TAKE ACTION 25 November 2021 |

We have politicians saying we have the best regulated forests in the world, well frankly that’s b*##$%^!t– Professor David Lindenmayer, AO, Australian scientist and academic.

Last night (24 November 2021) the ABC’s 7:30 with Leigh Sales aired damning allegations of widespread, systemic illegal logging by VicForests.VicForests are repeatedly accused of breaching laws supposed to protect Victoria’s native forests, water catchments and threatened wildlife. This isn’t their first violation, but it’s one of their worst.

Logging forests on slopes of more than 30 degrees is illegal, but the ABC investigation found VicForests had logged up to 321 hectares of land beyond that threshold. After investigating and confirming two of 252 alleged breaches, the Office of Conservation Regulator (OCR) then neglected the other 250 allegations. It has never been clearer that we MUST bring forward Victoria’s transition out of native forest logging.

Until now VicForests has had carte blanche to destroy the community’s natural assets, all to meet some dodgy contracts signed decades ago to feed pulp and timber mills.They haven’t turned a profit in years, and the government hands out hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to subsidise their out-of-control operating costs. They cut every corner they can, desperate to squeeze any last profits out of our sensitive forest ecosystems.It’s why after the devastating 2019/20 Black Summer fires, they plundered critical refuge areas of wildlife that lost up to 80% of their range.It’s why they’re allegedly illegally logging steep slopes and high conservation value forests in the Central Highlands – home to the world’s tallest flowering plants. We’re hoping that the ABC’s report, along with other media stories out this week, will be the push the government needs to finally lay out a clear plan to bring forward Victoria’s transition out of native forest logging and protect our natural heritage.

In Western Australia, the government has recognised how outdated the industry is, and has brought forward the phase out of logging to 2024.In Victoria, the government takes the law into its own hands, going so far as to redesign the Code of Timber Production to optimise illegitimate logging. This year we saw changes that granted loggers access to threatened wildlife habitat and important cultural and recreational sites.The thing is, our government knows there’s no future in native logging – they’ve already committed to phasing it out completely by 2030. The time for calling it a legitimate sustainable operation has passed.As a start, we want to see the Victorian Government:

  • Release a detailed transition plan (the current forestry plan is only four pages and contains no detail)
  • Close VicForests and install an independent, registered liquidator to wind down its operations
  • Establish an independent, science-led transition authority to assist with the transition
  • Establish the Office of the Conservation (OCR) outside of (The Department of Land, Water and Planning) DELWP as a truly independent regulator with a sufficient budget to allow for all operational needs
  • Independently and publicly review wood and timber yield segments against future fire predictions, climate change and the exit target in the Victorian Forestry Plan.

VicForests has a terrible track record, and it keeps getting worse. Tonight (25 November 2021) ABC will reveal that VicForests has hired a private investigator to conduct surveillance on conservationists and academics the agency argues are trying to “discredit” it. If VicForests can’t distinguish between being discredited and being held to account, or ignoring standard codes of conduct for public servants, they certainly can’t be trusted in our forests.If they played by the rules, they wouldn’t be facing endless court battles, and sending their bills to the taxpayer.These issues are all symptoms of a mismanaged industry that continues to do more harm than good. Scientists, conservationists and the community have been stating these facts and raising these concerns for decades.It’s time for the government to clean up their b*##$%^!  and get serious with transition – instead of looting our native forests like it’s going out of style (spoiler alert: it is).