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MyEnvironment’s plea for help with new VicForests logging case

VicForests argued on Tues – day 2, that the economic case for continuing the logging of endangered species’ habitat outweighs the precautionary principle. In effect, they are saying, jobs are more important than species and ecosystems. The anticipated costs of the case have ballooned due to the necessity to respond to VicForests’ economics argument and other unexpected costs including increased transcript costs because VicForests have requested real time electronic recording of witnesses. Of course, they have access to government funding.

New environmental case could save 162 coupes

On Monday, 6th February, one of the most significant court case ever undertaken on the conservation of Victoria’s threatened fauna commenced in the Supreme Court. The case is testing whether the logging operations of VicForests are in compliance with state laws, focusing on three coupes in Toolangi State Forest, around 80 kms. north-east of Melbourne.

However, VicForests argued on Tues – day 2, that the economic case for continuing the logging of endangered species’ habitat outweighs the precautionary principle. In effect, they are saying, jobs are more important than species and ecosystems.

VicForests have stated that if they can't log these three coupes, then they can't log 162 coupes in the Central Highlands Ash forests - And thousands of jobs will be lost, 150 fire fighters gone and millions of dollars lost to the state. They have threatened that if the precautionary principle is to be applied that it will shut down the industry.

These forests and their animals survived Black Saturday

After Black Saturday and decades of industrial logging, the unburned remnant Ash forests now contain what is left of Melbourne’s water supply and the last viable population of the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum (along with a host of other threatened flora and fauna). MyEnvironment has engaged two expert witnesses of unimpeachable authority, Dr Judith Ajani on the economics and Professor David Lindenmayer on the ecological values of our forests.

VicForests balloon court costs with gov funding - environmentalists seek equity

The anticipated costs of the case have ballooned due to the necessity to respond to VicForests’ economics argument and other unexpected costs including increased transcript costs because VicForests have requested real time electronic recording of witnesses. Of course, they have access to government funding.

The Federal Minister for the Environment Tony Burke is engaged (on some level). MyEnvironment Inc. has requested federal assistance as the case fits squarely in its portfolio of responsibility.

The following information may help you understand the case and why it is so significant:

Specific Biodiversity

Leadbeater’s Possums are Victoria's faunal emblem and considered 'canary in the coal mine' species for biodiversity in Victoria’s forest water catchments. If they are tipped into extinction, it means other forest species are also tipping. This case seeks to prevent this.

The forest age class that supports hollow dependant wildlife, is the same forest that provides, and releases, massive amounts of clean drinking and irrigation water for urban and rural users. Replacing this forest with young, rapidly growing plantations would greatly reduce water production and provide no habitat for hollow-dependent species.

Protecting Melbourne's water catchment

Melbourne’s water was the subject of a 2003 World Bank and WWF report advising against further logging yet logging in water catchments continues. The government’s own studies recommended ending catchment logging by 2009 to improve water supply to Melbourne’s growing population.

Science has recognised that the world’s greatest trees are being lost to disease, climate and drought. In Victoria, we will not have any old growth Ash forests left by 2065 due to industrial logging and fires (Victorian images here). Only around 1% of the old-growth Mountain Ash forest remains in these mountains today.

VicForests already demonstrated lack of respect for law

FSC certification was removed from products coming from these forests because VicForests failed to demonstrate compliance with the principles of biodiversity management.

VicForests industry relies on funding from your taxes

The primary recipient of wood from the Central Highlands is Japanese multi-national paper producer Nippon Paper Ltd. According to the 2010 URS Treasury report, Nippon does not pay full costs of production so tax-payers are subsidising the wood stream.

Victoria has legislated to guarantee wood to Nippon so the state government, in a bid to access new resources, are now planning to log parks, water catchments and special protection zones to fulfill the contract.

Breech of Federal laws and United Nations agreements

The message being sent to other countries is that it's acceptable to log reserves. In effect, Victoria is in breach of both Federal laws and United Nations agreements.

The end of native forest logging in Victoria would also hasten the collapse of Gunns’ Tasmanian Pulp mill. The Heyfield Mill sale by Gunns will supply funds to support the Pulp Mill proposal. If Victorian Ash forests cannot be logged, Heyfield will not be commercial and Gunns will be forced to liquidate it. (we have heard that the Mill sale has fallen through and Gunns may have suspended trading because of this)

Economics is a subset of Environment, not the other way round

Vicforests argue that they should be allowed to log habitat to keep the industry alive while Scott Gentle ex-CEO Victorian Forestry Contractors Association says the industry is a basket case. The haulers say "it could be better run by a kindergarten" and contractors like Mick McKinnell say that the transition to plantations is inevitable. 7.30 ABC Report

Baylieu Government proposes increased support for archaic and destructive industry

Whilst resource mapping shows that little is left outside special protection zones and buffer strips containing endangered species, the Baillieu/Ryan government is proposing 20 year contracts to guarantee industry stability and underwrite VicForests when commitments can no longer be met. These contracts will need to be paid out when the resource is exhausted so it's a quick return for opportunistic investors.

In contravention of our own national competition economics policies

This is total mismanagement in contravention of national competition policy under which a government business enterprise must not be given any commercial advantage. A story from The Age on the state of the industry can be seen at the link.

Unfair

David and Goliath: VicForests have access to millions of taxpayer dollars and a team of 7 lawyers in court - we have 3.

We are just a small group of volunteers with a first-hand understanding of the issues, dedication and determination to save what remains after the Black Saturday bushfires. Over the last decade we have witnessed massive destruction of critical ecosystems and we need to tell our story.

A chance to end native forest logging in Victoria!

VicForests are saying that if the judge awards in our favour, this case will end native forest logging in Victoria. Please push this out to your friends and members. We have to raise three times more than we have. Donate here Please. The flow on effect of this case is already being measured in Gunns' business and will affect East Gippsland's forest too.

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