The State government has issued fines to three citizen science surveyors who reported illegal rainforest logging. Despite the State government committing to implementing a raft of changes to logging rules in light of the information we provided, fines have been issued for entering logging "safety zone". We'll be fighting the fines in court and will not be silenced for speaking out about VicForests unlawful logging operations.
The so called 'safety zones' are designed to keep the public out of the forests and shield VicForests logging operations from scrutiny. We'll continue to monitor and document logging operations. It's in the public interest for the public to know what is happening in their forests.
It appears the Agriculture Minister, whose department has issued the fines, is happy to punish us for doing the work the government should be doing. Keeping an eye on VicForests.
Her's a summary of this long running saga. Click the blue text for links to media stories and more info.
Back in April we reported an illegal rainforest logging operation on the Errinundra Plateau. Rainforest is meant to be protected by Victorian law. We submitted a report to the government and lobbied the Minister for the logging to stop. Logging ceased and we saved about 7 hectares of old growth forest. Watch this short clip about how we found the logging and what we did to document and report it.
The department failed to investigate one of our allegations, the logging of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest (a rare and protected type of rainforest). The Environment Minister ordered them to investigate and also ordered an independent body to review the investigation. This second report revealed that the government didn't even know how to identify Mixed Forest and they had no measures in place to protect it despite the law requiring them to do so. In light of the information we provided, the government committed to improving the logging rules and protections for rainforest and large old trees.
Despite all the media attention and public concern over this case of dodgy logging, the government threatened to prosecute us for entering the "safety zone" that prohibits public access to the logging coupe. These zones are designed to keep the public out and shield logging operations from public scrutiny.
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford told parliament we deserved to be prosecuted.
In an ironic twist to the story, the same week that the Victorian government threatened to prosecute us, The United Nations Association of Australia nominated us as finalists in the World Environment Day awards in the Biodiversity conservation category! The state government were threatening to prosecute us for doing work that the UN has recognised as making a significant contribution to the protection of biodiversity!
In a bizzare move the government actually followed through and have issued the three surveyors with $440 fines!
Last week one fine arrived for Owen (one of the surveyors). Read the media reporting here.
This week more fines have arrived in our letterboxes and all three surveyors have been punished. What's their crime? Acting in the public interest and engaging with the government! Read a story from The Age here.
We'll be taking these fines court and arguing they should be dismissed as we were acting in the public interest to inform the government about these appalling logging practices that were carried out in breach of the law. It's VicForests and the loggers that should be getting fines, not conservationists who engaged with the government to bring these important matters to their attention.
If you'd like to donate to support the legal challenge to fight these ridiculous fines, please donate to this crowd funding campaign. Or find our bank account details here.
Please write to Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford MP and ask her to drop these fines and protect East Gippsland's old growth forests, you can email her here: jaala.pulford@parliament. vic.gov.au