Will a tiny endangered possum now fell the logging industry?

Make a cuppa and settle in. This article is a brilliant (if lengthy) read. It gives a very clear and detailed summary of both the history of and more recent, logging disputes. It details the Federal Court win against VicForests, the poor economics, fibs, market responses and the underhanded lengths the industry and government go to in order to continue smashing down our forests. Below are just a few selected highlights.

“Friends of Leadbeater’s Possums, a small group that crowdsourced at least $200,000 to mount the historic case against VicForests. … With his ripped jeans and old car, he doesn’t strike you as someone who has just humiliated a powerful government agency in a landmark court case that could bring down an entire industry.

“(Leadbeaters Possums) find a very small crack in the trunk then chew around the crack until it’s just big enough for them to squeeze through,” he says. “Then they gather streamers of eucalyptus bark, tear it into strips, gather it up in a bundle, wrap it in their tail and drag it back to their nest where they chew it up until it’s like wool. They burrow into the wool and that becomes their nest.

The ash forests of Toolangi, critical habitat for the endangered Leadbeaters possum and Greater Glider.

It was an extraordinary decision. She [the judge] found we had proved breaches of the code in every case we alleged.” Justice Debra Mortimer’s 451-page judgment was indeed scathing. She found the evidence of VicForests’ expert witnesses to be neither strong nor independent. She said VicForests relied on desktop modelling to predict where threatened species might be, rather than going out and looking. She also had little confidence in its “new” forestry methods, which she found were not designed for conservation but driven by commercial motivations. “The evidence suggests, and I find, that the purpose and intention of VicForests’ undertaking this new policy and these new methods is to secure FSC accreditation so that it derives a commercial benefit – such as getting its products into places like ­Bunnings. The modifications are not being undertaken for conservation purposes.”

If there’s one thing environmentalists and the forestry industry agree on it’s that this decision has put the industry at a tipping point. “If the ­[Federal Court] judgment stands there’s no reason it wouldn’t apply in all states,” says Ross Hampton, CEO of timber body Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA). …

(Heyfield mill worker) “We couldn’t get over the fact they had guarding around the trunks to keep the possums off. So it’s OK for them to keep the ­possums out of the trees in Melbourne but they want to shut down an industry out here to save a possum? And those Leadbeater’s possums, there are heaps of them anyway. Guys from work went looking for them and found them everywhere.”…

Lindenmayer found the population has in fact declined by more than 50 per cent over the past 22 years and that decline relates directly to how much forest has been logged…

The Victorian Government has put forward a $120 million transition package to plantation-only timber by 2030 and Federal Government figures show that the state already harvests more than seven times more plantation logs than native forest logs….

Most of the native forest felled in the Central Highlands is destined not for kitchen benches or staircases but for Opal Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill, owned by Japanese company Nippon, to be turned into pulp and paper. The Victorian Government is bound by an act of parliament to ­supply the mill with at least 350,000 cubic metres of logs under a fixed price each year….

In March the ­Herald Sun reported that the Andrews Government gave Opal Australian Paper $200 million in a “secret deal” to secure the mill’s future. Following a complaint by the ­Wilderness Society the Commonwealth Ombudsman is investigating whether the company could be breaching the ­Illegal Logging Prohibition Act by taking timber from VicForests. Opal Australian Paper didn’t respond to a request for comment…

VicForests receives generous taxpayer subsidies, but losses on its logging operations have ­trebled over the past three years. It lost $15 million on those operations last year. A 2016 PwC audit found that VicForests is “not competitive or ­financially viable”, and that for every dollar of investment it returns 14 cents, ­providing “minimal economic and employment return on investment”….

Amelia Young from TWS says “It’s clear that major Australian retailers can’t afford to be associated with illegally logged native forests any more than they could import tools made of ivory or furniture upholstered with tiger skin.”

… to prevent further legal challenges, the Victorian Government is looking at options to remove the precautionary principle and third-party rights to sue. ” !

The full article can be read here.

2 Replies to “Will a tiny endangered possum now fell the logging industry?”

  1. Rachel Steinmann April 7, 2021 at 1:25 am

    How are these legal challenges going?


    1. Thanks for asking. This has just come throughg from EJA who are the legal team. VicForests appealed the solid decision (time/money wasting?) and it will now be heard in Sydney starting April 12th. They are asking for donations to help them see this appeal through.

      “It was a win of national significance, but this landmark victory is under threat. Instead of focusing on the transition out of native forest logging, VicForests decided to take our clients, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, back to court.
      Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, with the help of our legal team, are heading to the Federal Court in Sydney on April 12 to defend the threatened Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider and ensure their habitat remains protected.
      The appeal hearing will run for three days and will determine the future of some of the last remaining habitat for the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum and the vulnerable Greater Glider.
      You’ve helped us get this far. And with your help, we can put the best case forward to uphold the Court’s original decision.
      Since VicForests lodged appeal proceedings in October, our legal team have been working around the clock and have engaged some of the best legal partners to help defend this important Federal Court decision. We are now in the final stages of preparing for this appeal. Our clients need your help to cover additional legal expenses and get our legal team and clients to Sydney.”


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