to promote their supposed commitment to transparency and accountability,” said Ed Hill.
“It’s time Daniel Andrews move Victoria into the 21st century and protect native forests as places for rare wildlife, tourism, water security and a safe climate,” said Ed Hill.
For comment: Ed Hill – 0414 199 645, firstname.lastname@example.org