VicForests agrees to court orders

After EEG launched a 10 month Supreme Court battle, the government’s logging agency VicForests, has agreed to await further surveys and put in place protections for wildlife and plants before logging. The court orders made on 23rd December 2016 detail VicForests obligations regarding the high value forests.

It’s great that VicForests has finally agreed to consider the six important values that were discovered in the Kuark forests. In January and February, our lawyers at Environmental Justice Australia asked VicForests to halt logging in this area, which has old growth and rainforest, until proper surveys occurred and protection measures were in place.

Volunteers from GECO and FFRC had found gliders, rainforest, new species of fish and crayfish, as well as rare plants – none of which VicForests had noticed. But when we raised these issues, VicForests still refused to halt logging while species were verified and protections put in place.

East Gippsland is a stronghold of original untouched forest, threatened animals and plants, and these Kuark forests are the stronghold within the stronghold.

Our threatened species have weak legal protection as it is. It’s disgraceful that Daniel Andrews’ logging company VicForests, doesn’t identify protected species before it logs. It was again left up to the local community to ensure these species were found and protected.

This lengthy and dedicated effort by our small group has once again protected some of the planet’s most valuable pre-European stands of forest. This case should also motivate VicForests’ to put more effort and resources into decent surveys before logging. If their PR budgets were shifted over to genuine efforts to survey, protect species and identify rainforest, disputes like this won’t happen again.

The case has been settled without needing to be heard in court. The costs have also been settled out of court.

Thanks to our supportive legal team, EEG was able to stand up for our forests in the Courts again. Of course, it shouldn’t be community groups like ours left to protect threatened species – that’s the Environment Department’s job. But it all too often sits on its hands and looks the other way. We hope that Minister D’Ambrosio will in future direct her Department to do their job.

We must thank:

  • all of our donors who helped us fund the battle to force VicForests to abide by the law on multiple issues,
  • the brilliant lawyers at Environmental Justice Australia,
  • our barristers
  • the volunteer survey crews and
  • all those who helped make this legal challenge possible.

The community will be watching VicForests’ pre-logging survey efforts and methods closely from now on. And no doubt there will continue to be citizen science surveys in forests which support important values that should rightly be protected.

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