Citizen scientists from Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) and the Victorian Forest Alliance (VFA) have discovered state-owned logging company VicForests has continued to illegally destroy numerous endangered Tree Geebungs while doing ‘regeneration’ works. The area is within the Immediate Protection Areas announced by the Daniel Andrews government back in 2019. One tree knocked over is estimated to be hundreds of years old.
Yes, we’re still alive and kicking at https://eastgippsland.net.au/. We’ve been very preoccupied preparing another legal battle, but the good news is … our Supreme Court case which is arguing for effective Glider detection and protection, will begin this Monday (9th May).
Environment East Gippsland shouldn’t be forced down this costly road but they are … and it works! If anyone would like to share in this winning strategy you can send us a few bob so they can keep it going. Donations are tax-deductible (but we understand if people have thin piggy banks after Xmas). EEG has quite a few large bills to pay now. But their work isn’t over yet! Please drink a toast to all the players tonight – the EEG lawyers, the risk taking EEG team, and the GECO and FFRC surveyors – what a force! You can donate here.
Thursday 4th Feb 2015: Legal action forces VicForests to survey
Action taken by Environment East Gippsland and their lawyers, Environmental Justice Australia, has resulted in VicForests today agreeing to halt logging and survey for rare wildlife and plants in a stand of East Gippsland’s forests rich in threatened species.
“Sadly, since mid-January and while negotiations have been going on, VicForests continued to clearfell this amazingly valuable forest where four rare and threatened wildlife and two plant species were discovered by volunteer surveyors” said Jill Redwood from EEG. “It’s a shame that so much has been destroyed in this time, in an area that clearly should have been surveyed by trained biologists before the chainsaws moved in.”
The species recorded in the Kuark forest about 30km NE of Orbost, were the Long-footed Potoroo, Yellow-bellied Gliders, a new species of galaxias fish that only occurs in Kuark, a likely new, as yet undescribed species of crayfish, and two rare plants that should have 250m Special Management Zones applied.
“We have to wonder what gems we have lost over the years because the state government’s logging company calls the shots on whether an area should have a survey before it is clearfelled and burnt.”
“Sadly, Minister Neville’s Environment Department consistently refuse to order VicForests to survey for rare and threatened flora and fauna in areas slated for logging, so it’s left up to community groups to engage lawyers” said Felicity Millner of Environmental Justice Australia.
“We welcome this belated action by VicForests in this instance” said Ms Millner.
“We will be watching closely how their actions are carried out and are leaving our options open at this stage”, said Jill Redwood.
East Gippsland: VicForests is being very cooperative in giving Environment East Gippsland (EEG) new grounds for legal action. Not only had they just commenced logging in an area which EEG believes is a rich stand of forest for rare wildlife, but bold as brass, their contractors yet again cleared right to the edge of a patch of rainforest leaving no buffer. This, after all the bad media they received when found to have destroyed rainforest near Hensleigh Creek earlier this year.
While EEG pulls out the legal artillery, GECO held up logging today by a tree-sitter cabled down to 5 machines – immobilising operations.
This is what some call a nicely timed ‘one-two’.
Below is EEG's media release regarding the legal details. Just 24 hours after the legal letter was sent from EJA who are representing EEG, VicForests lawyers replied saying they were pulling out!
VicForests stops logging after legal action
Just one day after lawyers presented a ‘please explain’ letter to the CEO of VicForests, logging has been stopped and machinery will be pulled out of a high habitat value stand of forest where tree felling had commenced, north east of Orbost.
“We believe the logging that took place was unlawful but appreciate VicForests now suspending operations,” said Jill Redwood, of Environment East Gippsland.
“Although VicForests deny there were any breaches of the law, they have decided not to continue logging here in order to assist the State Government’s Forest Industry Taskforce. This is currently considering deferral of logging in controversial areas of high conservation value. The Taskforce is considering future issues facing the industry and protection of the State’s flora and fauna”.
“While we are heartened to see VicForests cooperation in this instance, we have also made them aware of a number of other areas of high quality habitat planned for imminent logging where we believe the law requires a survey. We are waiting to hear back and will be keeping our eye on VicForests operations in these areas.”
How many more outrageous options for our state’s (planet’s) most valuable climate moderators and wildlife arks can they come up with?! Whole logs to China now. Not even processed (value added!) into woodchips. Has VicForests also got Daniel Andrews by the short and curlies? In The Age today… http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/victorian-forests-bound-for-china-under-secret-andrews-government-rescue-plan-20150712-gian0v.html Discussion on ABC Gippsland’s facebook page … https://www.facebook.com/ABCGippsland/timeline
Victorian forests bound for China under secret Andrews Government rescue plan Date July 12, 2015 - 7:42PM by Josh Gordon, State Political Editor
Victoria's low grade native timber could soon be packed into shipping containers bound for China and other cut-price countries for processing under a rescue plan to help ailing state timber company VicForests.
VicForests has been left without a market for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of so-called "residual" timber following the loss of a key contract with Japanese-owned wood-chip company South East Fibre Exports (SEFE).
In response, the Andrews government is now considering relaxing a rule requiring local processing before export in a bid to open up new markets for the struggling state-owned wood business.
A confidential November 2013 Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) briefing seen by The Age confirms the industry has for months been lobbying to relax the requirement for domestic processing of timber.
"VicForests indicates the Victorian Association of Forest Industries (VAFI) now supports relaxing certain aspects of the export restrictions," the briefing to former treasurer Michael O'Brien, said. "Such a change should lead to improved outcomes for both VicForests and industry. DTF supports the reconsideration of the timber export policy."
Last week GECO - Goongerah Environment Centre reported an illegal rainforest logging operation that has occurred on the Errinundra Plateau, East Gippsland. We documented the destruction and sent a report to the Victorian government. The mainstream media reported it, Australians called, emailed, tweeted and talked about it. They asked the Environment Minister to end this senseless destruction and immediately stop logging. The pressure was felt in her office but logging continues and the forests need you to act again.
GECO - Goongerah Environment Centre reports:
Logging machinery was taken out of the area for a short time and some restrictions have been placed on where logging can now occur. But yesterday we observed that logging has recommenced and ancient trees, some up to 600 years old, near the area where rainforest has been logged are falling today!
We need to act now and let the Victorian Government know that if this matter is being taken seriously all logging operations in the area must immediately stop!
You can remind the Minister's office of the following points.
- Rainforest is a listed as a threatened community under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (FFGA).
- The Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act requires VicForests to comply with the Code of Practice for Timber Production which forbids the logging of rainforest.
- Evidence is overwhelming that VicForests has illegally logged Rainforest in breach of these two Acts.
- While an investigation takes place, all operations need to stop.
- VicForests need to be penalised and kicked out of the coupe.
#10;<p><strong>- At this stage, we know that at least a quarter of the coupe has been logged illegally. Continuing operations in the coupe may also be in breach of the law. So it's important to immediatley stop all operations until an investigation is complete.</strong><br><br><strong>- VicForests should be forced to reserve an area equivalent in size to the area that was logged illegally.</strong><br><br><strong>- The area of logged rainforest is about one hectare in size, it should have been given a 40 m buffer of retained trees either side of it. So it's not just rainforest that has been illegally logged, ancient trees (like the one in the photo at the top of this email) that should have been buffering the rainforest have been illegally logged.</strong><br><br></p> <p><img src=" />
- Once the investigation concludes, the government need to prosecute VicForests for breaking our state environment laws.
In your letters it's important to emphasise that VicForests are the problem here. The Minister's department enforces laws to protect rainforest but the rogue forest agency of VicForests think they don't need to obey them. They must be prosecuted and the logging must be stopped.
Our rainforests are unique, rare and precious and illegal logging of them by VicForests is an abomination that flies in the face of state environment laws. This sort of reckless destruction doesn't belong in the 21st century.
Thanks for taking action. You have the power to stop the destruction and if we all join our voices and make ourselves heard we can get the loggers out.
For the forests,
GECO - Goongerah Environment Centre.
Jill Redwood, as coordinator of Environment East Gippsland, conducted a landmark environmental court case that saw her group awarded damages against the Government Forestry corporation, VicForests, who were told to conduct proper investigations for the presence of threatened species in areas they logged and to design and enact plans to safeguard them according to the law. Three years later the Giant Trees Walk on Brown Mountain, which EEG had created in order to develop awareness of the rape of East Gippsland's forests, has been destroyed by persons unknown, equipped with heavy equipment and chainsaws.
