Sweeping changes to logging laws proposed by the Victorian government would hand the Environment Minister or head of the department ‘god-like power’ over the fate of forests, remove transparency and cut off pathways for the community to hold government and industry to account.
Amendments to the Conservation, Forests and Lands Amendment Act tabled in Parliament on February 22, would give the Environment Minister power, effectively unchecked, to determine the lawfulness of logging operations.
The powers are intended to enable the government to unilaterally set how key important environmental protection rules will be applied in many - if not most - logging operations.
Environmental groups are deeply concerned the move, combined with a high degree of industry capture, will put wildlife already on the brink, at greater risk of extinction, in order to keep the commercially unviable native logging juggernaut functioning.
The Victorian Forests Alliance – a coalition of community groups - wrote to Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio along with several other Victorian environment groups proposing a series of additional amendments be included in the laws to compel decision makers to rely on the best available science and their actions to be independently reviewable.
“These changes as they stand effectively will introduce sweeping god-like powers allowing the Minister or department to determine the lawfulness of operations of the government’s own logging agency, VicForests,” Jill Redwood VFA vice-president said.
“It removes transparency, removes accountability, and requires no scientific evidence.
“The current proposal is severely lacking independent oversight and will leave decisions on logging operations susceptible to industry capture.”
Paul Macgregor VFA treasurer said: “In the midst of an extinction crisis, we are deeply concerned these powers will be used to accelerate logging while our precious forests and creatures already at the brink, are the casualties.
“These unchecked powers should not be passed through Parliament without alterations to compel decision makers to rely on the best available science and data when determining if logging can go ahead and allow decisions to be reviewed and scrutinised in court.”
Nic Fox VFA president said “The proposed changes to law gives the logging industry concerning influence over decision making. We know VicForests has a disturbing history of failing to protect wildlife, and its regulator has repeatedly failed to enforce the law.”
“It is vital the community have the ability to challenge decision makers and hold them to account, which would become near impossible under these proposed rules.”
Nic Fox 0427 258 333
Chris Schuringa 0418 912 625