Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Baillieu government must stop logging Victorian rainforest

Local conservationists have yet again had to take court action and use blockades to stop VicForests, the Victorian Government's logging business, from logging protected rainforest in East Gippsland.

VicForests have form. They were found guilty of breaking the law relating the protection of endangered species in Brown Mountain's forest in the Supreme Court in August 2010.  Over a year later, despite a court order, they are yet to pay the court costs awarded against them to Environment East Gippsland.

In July this year, VicForests started logging forest near Sylvia Creek that is home to Leadbeaters Possum. They were stopped by another court order following legal action initiated by local environment group MyEnvironment.  This court case, scheduled to be heard early next year, is again about VicForests ignoring the laws concerned with protecting endangered species.

The Baillieu government's response to VicForest's illegal and unethical practices is to reward them with 20 year contracts for logging our remaining native forests, indemnify their contracts, allow them to determine the amount of forest they can log and allow them to log forests in reserves, parks and water catchments.

The Baillieu government has also announced an intention to change the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act to that a bureaucrat can exempt VicForests from complying with it, thereby allowing them to log forests that are and should be protected.

There is a whiff of cronyism and corruption about VicForests too.  Graeme Stoney, Premier Ted Baillieu's brother in law, has been recently appointed to the VicForests board by the government.  Stoney has also recently been active behind the scenes coordinating the return of cattle to graze in the Alpine National Park under the bogus pretext of "research into the role of cattle in bushfire mitigation".

The native forest logging industry is in terminal decline. Regional Forests Agreements have failed. The global market for woodchips, the major "product" that comes from out native forests, has collapsed.  Despite accelerating logging, jobs continue to decline.  The industry is largely automated now.

In addition, the wholesale conversion of native forests into plantations by continued logging and burning is simply not sustainable, as scientists such as Professor David Lindenmeyer have stated.

There is enough plantation resource available in Victoria right now to supply our timber and pulp needs.  The Victorian government should get out of the logging business, get rid of VicForests, and support our sustainable plantation-based timber and wood products industries.

Our native forests should be protected for the carbon they store, their biodiversity, their function as water catchments and because they are wonderful places to visit.



Grant said...

I suppose the old argument arises again, and that is.
Is it not better to obtain our hardwood requirement from Australian controlled logging, than to import hardwood from uncontrolled Sth America, New Guinea, Malaysia, etc. sources.

Remember that Hardwood Plantations take 10+ years to reach a usable size.

In my view, it is better to harvest our hardwood, than to ship hardwood from uncontrolled harvesting countries, at least for the term till we are able to use our own hardwood plantation timber, and the quantities of Australian plantation hardwood reach the required levels.

Peter Campbell said...

Grant, did you know that about 2% of our logged native forest ends up as appearance grade wood, about 18% is used for low value uses such as roof battens and pallets, and the remaining 80% is woodchips, most of which are exported?

We can shift our entire wood and woodchip production to plantations right now.

We can also choose as consumers to avoid products that come from the destruction of our native products.

We should also restrict timber an wood product imports for unsustainable logging elsewhere in the world. Of course, many people don't realise that their Merbau decking comes from the destruction of Asian primary rainforests.