"All the way along here to our Brown Mountain forests - which was the test case in this court case - they have cut down every big tree along the way."
The case proved that VicForests were not abiding by the government's own rules. They have to do prelogging surveys before they go in and log areas that might have threatened species in them. Prior to the court case they were not doing this at all. "If they couldn't find them, that was better. They didn't want to know about them."
They've changed the law for poteroos. Where they used to find them, they have to protect 450ha. then they changed the law, so now they only have to protect 50ha and this doesn't have to be in the detection sites. So, if one is found right in the middle of where they plan to log, they can protect 50ha somewhere over the other side of the gully. This law was changed under the current (Baillieu then Napthine) Liberal government, but the case began under the Bracks (Labor) Government in 2009. The Liberal Government carried on the bad work of the Labor Party. The Liberal Party wanted to change the Code of Forest Practices, which is a mess of laws and management plans and codes which interconnect, but the Code did say that they have to abide by the management plan and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. So what this Liberal Government wanted to do was to change the code or the wording in the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, so that a minister could just say, "No, where you find threatened species, you don't have to protect them; go in and log." So they were going to change the whole thing just by adding one extra sentence in. But they probably haven't done that because they realised that would open up more legal cases to challenge that change. All the laws are interconnected, so if they change that one, then it will may then contradict or contravene another law or laws. It goes back to the RFAs and all sorts of things.
At the moment they are carrying out pre-logging surveys, but EEG calls them 'mickey mouse surveys' because they are so poorly done and poorly financed. The people doing the pre-logging surveys might find a tenth of what is there because they just don't have the time and the resources. That suits VicForests very well. That's how they are getting away with logging areas that have threatened species now.
The court case took a huge toll on the Environment East Gippsland group. They had saved up $40,000 which was not really enough but once that people heard that there was a court case to save the forests, they were able to access huge public support.
Nothing has really changed, unfortunately. A few areas have been protected, probably where they did not want to log really. Recently EEG found them logging protected rainforest sites of significance. EEG threatened to sue them over this but VicForests gave in before they got to the Court steps.
The logging industry is a huge liability for the Victorian Government. VicForests is a government-owned logging monopoly now. It has cost the government millions to defend it in court.
It's really another form of public land-grab
It's about a land-grab. It's the real-estate they want, not the old growth forest. The old growth forest doesn't have very good timber for logging needs because the trees are old and twisted. But, where old growth grows and where these nice rich, lush, wildlife rich and valuable forests grow is on the highest productivity land. That is, land with flat topography, deep soil, high rainfall - perfect for plantations. Hey, and it's public land! Public money! Clear the forests, put in these nice single-species tree farms ... Sucker public has to pay for it. That's what's been happening for 40 years. Where we used to have this landscape of beautiful old growth diverse forests, with the threatened tiger quoll, the owls, all these wonderful creatures here, with little pockets of logging. Now, it's these little pockets of old growth in this sea of tree-farms for the overseas pulp industry.
EEG, whilst preparing their case against VicForests, set up infrared photography in the forests and were the first to film a long-footed poteroo gathering brush for its nest by carrying it under its tail. We don't know half of what we have in these forests. Gippsland is still such an unknown area. The number of threatened species here, both plant and animal, is 7 times the state average. Jill describes it as 'a Noah's ark' which should be protected as such and says that, if only the government could realise the value in this. Ecotourism is the part of the tourist industry that is just growing phenomenally. People want to come out here. They want to experience nature. They want to see the wildlife. So much money is being spent to prop up the destructive industry of logging - which, if it were a person, would be a 'welfare bludger' and a vandal, says Jill - to destroy these areas that could be the showcase of Australia. It could be globally important to take these international visitors and take them on night walks and show them the gliders and stand at the base of this massive big tree that's 15m around. Instead the government's loggers are just cutting them down every day! They're just destroying them!
National Threatened Species Day marks the day in 1936 when the last Thylacine died in Hobart Zoo. Seventy-eight years later, in the week leading up to this year’s National Threatened Species Day, Sunday 7 September , Liberal member for Prahran, Clem Newton-Brown, has been letterboxing his area with a flyer proclaiming the Napthine government’s commitment to the recovery of Victoria’s faunal emblem, the Leadbeater’s Possum. But his claims don’t hold up.
Liberal MP campaigns on conservation policy as Napthine government condemns Victorian emblem to follow the Tasmanian Tiger into extinction
The flyer claims the government supports all 13 recommendations of its Leadbeater’s Possum Advisory Group (LPAG), which were released in April, and specifies five.
Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, a community group established 10 years ago to protect the possum has already dismissed the recommendations as “mediocre”. The advisory group was composed entirely of government employees and representatives of the logging industry and its findings were constrained by terms of reference that mandated continued industrial logging in the animal’s habitat.
Now a new ‘Action Statement’ for the species, has been covertly. The previous action statement, in force since 1995, has been quietly revoked.
The new action statement is based largely around the inadequate LPAG recommendations and has been reviewed by the group. Its conclusions are scathing.
”This is the first time government policy for the conservation of a threatened species has been formally predicated on, and constrained by, ideological determination to maintain the very industry that is destroying what is left of the species’ habitat, says the review (attached).”
Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum had been hoping that, at the very least, there would be some significant additions to the area of forest reserved for the critically endangered marsupial to compensate for the 45% that was lost in the Black Saturday fires. But one of the actions is simply to “Retain” the reserve. In other words, not to increase it.
” “This is more of an INACTION statement”, says Steve Meacher, the Friends’ forest campaigner. “Of the 35 actions and sub-actions proposed, most are ‘not enforceable’, including three on the flyer. Only 4 appear to carry any mandatory power at all. And they were all assessed by LPAG itself, the government-appointed advisory group, to have minimal, if any, benefit to conservation of the possum.”
Taken as a whole this so-called “Action Statement” cannot be considered a serious contribution to the protection of our state’s faunal emblem. It is little more than a thinly disguised restatement of the present government’s declared policy to permit and support the continued logging of Mountain Ash forests that provide the Leadbeater’s Possum with its primary and most critical habitat. This action statement will push Leadbeater’s Possum further along a trajectory to extinction.
It is a dishonest and misleading document that deserves only to be treated with utter contempt. The anonymous authors, the secretary, the department, the minister and the Napthine government, including Newton-Brown, all deserve to be thoroughly ashamed.
Newton-Brown’s flyer declares the government will invest $11 million on implementation. It is understood that over $7 million of this is to be given to VicForests!
Contact for comment: Steve Meacher Ph: 5962 9008 Mob: 0447 330 863
Comments made against EEG last October have resulted in Minister Peter Walsh stepping back and making a public apology today, 19 March 2014. The apology to Environment East Gippsland was published on his parliamentary website. Peter Walsh is the Deputy Leader of the Victorian Nationals and Minister for Agriculture, Security and Water.
The Minister’s media comments in October last year stated that EEG
“…continue(s) to attack Victoria’s responsible and sustainable native forest industry, often wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars”.
In today’s apology, he retracted those statements.
“In fact what EEG has done is successfully take three legal actions against VicForests and DEPI for their refusal to adhere to state environmental legislation”,
said Jill Redwood, Coordinator of the group.
“If VicForests and the government department would simply behave themselves, small community groups would not be forced to sue them for being environmentally recklessness”.
“Minister Walsh said that a ‘major factor’ in the recent serious financial losses of VicForests, was due to our group taking action against them”
said Ms Redwood.
“The statements suggested that it was us who wasted tax payers dollars, not VicForests or DEPI, that we have no respect for the court system, and that we have ulterior motives besides protecting the environment.”
It’s been suggested that bills estimated up to $200,000 for this and a previous case against Peter Walsh for defaming another environment group will come out of the tax-payers pockets rather than the Minister’s own pocket.
Minister Walsh shows poor judgement to accuse a one-desk environment group in East Gippsland of being a ‘major factor’ for recent VicForests losses. VicForests logs public forests for free yet has made losses in eight years out of ten. Minister Walsh’s unrestrained comments seem to match the style of a forestry industry without restraint.
On the same day as Minister Walsh published his apology and retraction, he issued a media release that Victoria is to trial processing meat from kangaroo culls for pet food. http://www.peterwalsh.org.au/_blog/Media_Releases/post/victoria-to-trial-processing-of-kangaroo-meat/ This will cause immense anguish amongst groups that have campaigned unsuccessfully for wildlife corridors and the preservation of habitat to prevent kangaroos from being disorganised and forced onto agricultural land and roads.
