Logging and the law – Code of Forest Practices – EPA watchdogs

Investigations by Lawyers For Forests (LFF), have shown that the Code of Forest Practices is vague, unenforceable and needs reform.

Recently the Bracks government put the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in charge of overseeing auditing of the Code, instead of government foresters. This is still a worry. For example, the EPA needs funding and powers to penalise breaches of the Code. Also, there is no plan to review the contents of the Code and address key deficiencies, in particular its unenforceability.

After LFF and environment groups met with the head of the EPA, LFF is now preparing a final review of the Code and the outstanding problems regarding its weakness and the EPAís role as auditor of the Code.

Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (FFGA)

LFF believes the laws for protecting threatened species in Victoria are in need of an immediate overhaul. The FFGA has failed to protect Victoria’s threatened species and ecological communities, mainly due to the government not implementing it. Why?

  • the Act is unenforceable;
  • DSE is under-resourced;
  • there’s a lack of government will;
  • a lack of government transparency and accountability when dealing with the Act; and
  • the Act is not required to be taken into account in government decision making under the Act, or generally.

Although funding and commitment are very light on, the Act should also have its enforcement provisions strengthened, and DSE should be accountable in its use of the Act (or non-use). It needs:

  • third party (you and me) participation and our rights expanded;
  • time limits for government to take actions inserted into the Act,
  • an annual report made on progress in implementing the Act;
  • decision makers should be required to publish reasons for their decisions.

Another loophole is that logging is exempt from the FFGA (under the Forest Produce Harvesting Order). This must be removed unless a proper Environment Impact Assessment and full consideration of the FFG Act takes precedence.

LFF will be pushing the Bracks government to reform the Act.

Review of the EG RFA

LFF (with help from CROEG) has also been busy conducting a review of the East Gippsland RFA which was due for DSE review in January 2002, then 2003. The Bracks government recently announced that it would yet again be delayed.

The government has failed to comply with a number of its environmental obligations under the RFA, including failing to:

  • prepare the Annual Reports for 2001 and 2002 and make them available;
  • establish “sustainability indicators” and an ongoing quality assurance programme within 3 years (of the signing of the 1997 RFA);
  • publish its rainforest research;
  • prepare Action Statements for the majority of threatened species.

LFF wrote to DSE requesting details of progress on these and other obligations under the RFA. No response has come in.

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