*Image by Peter Halasz
The Victorian Government has proposed a Bill to change Victoria's logging laws. The Bill is called the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Amendment Bill 2013.
We are hugely concerned by the Bill, and what it means for the future of Victoria's forests – and we think you should be concerned too.
Because the Bill, if passed, will mean that Victoria is locked in to logging native forests for the indefinite future. This means that future generations, and future Governments, will have little choice but to continue logging native forests, regardless of whether it is economically, environmentally or socially acceptable.
How does the Bill do this?
First, it inserts a new purpose into Victoria's logging Act – our logging laws will therefore no longer be just about environmentally sustainable logging practices, but also about making sure that logging takes place in Victorian native forests in the long-term.
Second, it dramatically reduces the Government's oversight of logging in Victoria.
Under current Victorian law, the Government has responsibilities to manage forests in the public interest, and in the interests of the environment. The current logging laws therefore require the Government to oversee logging, which is mostly carried out by VicForests, a State-owned enterprise that runs as a commercial business. Before VicForests can log a native forest, the Government must approve which bits of the forest it can log through a two step process, first by allocating to VicForests broad areas of forest, and then secondly by approving plans showing the specific coupes VicForests intends to log, which is done once every five years.
Under the new regime, the Government is leaving it all to VicForests – the Minister will simply approve one document, the Allocation Order, which will immediately transfer ownership of the forest stands it describes to VicForests. The decision about what coupes to log becomes one for VicForests. This is a problem: VicForests is a commercial business that the sole objective – to commercially log and sell timber. Even more worryingly, the Bill prescribes no time limit on the Allocation Order – so the Government could give VicForests stands of native forest to log not just in the next five years, but 20, 30 or 50 years into the future. If VicForests then sells this timber to a third party, the Bill states there is nothing the Government, or future generations, can do to claim these forests back.
If you care about the future of Victoria's native forests, we encourage you to read this Note, and contact your local member, or the relevant Ministers to let them know.
The Bill was introduced to Parliament on 18 April 2013, and is expected to be debated by Parliament very soon – so the time to express your concern is now!