On Friday 8 November at 11 am Healesville Environment Watch activists will deliver a bill for $61m to VicForests on behalf of the people of Victoria. Please join these environmentalists if you can outside 473 Burke Street - VicForests offices.
For the sixth year running, the state's native forest logging arm, VicForests, has failed to return a dividend to the people of Victoria.
This is the sum the state business enterprise is supposed to pay for the privilege of being allowed to log publicly-owned forests.
A review of VicForests' performance prepared for Treasury in 2010 suggested that the company should be able to produce 15% - 20% Return on Equity. On this basis the outstanding amount after 9 years of operation is more than $61 million (at 15% RoE).
An invoice for the outstanding debt of $61 million will be delivered to VicForests' Offices in Melbourne and Healesville at 11:00 am on Friday morning, 8 November.
Please attend if you can!
Election: Less than three weeks to go. ...Two of the three major parties are set to reduce environmental protection if they get in. Grass roots groups (like SERCA, EEG and MyEnvironment) have been flat out trying to get the environment up as an issue. Lib-Labs are loathe to put a spotlight on the environment because it’s too politically painful for them. It reeks of ruthless destruction and shameless corruption. The carbon price is the nearest we seem to get. Join the protests every Friday night at 437 Bourke St, Melbourne.
Below are a few stories EEG has managed to get a small amount of media exposure on. Also – tomorrow’s ABC radio program AM (7am RN, 8am local ABC), should have another story on the environment and threatened species. Listen out for it.
We need everyone who cares to help push the environment whenever you can – letters to editors, responses to media stories and asking for environment policies from your local reps/candidates.
The recent leak of a diabolical ‘secret’ report on the loss of our native wildlife is very damning and damaging (see below) but a good foot in the door for the media’s election stories.
Report and correspondence from Jill Redwood, Environment East Gippsland
Join the protesters at 437 Bourke St, Melbourne city every Friday night
For two months VicForests head office has been targeted every Friday. The level of public support has been amazing. Thousands of pamphlets have been handed out describing VicForests impact on our forests and their shocking financial history. As it gets dark, movies are projected showing the destruction of our forests. If you can come down to join in the fun please do so. Drinks and pizza afterwards.
MyEnvironment will be harassing VicForests every Friday. Please get along if you can.
Napthine shovels threatened wildlife into extinction pit
A suppressed state govt report is telling us that our wildlife is fast being tipped into the pit of extinction – knowingly!
Entire wildlife species are still being sacrificed for the greed of corporates. In this instance the logging mafia demands access to hundreds of thousands of ha of public native forests to shred for woodchips! (and the Liberal party doesn't mind the odd political donation).
Both the Long-footed Potoroo and the Leadbeaters Possum are mentioned. The secret report says that existing reserves are pathetically inadequate and more forest needs to be protected from logging.
Govt says the report will be released sometime in the near future - and we suspect it will be after they have gone through and totally sanitised it.
See the Age article from 16th August 2013.
Possum needs more room to survive
After ABC's PM program ran a story on the plight of the Leadbeaters Possum's on 14th Aug, the government refused an invitation to respond, instead referring the journalist to the logging lobby group, VAFI!
So Napthine is now putting the logging industry up to publicly speak about the management of threatened species that they are wiping out - can this lot get any more crazy?
Bushfire Commission monitor - 5% target questioned
This just shows how expendable our natural ecosystems and wildlife are in exchange for cheap political expedience.
This quote is taken from the latest report of the Bushfires Royal Commission’s independent monitor, Neil Comrie(p.63). Thousands of people, including scientists and biologists have been saying this since day one.
For Recommendation 57 which covers impacts on biodiversity, Comrie says (p. 65) that the DEPI report that was due in October 2012 is still ‘in progress’. He says that he has ‘a particular interest in biodiversity impacts reported in the DEPI 2012-13 Annual Report on their Planned Burning Program’. He seems to have put DEPI on notice re the impact of these burns on native species and biodiversity. That report is due in a month or so. From what we can tell, the ecological impacts are not monitored.
Neil Comrie’s report can be downloaded here.
Koalas to die as forests burned for fuel
The O'Farrell govt in NSW is planning to open the doors wide open to cut down and burn native forests. If it gets up it will be the template for other states to follow suit. Please send a message to O'Farrell here http://nccnsw.org.au/take-action/stop-burning-forest-for-energy
Even if you don’t live in NSW.
Carbon trading scheme endangers wildlife; biodiversity funds cut
Why the new carbon trading scheme will endanger wildlife and the env – biodiversity fund projects now to get the chop.
The new threat to Australia’s forests are getting a funding boost to progress the insane plan, thanks to the Tassie “Peace deal”.
VicForests must this week pay Environment East Gippsland $630,000 in legal costs which it incurred defending its wrong action in planning to destroy wildlife habitat forest in Australia. This, and a pending case also mentioned in this article, is a welcome indication of independence in Victoria's judiciary, despite wide corruption of the democratic system in Victoria and the rest of Australia.
Environment East Gippsland has received notice from the Supreme Court that VicForests must this week pay the group which sued them in 2010, $630,000 of its legal costs for the Brown Mountain landmark court case.
The legal bills of the state government's logging agency VicForests are now estimated to be millions. This latest payment covers the bulk of legal costs of EEG which successfully sued VicForests for planning to destroy protected wildlife habitat. The Supreme Court ordered that VicForests pay 90% of EEG's costs in the Brown Mountain ruling 18 months ago.
"As well as the Brown Mountain case, another two cases have been brought against VicForests this year by community groups", said Jill Redwood of EEG. "and a most unprecedented case is set to be heard in late March, where the DSE is charging VicForests with unauthorized logging and contravening their license. This was as a result of VicForests logging a protected rainforest in East Gippsland.
"It seems this government logging monopoly is more suited to operating in Indonesia."
"Thank goodness we have a legal system that can be used as a last resort - even if it costs small non-profit organisations hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather than adhere to the laws, VicForests instead spends public money employing spin doctors to tell the media that they are a law abiding logging agency".
"After the bills are paid, what remains in our bank account will be going straight back into the legal fight to protect our forests", said Jill Redwood. "The government's logging agency will continue to be in court if they continue to illegally destroy public native forests" said Jill Redwood.
For comment : Jill Redwood (03) 5154 0145
East Gippsland - our breathing space!
Source: Media Release 20 March
VicForests are spending a lot of time in court and they still owe outstanding court costs to Environment East Gippsland. The environmental Davids who have been fighting these outstanding battles on our behalf are in need of our financial and political support.
The case began two weeks ago and will be summed up early next week in front of Justice Osborne (who also heard our case). So far it seems to have gone fairly well, with expert witnesses able to present flawless arguments for the protection of the Leadbeaters Possum habitat in the Central Highland’s. Professor David Lindenmayer and Dr Judith Ajani presented the case for the forests and the insane economics of logging. VicForests seemed to have a huge gaggle of barristers and lawyers to argue that if they can’t log the three coupes in contention, then they wouldn’t be able to log 167 other stands of the endangered Leadbeaters habitat. Logging might then be unviable in the Central Highlands.
The Brown Mountain ruling was cited throughout and clearly laid the path for much of this case.
My Environment has taken this very bold legal step, despite not having had much money to pay the bills to begin with, and like our case, have seen it balloon out to two weeks rather than one. They now desperately need some help to cover their legal costs.
DSE suing its old friend, VicForests!
VicForests are again facing the court again on 30th March at Orbost. This one sees the DSE (yes!) prosecute VicForests for illegally logging protected rainforest at Murrungowar just east of Orbost.
EEG sues VicForests again on the 10th April
On the 10th April, Environment East Gippsland is back in the Supreme Court suing VicForests for planning to destroy sites of Rainforest with National Significance. We’ll let you know more details of the trial as we get closer to the date.
VicForests owes EEG outstanding court costs
This month we go into mediation with VicForests in order to retrieve the legal costs back that the court ordered VicForests pay us after the Brown Mountain case almost 18 months ago! If it doesn’t work, we’ll be back in court in March to force the issue.
If you would like to read full details of the Sylvia Creek case, full transcripts will be placed on the My Environment website as they become available. You can read the transcripts of the first three days, in which the case for the plaintiff and VicForests' defence were outlined here.
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:
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.
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.
