– Emily Giblin, Lawyer, EJA

On 7 November 2019, the Victorian government announced several measures to reform, and ultimately phase out, the native timber logging industry in Victoria. Premier Andrews has said the government will end the native timber industry by 2030, cease logging in old growth forest and set aside protected areas for the Greater Glider and other threatened species.

While the announcement is a welcome acknowledgment that the native timber industry is not sustainable and needs to be reformed to provide adequate protection for our native species and precious old growth forests, some serious concerns have been raised about how effective the measures will be.

The government has not yet provided many details around what its announcement will entail and how it will be implemented. But the information that has been publically released so far is troubling to many of the leading environmental groups in Victoria who are concerned about protecting our forests and threatened species.

The native timber industry will not be phased out until 2030 and VicForests’ total harvest levels will be maintained at around current levels until 2024. Concerns have been raised in Parliament by the Greens Party about the impact of the announcement on the Leadbeater’s Possum, Victoria’s critically endangered faunal emblem, and whether it will come under increasing threat during this period if logging in its habitat intensifies to maintain timber supplies.

Community concerns

Environment East Gippsland is worried that the protected areas to be set aside for the Greater Glider have, in many instances, left out some of the best habitat for the species and that the Action Statement that has finally been released for the Greater Glider doesn’t provide strong enough protections.

Goongerah Environment Centre has pointed out there is a real lack of clarity around what the commitment to end old growth logging will mean for our forests and whether it will actually provide the level of protection this vulnerable ecosystem needs.

Protecting the places we love

We’re proud of the work we’ve done over many years on behalf of our clients to help protect Victoria’s forests and threatened species and will continue to assess what needs to be done next in light of the Government’s announcements. Cases such as Fauna and Flora Research Collective Inc v Secretary to the DELWP and VicForests (which is currently before the Victorian Supreme Court) have prevented logging in rare areas of old growth forests such as the Kuark forest. Some of these areas are now slated to be included in new additions to the Errinundra National Park. If this case was not on foot, these forests most likely would have already been destroyed forever.