A quick click on the Environment Protection Authority’s website, and one is presented with an echidna claiming litterers are “going to get stung”, because littering damages the environment. Click a little further and you find another report about damage to the environment. The report is an audit by the EPA entitled Timber Production on Public Land 2005. The echidna would not be happy with what is found inside.
EPA asked to check DSE
For the third year in a row the EPA auditing of logging in our forests has revealed serious breaches of the Code of Forest Practices, the environmental “rulebook” for loggers.
The Code is meant to be checked and enforced by DSE foresters but there are too many easy excuses for loggers and too many mates in the big club. So after public outcry, the EPA was given the job of checking how compliant logging really is with the rules.
Redefining a breach
The new feature in this year’s audit is like something out of “Yes Minister!”. Breaches of the code that were identified by DSE staff, and which the EPA decided didn’t cause a major environmental hazard, were marked as ‘compliant’ in the audit. This is the same as saying that it is OK to run a red light, because you managed to get through the traffic without a collision.
On top of that, the audit didn’t address three major issues relating to water yield, native plant management and reserved area protection. Logging: 1) affects the quality and quantity of water we get from our forests, 2) is considered a paramount threat to the survival of some endangered species and 3) compromises the quality of our national parks by logging along boundaries and even inside them. That the EPA failed to address these issues is appalling.
96% failure scores 92% pass rate
Even taking into consideration that the EPA excused minor breaches of the code, only two of the 45 coupes audited received one hundred percent adherence in the audit. Thus, out of the many hundreds of coupes logged across the state, the public can feel confident that about 4% of them adhere to environmental laws which environment groups believe is a green-wash anyway.
Using this extremely skewed methodology, the EPA claims its audits reveal over 90 percent compliance (!). So should we all take every tenth ride on public transport without paying?
Even if logging did comply with the Code, it still wouldn’t be morally or ecologically right, as the logging practices it allows are wrong in every way. To us, this Code is as wrong as a code for slaughtering whales would be that required a sharp harpoon and that explosives to go off correctly in the whale’s head.
No prosecutions for law breakers
A recent Supreme Court case ruled that a breach of the Code is a breach of the law. So why then, Messers Bracks and Thwaites, are those responsible for the breaches not being prosecuted by DSE or the EPA?
The entire audit process is discredited because the EPA will not advocate for major enforcement of the code, or call for prosecution of offenders. The EPA is meant to watch and enforce environmental laws, not cover-up the violations of environmental vandals.
Since the Safety on Public Land Act was put in place, the public can’t access logged forests to check on the carnage, unless they want to wear a $6000 fine. All we have left is an inadequate Code with inadequate auditing.
The EPA and its echidna logo don’t assist litterers to avoid getting stung. If they released an audit saying that some litter is alright, there would be outrage. So why are they assisting loggers who break the law by defining illegally logged forests as being “compliant”? Their brief must be to make logging look squeaky clean.
Luke / Liz / Glenn / Jill