We were successful today! In fact even more so than we expected. The injunction phase was skipped and we’re going straight to trial now. It’ll be heard in April rather than Sept/Oct. as we were planning. This has to be good for us and the forests. This article has been retitled from "Injunction to stop logging of Cobb Hill rainforest Site." The teaser then was, "If this application is successful, it will be the third time VicForests will face the courts to be sued by a community group for what is believed to be illegal logging of protected areas of public forest."
We were successful today! In fact even more so that we expected. The injunction phase was skipped and we’re going straight to trial now. It’ll be heard in April rather than Sept/Oct. as we were planning. This has to be good for us and the forests.
I imagine VicForests will not be very happy chappies. They opposed this speedy trial as proposed by His Honour Justice Jack Forrest. And they lost. The next round will be very interesting.
We’ll let you know when we have exact dates.
By the way – we still need dollars for this. If you can help – here’s an easy safe method to help us ... http://www.givenow.com.au/environmenteastgippsland
PS VicForests has given an undertaking not to log this area until the trial is heard.
Environment East Gippsland
Locked Bag 3
ORBOST Vic 3888
(03) 5154 0145
EAST GIPPSLAND - OUR BREATHING SPACE
Earlier post regarding an application for an injunction
When: 12 noon, Monday 30th January.
Where: Court 10, Melbourne Supreme Court.
Other: If this application is successful, it will be the third time VicForests will face the courts to be sued by a community group for what is believed to be illegal logging of protected areas of public forest.
VicForests gave an undertaking not to log this site until the application for an injunction could be heard. His Honour Justice Forrest is hearing our interlocutory injunction application on Monday. Justice Jack Forrest granted the interlocutory injunction in the Brown Mountain case in 2009.
For comment or updates after the application is heard: Liz Ingham 0409 333 595
Environment East Gippsland
Locked Bag 3
ORBOST Vic 3888
Please, please follow the recommendations of Jill Redwood and Environment East Gippsland. All of the incredible battles won, rare animals and precious forests will be trashed unless we prevent this new legislation.
Please act ASAP.
This is an interim email while we prepare an East Gippsland forest update.
Most would recall that the Baillieu government, in response to our 2010 court win for Brown Mountain, is set to alter the laws governing protection of rare wildlife. It would allow logging to go ahead regardless of what is found there. We suspect they have their sights set on clearfelling Brown Mountain when this is passed – as pay-back.
For those who can, we are asking people to send comments (submissions) into the DSE opposing this plan in the strongest terms possible. Deadline is close of business on Wednesday 1st Feb. But please don’t put this aside. The sooner the better.
The story in brief:
Our Sept 2010 Brown Mountain Supreme Court win for endangered wildlife has upset the new Baillieu Coalition government - so they are going to change the laws that says they must be protected.
To start with, they are set to change a few words in the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2007 (see below).This Code is a ‘loggers environmental rule book’ of sorts and is part of the legal regime that is meant to ‘protect’ our forests while they are being clearfelled yeah ... I know).
The proposed change will take out ‘must do’ protection for threatened species and their habitat. It will allow the DSE Secretary to approve any and all forests planned for logging regardless of whether endangered wildlife live there. This lacks any transparency or accountability. It basically overrides the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act’s individual Action Statements for species protection.
They are knowingly and deliberately rendering useless, the only part out of the FFG Act that logging had to adhere to (especially since our court win). Quolls, Potoroos, the large owls and gliders would all have their home ranges or large parts of it wiped off the map if the logging industry says it must log those forests. And of course it will.
As part of the protocol for changing these rules, the government has to ask us, the public, what we think.
This is their main planned change:
“Forest management planning and all forestry operations must comply with measures specified in relevant Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act Action Statements (unless determined by the Secretary that the requirements of an Action Statement do not apply) and any Flora and Fauna Guarantee Orders."
If you can let them know what you think about all this, below are some dot points that might give you some ideas to pad out and reword in any order or way you want – and as few or as many points as you want to use.
Please help deluge the government. Don’t forget. Bung it in your desk or computer’s diary or better still do it now. Let’s see if we can hit them with at least a hundred letters/emails. Five hundred would be even better!
1. This further weakens Victoria’s already weak legal framework for biodiversity protection.
2. Can’t claim wildlife is well protected elsewhere without first doing multiple and thorough surveys in every reserved forest in the state and in every season.
3. The FFGA listed species has already had a scientific committee assess the status and needs of each species. It was agreed that these animals are in danger of disappearing, hence their Action Statement. The secretary must not override these scientific findings.
4. Victoria’s forest dependent threatened wildlife like Quolls and those that need hollow trees are in serious decline mostly due to logging.
5. The past decade of fires has added to Victoria’s forest wildlife’s serious decline .
6. Simply assuming that wildlife can ‘survive and flourish’ (to quote the FFGA) inside the small disjointed reserves is being irresponsible and unscientific.
7. Parks and reserves have historically been declared in areas deemed unnecessary for development or resource extraction, or are of low quality for other uses. This does not always provide the prime habitat needed for many rare species such as gliders and owls.
8. Habitat modelling is not a fool-proof way to protect rare wildlife. They can be found in unpredictable habitats and not found in seemingly suitable areas.
9. There is a very real possibility of wildlife being made extinct in Victoria due to ongoing habitat destruction.
This will have Ted Baillieu’s name on it.
10. There is no credibility in the claim of ‘balancing’ the needs of logging industry and environment. It has been balanced in favour of logging for the past 40 years.
11. Looking after species at a “landscape level” is also rubbish. The species are listed as needing protection for the very reason that they no longer occur “at a landscape level” but in small often isolated patches.
12. The exemption of the logging industry from the FFGA, via the Code is outrageous.
13. The fact that the secretary is unaccountable to anyone in this decision is an outrage. He MUST consult with experts, notify the public of a decision and give reasons and evidence he used. His decisions MUST be able to be scrutinised, reviewed and challenged. To cut out this basic tool of democracy to aid one industry is another outrage.
14. Every forest stand which supports a listed species MUST be left intact and not clearfelled and burnt by VicForests.
15. Baillieu promised his government would restore integrity, transparency and accountability. Let’s see it.
Environment East Gippsland
VicForests up before the Supreme Court - again - for alleged illegal logging, thanks to the amazing avatars of Environment East Gippsland. Dig into your pockets, folks! EEG does more for you than your taxes!
Wednesday 14th December 2011
VicForests is again being sued in the Supreme Court over what an environment group believes is illegal logging of a very significant protected rainforest area. Environment East Gippsland, which successfully sued VicForests last year, is lodging papers for an urgent injunction this morning in the Melbourne Supreme Court to stop the logging.
“This is the third case of what we believe is illegal logging that VicForests will have to answer for”, said Jill Redwood, coordinator of the group. “The public thinks this type of lawless destruction of protected primary forest and rainforest only occurs overseas”.
“VicForests is still refusing to pay our legal costs of around a million dollars from last year, despite this being a clear court order. If they think this is preventing us taking further legal action, it’s not working. The public is so outraged about their criminal destruction, they have already donated enough for us to get this next legal action rolling.”
“In a proper democracy it should not be up to the public to enforce the law over an uncontrollable government entity. We should not be forced to ask the courts to ensure VicForests abides by the law. We are a developed country. We give millions to other countries to help them stop illegal logging of their rainforests. But in Victoria we are seeing the same happen with full support of the Baillieu government. Exploiting industries seem to be writing the government’s laws and policies now”.
This stand of forest was blockaded for 5 days last week and was broken up by police on Monday.
“It doesn’t take long for a determined crew of logging contractors to cut down the tall trees and smash down a forest of tree ferns”, said Jill Redwood “We hope this injunction will be successful”.
For comment - Jill Redwood: 51540145, Liz Ingham (in court for EEG): 0409 333 595
On Monday VicForests’ logging contractors were INSIDE a protected National Site of Significance for Rainforest. A small group of protesters had been holding up logging since last Thursday (8th Dec). The blockade was broken up Monday. This government run logging monopoly called VicForests is again forcing ordinary people to take legal action to stop this criminal activity of rainforest logging in our own state forests!
URGENT !!! Call for help!
VicForests’ logging contractors are currently INSIDE a protected National Site of Significance for Rainforest. A small group of protesters have been holding up logging since last Thursday. The blockade was broken up today. We haven’t heard back from any of the protesters yet. This could be the start of another court injunction!
