VicForests has been forced to cancel its plan to clearfell an untouched part of the Kuark rainforest in east Gippsland after environmental activists won an injunction in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Environmental activists had also blockaded the road into the forest, vowing to do whatever it takes and risk arrest to prevent logging trucks entering, before the court order was given.
State-owned company VicForests was set to begin harvesting timber as soon as today, weather permitting, after getting the go-ahead from the Andrews government on the condition it did not remove any large old tree with a diameter of more 2½ metres.
The case is scheduled to be heard again in the Supreme Court in December.
Lawyers with Environmental Justice Australia took VicForests and the Department of the Environment, Land, Water and Planning to the Supreme Court on Wednesday and won an injunction to halt planned harvesting in Princess Cut, an area of the forest that has never been logged.
The lawyers argued the Andrews government's environment department had failed to protect the minimum area of old-growth forest required by law, which is 60 per cent, in East Gippsland.
The department argued it was not legally obliged to protect old-growth forest.
This area contains large tracts of intact old growth forest that have never been logged before, Environmental Justice Australia's Danya Jacobs said.
Most Victorians would be shocked to hear that the Environment Department is of the view that it does not have legal obligations to protect the state's old-growth forests.
VicForests said it had consented to delay harvesting in Princess Cut until the hearing in December.
We believe our operation complies with the regulatory framework governing timber harvesting in Victoria, a spokeswoman said.
We look forward to the court clarifying obligations in regards to this.
Meanwhile, a cross-party state parliamentary inquiry has recommended the government help VicForests to plan a transition of the state's forestry industry towards plantation timber.
By Adam Carey
Published by The Age on 1 November 2017