Government owned logging agency VicForests appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court today defending charges for logging protected rainforest areas near Cann River in East Gippsland. Charges were laid by the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) after community reporting of a serious breach of rainforest protections in March 2016.
In February 2018 the Sunday Age exposed the Department’s failure to take decisive regulatory action over several high profile rainforest logging cases. A week later the department charged VicForests.
VicForests are defending the charges and were today attempting to strike them out. The case has been adjourned for a further contest mention to discuss a legal argument on August 24th in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
Today’s court appearance is the latest controversy in a what has been a turbulent week for VicForests as their logging operations continue to be shrouded in controversy.
Earlier this week ABC news revealed the logging agency has been conducting a controversial experiment in East Gippsland’s forests that involves logging the habitat of threatened species to see how many survive. The agency acknowledged to the ABC that the experiment was ‘very’ likely to kill Greater Gliders, a forest dependent mammal that is already facing extinction.
Today The Age reported that VicForests has failed its bid to secure the Forest Stewardship Council green tick of approval. An audit team from SCS global services failed VicForests third attempt to secure the internationally recognised forestry certificate, widely considered to be the global benchmark of sustainable forestry operations.
“After years of government inaction to enforce the laws that VicForests must follow it is very encouraging to see the environment department finally do their job and prosecute VicForests for logging protected rainforest,” said Goongerah Environment Centre Office spokesperson Ed Hill.
“The Department must now follow through and restore public confidence in the forestry regulator. Making sure VicForests are dealt the full force of the law should be a top order priority for Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio,” said Ed Hill.
“Victorian’s expect that when rainforest is illegally logged the perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished. We are hopeful that this prosecution signals a new approach by the Department and that they will also prosecute for several other breaches under investigation,” said Ed Hill.
“VicForests are completely bereft of any social license. This week their threatened species killing experiment was exposed, then they had their bid for green tick certificate knocked back and then tried to defend their appalling and unlawful rainforest logging in court. The Victorian public expect better from a state owned agency.”
“It’s time the Andrews government showed leadership and acted to reform the native logging sector, protect high conservation values forests and complete the industry transition into plantations and non timber sources of fibre, action and leadership is well overdue” said Ed Hill
Media contact: Ed Hill - 0414 199 645