The story in brief:
· On the 23rd Nov, Environment East Gippsland sent a letter to the DSE alerting it to the planned logging of a protected National Rainforest Site of Significance (the stand of forest had been tagged out in readiness for logging). No reply was received.
· During the week of the 7th December, VicForests contractors pushed a logging road and log landing into the site which adjoins the Errinundra National Park.
· On the evening of 7th December, protesters cabled a tree sit to 4 bulldozers, effectively halting all logging at the site.
· On Thursday 8th, our lawyers sent a letter to VicForests warning them they were inside a protected area and to respond by the end of the day as to whether they would be removing the logging machinery. There was no response.
· Our lawyers then sent a second letter on Friday 9th Dec, warning them that should logging proceed, they would seek instruction from Environment East Gippsland regarding an urgent injunction to stop the damage to this protected area of forest. There was again, no response.
· Monday 12th December, police and state forest and logging agencies cleared the area of protesters and two tree sits. There was one arrest as a result of the police using sniffer dogs!
· Monday – we also sent an urgent letter off to the Snr Sgt at Orbost Police Station detailing the illegal nature of the logging, complete with maps and sections of the relevant Acts and Code - see below (hope the images transfer OK). We asked that they refrain from arresting those trying to uphold the law. And if there are people proceeding to damage the protected site, that they enforce the laws and notify the logging contractors and VicForests of the illegality of logging and if necessary arrest them. This request is at least on the record.
We are now being forced to apply to the Supreme Court for an urgent injunction.
Environment East Gippsland has set a precedent for this by successfully suing VicForests last year over plans to log threatened species habitat. We have already established standing, and other precedents. BUT ... despite the Supreme Court ordering VicForests to pay 90% of our legal costs (in August 2010), VF is still refusing. This means another trip back to the court to force them to pay up! So despite having the standing and ability to take court action against VicForests again, we are unable to due to lack of funds.
Our lawyers will do their best to keep costs down but even just filing court papers can cost maybe $3,000. We are intending to get this done by Wed morning thanks to a super human effort of our lawyers.
We are asking a range of people and supporters to help get the ball rolling and force VicForests to adhere to the law that protects Rainforest Sites Of Significance. But most are in the same boat as us.
Can you please help at all – in any way? Donations or people willing to come to the site and help until an injunction can be secured.
Environment East Gippsland has tax deductible status so can issue tax receipts for donations. We imagine the urgent filing of papers to the court could take about $3,000. Once kick-started, the court case itself could put costs up to $10,000. Much cheaper this time, but still money we don’t currently have.
Our bank details can be sent upon request if you’d like to donate via EFT, or just go to www.eastgippsland.net.au and donate via the Paypal button.
We would appreciate any help – financially or just in spreading this through your networks.
Below are the legal details of what is going on.
(03) 5154 0145
It has been more than two years since Environment East Gippsland began legal action to sue the government’s logging monopoly, VicForests. In August 2009 we applied for an injunction for an immediate stop to logging at Brown Mountain. A year later, on 11 August 2010, the ruling was handed down. We had won our case! This is a report from Environment East Gippsland.
Not only did Environment East Gippsland win the case for Brown Mountain, but we successfully set three major precedents for other community groups:
1. it was the first time any environment group had been granted standing to take the government (or one of its agencies) to court,
2. we were granted an injunction against logging for the first time in Victoria and possibly Australia, and
3. We did not have to provide ‘security’ a type of ‘bond’ incase we lost (VicForests put in what turned out to be a fairly bodgie claim that we should put up $60,000).
The case was set down to be heard in the Sale Court over two weeks, but it stretched out to four weeks through March 2010. Although we were successful, and although the ruling should alter the way VicForests and the government looks after public forests, we are still seeing them disregard the same laws and regulations over which they were sued. Their reasoning? The ruling technically only applied to Brown Mountain. So if we want to show that the law applies across the state, it might take another court case! They are gambling that we won’t resort to this. But to ensure that any further plans to challenge them are stymied, VicForests is refusing to pay our court costs as ordered. EEG and our lawyers have sent reasonable requests for the money owed. After months of letters, VicForests offered us HALF of our costs! This insult means that the case will now be handed over to official auditors to draw up the bill of costs and if not paid, it heads back to the court. More costs and more time wasting.
Left in limbo
Brown Mountain’s 600 year old trees are still firmly in the ground but remain like a ‘hole in a donut’, surrounded by reserved forest and National Park. Despite its values having been well and truly proven in court, it is still mapped as a logging zone and under the control of VicForests. The surveys ordered by the court have not been carried out. We suspect they see this area as symbolic of the battle between ‘government and greenies’. We saw the length and cost the DSE went to in order to gut the heart from Goolengook’s forests. Let’s hope they are simply cooling their heels rather than plotting its annihilation. Being legally trounced by EEG must have hurt. We know that the 1995 Forest Management Plan is considered redundant and in need of rewriting, and we know there are plans of weakening the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act; both documents helped our court win.
Pre (or Pro)-logging surveys
One outcome of the court case is that VicForests have set up very poorly funded Mickey Mouse pre-logging surveys in some forests. Consultants are hired that employ others to carry out wildlife surveys for some species. The consultants are given minimal time and resources, making the results totally invalid. We are currently applying under Freedom of Information to obtain details of these survey methods and results.
VicForests hired Chela Powell, a young forester with a PhD on the study of beetles in blue gum plantations. They call her their ‘conservation biologist’. She devised some survey methods that seem to us to explain how to look for certain animals in the wrong forests and then frighten them away with the wrong methods. VicForests also decides which forests might be deemed worthy of a survey. It is they who decide if a stand of forest is old growth, and it is they who give themselves the option of including forests that might be considered to be High Conservation Value (HCV). We have reason to suspect that they are doing pre-logging surveys in about half of the old growth they should, and almost no HCV, as this one is optional. There are some low quality forests surveyed that will most likely result in no finds. We also know they have logged old growth forest since the court ruling and are also clearfelling Potoroo habitat where their own contracted survey teams discovered them!
What does this all mean on the ground?
The legal finding for Brown Mountain should mean that logging agencies and land managers have to be cautious in regards to the possible existence of threatened species where they plan to destroy or alter their habitat. This can be extrapolated to every other forest, meaning cautionary management must be shown (as in the Precautionary Principle, much debated to in court) when planning to destroy or modify likely habitats of threatened species. This could include areas in which the DSE plans to carry out roading or prescribed burns, as well as clearfell logging. DSE is stating this isn’t the case, but provides no explanation. Surveys should happen across all forests – regardless of their age or conservation value. But it’s not.
VicForests have a few options:
· Honour this ruling and pay for decent, credible surveys in every planned logging coupe. Don’t log where rare species exist.
· Honour this ruling but do the cheapest possible ineffective surveys that cover minimal forest areas.
· Accept that the logging industry and its shrinking markets are in terminal decline and wind down operations to suit.
· Influence the revision of the Forest Management Plan to remove prescriptions to protect rare wildlife.
· Push to have the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act watered down to make current mandatory actions ambiguous or ‘flexible’.
Greg Barber, MP for the Greens, asked a question of the then ALP Environment Minister the day after the September judgement. Minister Jennings said he would honour the decision. The Shadow Minister for the environment, Liberal member Mary Wooldridge, also promised to honour the court ruling. Now that a Liberal-National party is in Government, we see a clear attempt to take no action while planning changes of environmental legislation.
The court ruling
It was August11 and everyone stood as Justice Robert Osborne entered and took his seat. Throughout the March case, he always seemed to have a quizzical, bemused look on his face as he bowed to us on entering and leaving. Again he bowed and so did we. We had been anxiously waiting months for this moment. He began to read his findings. The court room booked for the judgement had to be changed to accommodate the one or two hundred supporters. When Liz and I walked into the upstairs gallery there was a sea of friendly faces and standing room only. In one corner was a very small huddle of grey suits representing VicForests.
Our hearts sank to the floor as he acknowledged some points which VicForests had made, and our points on the crayfish and kite that weren’t strong. But then he uttered the word “Nevertheless ...” and our hearts jumped back into place as we anticipated his next words. Basically he told VicForests that they can’t log the old growth forests of Brown Mountain until VicForests had:
1) put in place protection zones for the Potoroo in three of the four planned logging coupes,
2) had qualified people survey in the correct season for Giant Burrowing and Large Brown Tree Frogs as well as the Spot-tailed Quoll, in all four coupes,
3) created a 100 ha zone to protect the gliders of coupe 15 and,
4) reviewed the protection measures offered to Powerful and Sooty Owls in East Gippsland.
