By Michael Slezak
Environmental Justice Australia injuncts Victorian government-owned business from clearing in Kuark forest
Conservationists have won an injunction stopping a Victorian government-owned business from clearing old-growth trees in the Kuark forest in East Gippsland.
Environmental Justice Australia, representing the Fauna and Flora Research Collective, took VicForests to the supreme court on Wednesday and successfully won an injunction stopping the logging of an area known as Princess Cut.
The area earmarked for logging contains countless trees that are centuries old. It is made up of two forest types that are required by law to have 60% marked by the government as “special protections zones” that can not be logged – a step that has not been taken.
EJA argued that until those zones had been created, the area could not be lawfully logged.
“Our client believes the Victorian government’s environment department has not protected the minimum area of old-growth forest required by law in East Gippsland, and for some forest types the amount of old-growth protected could be as low as 17% when it should be at least 60%. This case will test the point,” said EJA lawyer Danya Jacobs.
The environment department argued in court they had no obligation to protect old-growth forest.
Meanwhile, VicForest had pressed ahead, attempting to move logging machinery into the area, but was hampered by bad weather as well as protest activity by a group of 20 activists who set up a blockade in the forest.
EJA had written to the Victorian Department of Environment last week, laying out its argument and threatening the court action unless a satisfactory response was received. They received no response to the letter, and so sought the supreme court injunction.
Once the legal proceedings begun, VicForests suspended their activities in the forest.
The court set a hearing for Environment East Gippsland and the Fauna and Flora Research Collective to make their case in December, and the injunction will stand until that date or the court orders otherwise.
“This court order is a good result for the Kuark forest, the unique plants and wildlife that live in it and the many, many Australians who want our old-growth forests properly protected,” said Jacobs.
A spokeswoman for VicForests said they have consented to delay the harvesting of Princess Cut.
“We believe our operation complies with the regulatory framework governing timber harvesting in Victoria,” she said. “We look forward to the court clarifying obligations in regards to this.”
Published by Guardian Australia on 1 November 2017