Environment groups are celebrating after the Victoria's Supreme Court of Appeal today upheld a landmark ruling that found that state-owned logging agency, VicForests, had logged unlawfully. The decisions set an important precedent and means that injunctions protecting native forests and species across Victoria from logging will be upheld.
In November 2022, VicForests was found to have logged unlawfully in breach of environmental protections in a landmark court win by Environment East Gippsland and Kinglake Friends of the Forest. The decisions halted logging operations in large swathes of Gippsland and the Central Highlands where endangered Greater Gliders and threatened Yellow-Bellied Gliders are found. The appeal was heard in March 2023 but today the Victorian Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, affirmed the Greater Glider decisions, and awarded costs to the community groups.
Along with bushfires and unsustainable logging practices, six court cases by community groups against VicForests were a key factor in the Victorian Government’s decision to bring forward the end of native forest logging to 1 January 2024.
The community groups were represented by Barrister Jonathan Korman and Oakwood Legal. Today’s judgement is being watched by Wildlife of the Central Highlands, represented by Environmental Justice Australia, who have also spent more than three years in the Supreme Court and are awaiting judgement on their fight to protect threatened species.
Quotes attributable to Jill Redwood, Environment East Gippsland
“Litigation is an expensive and risky undertaking for small community groups, but our decision to turn to the law has been vindicated. This is another nail in the coffin of VicForests. For decades, VicForests has tried to write their own rules, but today's decision shows they're not above the law. Their own lawless logging and attitudes have stripped their credibility."
"The decision to enforce the original orders gives us faith in the justice system. Our forests now have some breathing space to finally regenerate after decades of destruction. The end of native forest logging has brought with it a sense of relief, but also grief, anger, and sadness for all that has been senselessly lost. We are determined to keep fighting for the forests that are still on the chopping block so places like the Wombat Forest and Mount Cole an’t be cut down by VicForests in the name of fire management."
"We hope to see public money, for so long wasted on propping up the logging industry, now invested in restoring the forests for our climate and wildlife. Our forests should be secured forever through the creation of national parks.”