But he didn’t go far enough to say they must do this to the satisfaction of the court, only to the satisfaction of the Director of Biodiversity Policy and Programs within DSE. That was the weak point.
He also ordered that we:
· give DSE copies of all photographic evidence we have of the presence of the Long-footed Potoroo in the area (our lawyers told us not to provide this once the case had started); and
· show DSE the precise location of where one of the Potoroo images was captured as used in our evidence by one of the surveyors.
Our lawyers argued that a ‘compliance in an unsupervised fashion’ and a ‘self-executing injunction is not appropriate’ given VicForests’ past record of strong resistance to compliance and an ‘ineffective regulator’ (DSE). They said that the history of this matter showed that there was no transparency or honest dialogue from DSE/VicForests towards EEG.
However the judge claimed it shouldn’t need to go back to court for tick-off when there’s already a DSE statutory framework in place to resolve habitat protection (which we just proved wasn’t working). As DSE wasn’t part of the dispute, he considered them as apart from it. But we showed they were as good as compliant with VicForests’ refusal to properly protect the wildlife. Still, if given the legally correct reserves, these logging coupes should all receive protection, even if vulnerable to being moved and swapped as Special Protection Zones.
To ensure proper transparency, Justice Osborn ruled that VicForests should give EEG:
· relatively detailed maps of the protection zones for the Potoroos and owls within 14 days of their creation.
· details of any survey results of the Giant Burrowing Frog, Large Brown Tree Frog and Spot-tailed Quoll.
· 28 days notice in writing of plans to log any of the four coupes.
We have received nothing to date.
 Editor: "Standing" is the legal right to initiate a law suit. Yes, if you thought that anyone could initiate (via a lawyer) or as themselves, a complaint of a failure to abide by regulations or laws in an Act, think again. Usually this right is very much reserved, with the effect of protecting vested interests and specialists. Not only did EEG set a precedent in getting standing, but I think they set a precedent in using the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1986 in court! I believe that no action had previously ever been made using its powers!
“Recently VicForests was caught out exporting whole logs, before that it was planned destruction of endangered wildlife habitat and currently the Ombudsman is investigating VicForests’ due processes." The industry is "in decline, with jobs on the line as the supply of trees dries up."
VicForests has been given aid of almost $1.3 million to clean up degraded clear-felled public forests that should have been rehabilitated and paid for by VicForests years ago. It is not the first time its poor management has been subsidised by taxpayers.
Today, Thursday 30th June 2011, Jill Redwood of Environment East Gippsland, asked, “What other business has made a loss every year yet is rewarded by millions of dollars of tax payers money to keep going?”
Miss Redwood described how VicForests has for years claimed that it was regenerating forests as it chopped them down, but it was not really doing so. Now that the government, with its $1.3 million taxpayer dollars is recognising that the forests have been devastated. The $1.3 million keeps a lie going.
“The regeneration backlog is out of control – over 7,000 ha in East Gippsland alone. If logging isn’t profitable enough to be able to clean up the mess it leaves, the logging should stop."
VicForest's poor record in minimising harm to our forests goes way back:
“Recently VicForests was caught out exporting whole logs, before that it was planned destruction of endangered wildlife habitat and currently the Ombudsman is investigating VicForests’ due processes."
“The genuine sawn timber industry, as opposed to the woodchip industry, has been struggling to compete with pine timber products for years. Almost 90% of sawn timber and wood panels are now derived from pine. This is causing loss of jobs in the native forest industry”, said Jill Redwood.
“It’s a bit rich for the Baillieu government to blame conservationists for this”.
The Age recently cited a Treasury report which said that VicForests, which is the government-owned company that logs Victoria's native forests, is "running out of timber, has failed to keep track of how much forest is left to log and cannot manage its costs."
According to the same report, VicForests had breached Department of Sustainability and Environment rules twice by logging too much and its backlog of forest that needs replanting has nearly tripled.
According to The Age,"The report portrays an industry in decline, with jobs on the line as the supply of trees dries up. Its early leak to another media outlet has embarrassed the Baillieu government, under pressure because of divisions between the Liberals and Nationals over conservation issues.
#10;1b42e.html"> Ben Butler, "VicForests operations condemned," The Age, February 23, 2011
Source: Environment East Gippsland, Media Release of 30 June 2011 and the Australian Forests and Climate Alliance Newsletter #3, March 1, 2011
Congratulations Jill Redwood, leader of Environment East Gippsland! In a landmark decision today, the Supreme Court has found that the government has a responsibility to look for and protect endangered wildlife before logging in the contentious Brown Mountain forests of East Gippsland. “This judgment has implications for all native forests that are set to be destroyed by logging,” said EEG spokesperson Jill Redwood. “If we hadn’t sued VicForests, Brown Mountain would have been illegally logged by now. And Brown Mountain is just one area. The government is logging publicly owned forests every day without endangered species surveys.”
EEG Website for more updates
To find out more about the history of this battle, which has demanded so much courage and committment from people like Jill Redwood and those who fight with her, see the section: Brown Mountain in Candobetter
Landmark decision enforces law to defend animals and trees
In a landmark decision today, the Supreme Court has found that the government has a responsibility to look for and protect endangered wildlife before logging in the contentious Brown Mountain forests of East Gippsland.
“This judgment has implications for all native forests that are set to be destroyed by logging,” said EEG spokesperson Jill Redwood.
Decision shows the battle was just and necessary
“If we hadn’t sued VicForests, Brown Mountain would have been illegally logged by now. And Brown Mountain is just one area. The government is logging publicly owned forests every day without endangered species surveys.”
“We are calling on the government to respect the judgment by stopping logging in native forests that may contain rare wildlife, until the full implications of this judgment are examined.”
“VicForests, the Government-owned logging monopoly, has a legal responsibility to protect endangered wildlife. They can’t just go in and log blindfolded.”
“Victorians have always known native forest logging is immoral, uneconomic, unaccountable, unsustainable and unpopular. Today we’ve proved that where endangered species are present, or likely to be present, it’s potentially illegal as well”.
Will the Victorian Government try to defy the courts as well as the law now?
“This extraordinary court case isn’t just about protecting Brown Mountain’s rich and ancient ark of rare wildlife; it’s about forcing the government to abide by its laws as anyone else would”, said Ms Redwood.
“This represents a win for the state’s rare forest dependent wildlife. It’s also a win for all Australians who are concerned about the environment.”
Next danger may be Government attempt to change laws to suit itself
Environment groups are now concerned that the government may attempt to alter the laws to allow the destruction of endangered species habitat, as happened in Tasmania in 2008.
“The government must now honour the law, not alter it”, said Ms Redwood.
Forest supporters will gather at Victorian parliament tomorrow at 1pm, to ask the Environment Minister, Shadow Environment Minister and Greens for their response to the judgment.
Jill Redwood – EEG Convenor
Liz Ingham – EEG Secretary -
Vanessa Bleyer – solicitor for EEG –
A group of forest-warriors in East Gippsland
There is an interesting new you-tube film just published about the people who fight to protect our forests from VicForests, the Government loggers for woodchips. A group of them are located at Goongerah. The film is called "AVATAR at Errinundra Plateau Brown Mountain, East Gippsland.m4v."
Giselle Wilkinson ("Gisellebluepearl") made the film to reach a few more people and help catalyse a bit of extra support for the ongoing battles and particularly for the current legal battle, for which we still don't have the result yet.
"Gisellebluepearl — March 22, 2010 — Come to the Errinundra Plateau, East Gippsland. Visit the home of the forest defenders and the ancient old growth forest they're protecting. The old growth forests of Victoria have been logged for wood chip for years - over 90% is gone forever. Some trees are over 10 metres in girth and a tree stump left behind after loggers was carbon dated to be over 600 years old. The little that's left needs our urgent protection. Brown Mountain is earmarked for logging this year again. For more info go to: www.eastgippsland.net.au; www.goongerah.org.au; www.geco.org.au
GECO is an independent grassroots environment organisation based in East Gippsland. It is dedicated to protecting the remaining old growth forests of the region. There are updates of film-documented recent forest loggings and protests.
The Angel on the tripod
At the end of the film we see the picture above which looks like a Victory Angel protecting and personifying the forest, high in the canopy, appearing larger than human.
