It's been a massive couple of weeks for forests, with one of the biggest drivers of logging in Victoria Nippon calling it quits on continuing to supply their Maryvale Mill with wood chips sourced from native forests. This is huge news and poses some serious questions about whether native forest logging will continue in Victoria. This situation is not surprising, given years of legal uncertainty, a dive in demand for white copy paper, and the ongoing controversy surrounding native forest logging over many decades.
From alleged corruption scandals, to illegal logging, and damning audits of both the state government's environment regulator AND VicForests itself, there has never been a better time to transition away from native forest logging.
We have a new Environment Minister Ingrid Stitt, plus a relatively new Agriculture Minister Gayle Tierney. Both Ministers are inheriting a backlog of problems, and new opportunities, now that the biggest consumer of wood chips has pulled the plug. The only solution now? A rapid end to native forest logging.
With our short news cycles it can be easy to forget the trail of many shocking stories that have exposed VicForests’ dirty laundry. So we're counting down the top five biggest logging scandals from the last 18 months.
Strap yourselves in! These are just a handful of reasons why the state government needs to make the call to end native forest logging now.
5. VicForests' annual report reveals a whopping $54 million loss, claims most of this was spent defending lawless logging in court
Just a few days before Christmas, VicForests' 2022 annual report was quietly released, revealing a record loss of over $54 million dollars. The public are footing the bill for ongoing logging, plus for VicForests to defend their lawless logging in court. Late last year the Australian Financial Review reported that an economic analysis into native forest logging shows it's costing more money than it makes. Given the extremely low public support for native forest logging, and its expected loss of even more money in 2023, how can the state government justify continuing to prop up this industry?
4. Report shows VicForests are failing to regenerate forests after logging, handing them back to the public as weedy paddocks. The Environment Department's response? Blame deer grazing...
An independent research report by conservationist Marg Blakers, co-published by nearly 20 environment groups in late 2021, shockingly revealed that VicForests is failing to meet its legal obligations to regenerate forests after logging. Up to a third of forests logged fail to regrow, for Ash forests, it's almost half. The ABC broke the story, and when questioned, the Environment Department's regulator had this to say in response;
“The Conservation Regulator cannot take legal action in situations where evidence is not available to substantiate offending and criminal culpability cannot be determined.. Several confounding factors such as grazing by domestic cattle and non-native deer, as well as competition from dense grass cover and blackberry may have contributed to the regeneration outcomes after coupes were finalised.”
3. VicForests loses three court cases in less than a fortnight
It was a particularly bad few weeks for VicForests towards the end of October last year, when they first lost a ground-breaking court case run by Warburton Environment for proper protections of a rare mid-storey tree species, endemic to the Central Highlands, called the Tree Geebung. Just a few weeks later, VicForests also lost another two court cases led by Environment East Gippsland and Kinglake Friends of the Forest, over failure to survey for and protect endangered and threatened gliders. It has been entirely left up to community groups to hold VicForests accountable to the law, where the Environment Department has failed to act on countless breaches.
2. Old growth forests logged DAYS after the government announces an end to all old growth forest logging
In 2019, the Andrews state government announced the immediate protection of all old growth forests, but within days old growth forest areas in Swifts Creek were still being logged. The announcement was described by the government as “the largest environmental protection policy in the state’s history”. Yet the Environment Department changed the definition and classification of old growth forests, in order for them to continue to be logged, under the misleading guise of protection. They've broken their promise, and in 2023, the Andrews government is still planning to log old growth forests.
1. The ABC reveals VicForests used public money to spy on and intimidate community members and scientists speaking out against native forest logging (and then quietly referred itself to anti-corruption watchdog after being caught out... )
There is something especially dark and frightening about a government agency using public funds to spy on citizens. Not only is it a gross misuse of public money, but terrifying to think that advocates for protection of forests can be intimidated and harassed in such a way, purely for campaigning for the protection of forests. At around the same time, VFA member Warburton Environment, also lodged a complaint to IBAC, stating that the Environment Department has failed in its duties to crack down on numerous breaches to environment laws. The results of both complaints to anti-corruption watchdog IBAC are yet to be released.
- Last year the state government passed laws to further criminalise peaceful protesters and citizen scientists by threatened jail time and up to $20,000 in fines
- VicForests starts logging in the proposed Wombat National Park, and makes plans to log in the Dandenong Ranges National Park
- Our report revealed native forest logging emits a whopping 3 million tonnes of dirty carbon emissions every year
- Forest areas set aside for the greater glider were logged prior to being formally protected
- In response to allegations of illegal logging on steep slopes and close to towns under increased bushfire risk, instead of cracking down on breaches the state government changed the law to make illegal logging legal
Together our 30+ member groups are continuing to hold the government accountable, and fight for the permanent protection of precious native forests. You can take action by calling on decision makers to end logging now, and by donating to support our work.