For several years, NRE has been making available to the public a summary of its audit of the Code of Forest Practices (environmental guidelines to adhere to while ripping down ancient forests). NRE must hope that people will be left with the feeling that our forests are in the best possible hands – and that no one would bother to analyse their data. Ha!
The most recently released Compliance Audit was published last year and looks at a sample of 54 coupes (out of 750 across the state) logged in the Central, Bendigo, Portland and East Gippsland Forest Management Areas (FMAs) that were logged in 1998/99.
They pretended to provide some semblance of independence by stating they would give ‘preference for staff outside the audited FMA’. But we notice in the last report, this meant that Portland, Bendigo and East Gippsland staff all checked their own patches.
Minimal and well chosen areas
In this report, only 4 of the 14 possible regions have been selected for audit. And about half the 54 coupes come from the Bendigo area while only 14 were checked in East Gippsland!
Checks are done up to a year after logging, so many breaches can’t be seen. Wet weather restrictions, log dump management and other important points are impossible to check a year later. Only a minimal area is looked at in these coupes – eg, to look for breaches to buffers and boundaries (a common problem) only 200 metres is looked at though there could be 3km of buffers and boundaries in some coupes. So that’s a 1 in 15 chance of picking up a breach.
One classic example of the auditor’s findings being at odds with the details in the report, was where the auditor claims streamside buffers and filter strips were “generally very well protected” during logging. Yet the results show that 9 out of 20 coupes recorded logging machinery entering buffers – and remember that these sections checked were only a small percent of the total length. On these 9 coupes, they found 17 separate buffer intrusions. DNRE bases its rosy picture of buffer protection on the fact that most parts of the buffers were not affected by machinery! This interpretation of buffer protection is completely at odds with what is written in the Code, which states MACHINERY MUST NOT ENTER STREAM BUFFERS OR FILTER STRIPS.
A huge 45% of coupes checked had stream buffer breaches and 37% of coupes had filter strip breaches but they were still ‘generally very well protected’. How many breaches does it take before DNRE gets worried?
Roads and tracks
The report claims ‘rehabilitation of snig tracks, temporary roads and boundary tracks was very good’. If you flip to the results for roads, you read that all snig tracks, boundary tracks and temporary roads were ‘100 % partly or fully rehabilitated’.
Exactly why ‘partly rehabilitated’ results are included with fully rehabilitated results is a mystery. Further on in the report, though, the auditors list 11 recommendations for further action in East Gippsland – 6 of these recommendations relate to tracks and roads! There is no way this flimsy report filled with contradictions, statistical fiddles and procedural holes big enough to drive a log truck through could by any stretch of the imagination be considered to be a real audit. Jeff Bracks needs to audit the auditors and then he can cry ‘accountability’.