I had to make inquiries to find out who it was and what it was all about. The woman with the wings was Allana Beltran, who is a visual artist and the forest is in the lower Weld Valley in Southern Tasmanian forest. Here she met Ben Morrow, a tree sitter who was to become her partner. The photo is probably by photographer Matthew Newton, but I had to look far and wide on the web, where there are many copies, for any reference to the photographer, which I found here: http://slingshot.tao.ca/displaybi.php?0096003">Lilia Letch, "Resistance everywhere - eco-defense in Tasmania," in Slingshot.
In November 2006 the forest camp where Morrow and Beltran were living in was raided by police ahead of a logging company's arrival. In March, only three protesters remained, according to the Tasmania Times:
'One man was locked onto the gate at one of the entrances to the forest. Another man, Ben Morrow, was hanging in a sling off the bridge over the Weld River. Seven kilometres from him, Alanna Beltran was attached to a giant tripod at a second entrance to the forest. She had a long white curtain wrapped around her waist, white body paint on her face and was wearing wings of white cockatoo feathers that she’d scavanged from the shorelines and forest floor. She’d become the “Weld Angel,” the “Angel of the Forest,” and her haunting image was about to enter Tasmanian folklore.
“I did it because I thought it would look beautiful,” she says now matter-of-factly, “and if I was going to be arrested as a visual artist, I wanted to make a visual statement.”' Source: "The arrest angels in Tasmania", Tasmanian Times27.02.08
"Allana Beltran and two years ago she walked into the lower Weld Valley in Tasmania’s southern forests and experienced what can only be described as a life-changing epiphany. In front of her was a wilderness of ancient, towering trees, deep gorges and waterfalls, and a wild river flowing through it. On an adjacent ridge there was a different scene. It was the blackened ruins of a recently clearfelled tract of native forest.
“It was the most horrific devastation of land I had ever seen in my life,” the visual artist from Sydney told Vanity Fair recently. “And from that moment on my heart was with the people who were standing up for places like this.”
Allana Beltran decided to stay in these forests and join the group of protesters trying to save it from further logging. That’s when she met Ben Morrow, the man who would soon become her partner. He’d been in the valley for six months, much of it spent 50 to 60 metres up in a grey-trunked eucalypt, in what’s called a `tree-sit,’ on the lookout for loggers.
“Our camp was in the middle of the road that changed from clearfell to wilderness,” Beltran says now from her home in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart. “There was 100 ha of clearfelling and they wanted to bulldoze a road another two and a half kilometres in so they could access 2000 ha. This was all old growth forest surrounded by World Heritage Area.”
In November 2006 the camp was raided by police as the logging company moved into build the new stretch of road. Twenty-five protesters were arrested. By March, the beginning of the Australian autumn, the blockade had virtually collapsed with only three protesters left standing between the chainsaws and the forests.
Although not exactly standing. One man was locked onto the gate at one of the entrances to the forest. Another man, Ben Morrow, was hanging in a sling off the bridge over the Weld River. Seven kilometres from him, Alanna Beltran was attached to a giant tripod at a second entrance to the forest. She had a long white curtain wrapped around her waist, white body paint on her face and was wearing wings of white cockatoo feathers that she’d scavanged from the shorelines and forest floor. She’d become the “Weld Angel,” the “Angel of the Forest,” and her haunting image was about to enter Tasmanian folklore.
“I did it because I thought it would look beautiful,” she says now matter-of-factly, “and if I was going to be arrested as a visual artist, I wanted to make a visual statement.”
Beltran sat in her forest aerie for nine and a half hours listening through headphones to Tibetan monk music, as the police ordered her down through megaphones. “I was praying for the forests and for people to realise what they are doing. I was ready to sacrifice myself to this cause. I was ready to stand up for these ancient forests.”"
New potoroos detected!
New Potoroos detected - in bunch of planned logging coupes – in fact a fairly outrageous cluster of 6 in an area enviro groups were negotiating for protection in the upper Yalmy River catchment last year.
Amazing new footage via remote camera
There are more clips on you-tube, but this clip number one is the best. The other three show it gathering the dry fern fronds and grass and tucking it under its belly into its curled tail - quite amazing footage captured by remote cameras and never before seen in the wild. It’s new behaviour that was previously unknown. Volunteer surveyor, Andy, has written a report which is now with the relevant authorities and Ministers. Response has been to ask for the entire footage from the camera again (as in pre-court case shenanigans) to be able to verify that the footage hasn’t been doctored or something (?!).
Something like 14 separate Potoroo images were taken over a 3-4 week period in this area of forest! They now only score a 50 ha protection zone, but with the two sites and a Potoroo skull found, DSE/VicForests should protect the entire block of forest from logging.
VicForests whole of landscape obliteration plans for Victoria's forests
These people are supposed to be working for us!
And while speaking of ‘never before seen’ phenomena – VicForests logging plans have been amended to include 24 coupes in the Big River and St Patricks River junction just to the sth west of Mt Ellery and Errinundra Nat park (west of Goolengook). These coupes are in a mass block shoulder to shoulder, again in an area mapped for protection by enviro groups while negotiating old growth and High Conservation Value (HCV) forests for protection. This is whole of landscape obliteration and appears to be deliberate targeting – or a major mapping error! It’s also in a Potoroo and Spot-tailed Quoll Special Management Zone! Closing date for submissions and comments were yesterday.
Forests Forever Ecology Camp
Forests Forever Ecology camp – a fantastic event again over Easter. Rainforests, old growth, (sadly, too much of it logged) and of course Brown Mountain all featured. If people want to visit Brown Mt on their own at any time, grab the booklet from the EEG website and take yourself in there. http://www.eastgippsland.net.au/?q=node/265 then click on the bottom button to download the booklet as a PDF. EEG have now tracked into a beautiful new stand of giants around a magical glade. They than all the FF camp helpers, and especially Robyn and John.
New EEG Branch in Melbourne soon
A new EEG branch in Melb is being set up to help facilitate campaign work down there. EEG will let supporters know when and where the first meeting will be.
Importance of EEG's work reflected in massive response in donations from public
Over 700 donors have helped pay EEG's legal fees so far. This is phenomenal support that even some bigger groups can’t manage. EEG still could need more donations as the case was twice as long as anticipated and ended up with more expert witnesses than first thought. All were needed to try and secure a win for the forests.
If you want to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the financial year – think about making this it! And if you want to donate, why not buy a beautiful Brown Mt card as a gift in exchange for your donation. See website here for details #10;<p>If you’d like to donate specifically to help buy more survey gear like cameras ($400) or 6v gel cell batteries to run the cameras ($30) or fuel to help run the car to go out with survey eqpt (any amount) or a new-fandangled weatherproof sound recorder that can be trained to pick up only endangered frogs etc ($800), then by all means let EEG know. </p> <p>There are various options for donating – PayPal via website, another secure system (if you don’t like PayPal), direct deposit (email me for details) or cheque via old fashioned envelope and stamp method.</p> </body></html>">
A new you-tube film about the forest protectors' camp and community at Goongerah, South East Gippsland, near Brown Mountain. The long trial for the wildife on Brown Mountain has come to an end - all except the final decision by Justice Osborn, which all await with baited breath. This is a land-mark trial where real-life avatars have come out and opposed the 160 year old treatment of Victoria's forests and animals as colonial spoils for the taking and Victorians as mere servants to the State.
Read inside a fascinating summary of the arguments and evidence from either side: Vic Forests (for logging) and Environment East Gippsland Inc. (for nature). Revelatory of Department of Environment and Sustainability.
Court case finishes – summary of the final 3 days.
The final days of summing up both VicForests’ and Environment East Gippsland’s arguments were heard in the Melb Supreme Court on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (23rd-25th March). These were the last submissions presented to Justice Osborn who heard the 17 day trial that started on the 1st March.
Both sides presented their condensed arguments from the past 3 weeks. Early in the case, the economic claims were not allowed as VicForests (VF) had not made any allegations in its defence about economic impact, and there was only summary evidence supplied by VF, without details. The arguments focused on the laws covering protection of threatened species and how VF did or didn’t abide by them. Justice Osborn has reserved his decision . Our legal team have said he could hand this down in a month or two or three ...
Despite some fairly revealing and insightful evidence being given and some quite startling information to come out of cross examination of witnesses, the decision will be looking at the complexities of the laws governing forests and wildlife management.
A new you-tube film about the forest protectors' camp and community at Goongerah, South East Gippsland, near Brown Mountain.../files/Brown-Mt-Supporters-in-Melb-for-trial-.jpg" vspace="13" hspace="13" align="left">
A support team of about 45 people attended the Melbourne start of the case to show that there was widespread interest in Brown Mountain. Thanks everyone who came along and who sat through the proceedings.
1st Day (Tues) – the defence (VicForests) lawyers had the stage on day 1 and delivered their case.
To those who hadn’t heard the facts, arguments and cross examinations of the previous 3 weeks, it could have sounded fairly reasonable and even worrying. Read our responses to their arguments below. VF lawyers’ arguments consisted of the following:
* EEG didn’t have standing to take the case to court as we are too small a group, don’t have a special interest in Brown Mountain, only an emotional or intellectual interest. The fact that we didn’t apply to be on the local Shire environment committee, and the claim that we didn’t take part in the Nat Estate study on 1990 – (but we actually did) and various other arguments were used to attempt to argue we shouldn’t be able to sue VicForests.
* It was DSE that should have looked out for threatened species, not VicForests. VF can’t change zonings.
* The Potoroo wasn’t ‘detected’ within the meaning of the action statement (FFG Act) - although the animals and the sites were confirmed, the full two weeks of footage was withheld by EEG (under instruction from our lawyers) until late 2009 – making the authorities suspicious of possible tampering and was the reason given by VF for not protecting the area.
* Language in the FFG Act and Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act, is not enforceable.
* VF noted that the Forest Management Plan was out of date (ended in 2006), which generated much discussion. Justice Osborn pointed out that if it was no longer applicable, then all logging in EG was illegal as the FM Plan is needed before forest can be logged. That point was then quickly resolved.
* The Precautionary Principle, which was a major argument in the whole case. It was first claimed by VF not to give rise to any legally enforceable obligation against it, and even if it did, VF claimed it had observed the PP even if it wasn’t thought to be regarded as enough precaution.
* VF claim Potoroo wasn’t ‘detected’ to their or DSE’s satisfaction,
* On Quolls - there are 75 already protected in EG and that was enough,
* For the new species of crayfish – it’s still being named and so doesn’t have a prescription for protection and the 100 metre buffer around the creek will protect it
* Sooty and Powerful Owls – only dusk calls detected but no confirmed nesting or roosting sites so no need to protect. Plus there are enough Sooty Owls Management Areas and Powerful Owl Management Areas, despite some evidence from DSE suggesting the protection zone targets had not been reached.
* Giant Burrowing Frogs – even if it is high quality and likely habitat, none have yet been detected.
* Hollow Bearing Trees – logging prescriptions are claimed to look after them.
* Gliders are there in high numbers, yes - but it’s not for VF to protect them and 100 mts along creek should do anyway.
* The Precautionary Principle requires caution, but not total infallibility. Actions to express adherence to the PP can be many. VF argued that a 100 metre buffer along the creek was caution enough for all the species.
2nd day of summing up (Wed) –EEG, the plaintiff’s case was presented.
Debbie Mortimer SC argued that:
* The standards and conditions in the FFG Act Action Statements, Forest Management Plan and the Code of Forest Practices hasn’t been and can’t be complied with by VicForests.
* VicForests was the “agent of harm” about to begin clearfelling when we applied for the first injunction, and VF was as obliged to adhere to the law for threatened wildlife as was DSE.
* VF don’t need to have DSE declare a conservation zone for VF to adhere to the law or decide not to log.
* The Allocation Order (giving forests to VicForests from DSE), Timber Release Plan and the Code (for logging) all mention adhering to the Forest Management Plan.
* The issue of whether EEG has legal standing to bring the case to court was argued well for showing we did have standing. It had not been objected to by VF strongly before we embarked on the 17 day trial.
* If various surveys had not have been carried out (owls, Gliders, Crayfish and Potoroos), the court case would not have commenced. Surveys show a genuine interest.
* Obligation on VF are mandatory – they don’t allow them to ‘duck and weave’ around these obligations.
* The main law is the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act – it deals directly with Threatened Species, and binds the state/crown to protect endangered wildlife. The FM Plan and the Code both refer to it.
* Forests are a community property. Managed for common good into future. DSE’s position in the evidence given by Lee Meizis was that the Timber Release Plan gave ownership of forests to VF to exploit, but with the right to exploit comes responsibilities for conservation.
* FFG Act has strong ‘must do’ language and is imposed on government authorities. Important objectives of FFGA disregarded by VF. Action Statements within the FFGA are enforceable.
* Debbie Mortimer said “In every way, VicForests pushed away from its conservation duties” to benefit its access to forests for logging.
* VF is not abiding by the law by merely reading the Action Statements.
* Logging high quality Quoll habitat is endangering the animal’s survival. At odds with the Precautionary Principle because this species is only found at a functional level in East Gippsland now.
* Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act directly forced VF to adhere to the Code. Allocation Order also states VF MUST comply with CFP, PP, AS and FMP.
* Not complying with the Code was a breach. Acts refer to the Code being adhered to.
* VF must consider advice from relevant experts in Flora and Fauna. The advice of these internal DSE experts were ‘completely sidelined’ during the process that lead to the decision to clearfell Brown Mountain. It was also claimed that the Minister was not given important information on these species.
* The 100 mt buffer offered by VF would not protect the Gliders, Quoll, owls, Potoroo and Large Brown Tree Frog and was unknown if it would adequately protect the Giant Burrowing Frog, Brown Mt Crayfish and Square-tailed Kite. Leaving additional large trees while logging and burning the remainder would be unlikely to protect the habitat values of hollow bearing trees (85 out of 207 was all that survived the logged and burnt coupe across the creek in April 2009).
* The guideline to protect 100 ha for rich populations of gliders is self-regulating and doesn’t need major fuss – just needs to be mapped and complied with.
* Justice Osborn discussed decent reserve designs and ‘whacking in’ some reserve along the creek.
* The oft-cited ‘risk-weighted consequences’ of the precautionary principle the VF lawyers used daily, does not mention social or economic ‘balance’ and in context is only about conservation risks and consequences.
* We are dealing with some species in a demonstrable state of decline. Failure to halt damage is serious. There is lack of scientific certainty as there is no research or info on impact of logging.
* New reserves mean nothing unless we assess the quality and type of the habitat, logging history etc.
* BHP was used as an example of a company which must employ specialist ecologists/biologists if it plans to carry out potentially damaging work. VF either needs to employ biodiversity staff, or get in consultants to survey and advise forest planning.
* Potoroo detections 100% authentic – no questioning by VF of witnesses – fully accepted, yet despite 3 verified detections, VF made no attempt to consult with DSE biologists or protect 50 ha for each as stated in the FFGA.
* DSE set up its own ‘rules’ outside of existing legislation.
* DM asked for full injunction to logging.
Day 3 – Thursday – response from Defendant (VF)
* Having to abide by the SFT Act could mean that every logger, truckie, contractor, roading operator must comply with these laws as well. Does that mean every worker has to set up a biodiversity unit and consult biologists?
* Argues again, it’s all DSE’s responsibility.
* Argues that the words for Greater Glider protection in the FMP says “approximately 100 ha” is unenforceable – how much is ‘approximately’?
* VicForests Lawyers couldn’t find any expert biologists to speak for them. They tried.
* Not being given the entire potoroo footage was the whole problem.
* The 400 ha reserve to the (drier, steeper) west is a benefit for all the species.
* Crays were found in the creek next to a previously logged forest so therefore they can survive OK.
* Potoroo no 2 (on camera) wasn’t used in original evidence (it was actually discovered after writ was served but this was overlooked by VF lawyers).
* The hair tube evidence of the Potoroo near proposed coupe 19 didn’t come with a copy of the note when it was sent off for analysis – so how do we know where it really was?
Final Judgement awaits
This ended the long trial for the wildlife of Brown Mountain. We await Justice Osborn’s final decision ...
Our supporters have been showing astonishing determination to have our forests and wildlife protected! We’ve hit our first minimum target which is really something for a small enviro group. But due to the case having gone for 16-17 days when it was only down for a 10 day hearing, we are still needing some help to cover the extra costs for this time in court with our team, a couple of extra witnesses and various associated costs.
Source of this article was "[EnvEastGipp] Brown Mt Detailed Update, 29 March 2010" , almost verbatim, but without all the photos. The website for Environment East Gippsland is here.