Updated: January 17, 2013
More Baillieu government secrecy as new Forest Restriction Zones are announced
Thursday 17 January, 2013
Lawyers and conservation groups have responded with disappointment to today's announcement by forestry Minister Peter Walsh that the Baillieu Government will toughen the penalties for the state's poorly-named 'public safety zones' – forest restriction zones that prevent members of the public from accessing state forest areas scheduled for or undergoing logging.
'While we are disappointed that the Baillieu Government is still moving to increase the secrecy around controversial logging operations in Victoria's publicly owned forests, we are not surprised, ' said Amelia Young, The Wilderness Society's Victorian Forest Campaigner.
'It is misleading to claim that these so-called protection zones are about public safety – these areas are logging zones, and public exclusion zones. They are about providing secrecy to a taxpayer funded logging industry that continues to turn Victoria’s magnificent forests into copy paper.'
'By locking Victorians out of our publicly owned forests Minister Walsh appears to be acting as a private security firm to international woodchip companies including Nippon Paper, manufacturers of Reflex paper,' said Ms Young.
'Each of the court cases recently taken by community groups to prove the unlawful nature of logging operations has relied on conservation volunteers and scientists being able to access forest areas that are scheduled for logging, to accurately survey for threatened species, or document breaches of the law,' said Lawyers for Forests spokesperson Lauren Caulfield.
'This legislation makes it an offence for members of the public to merely be present in the vicinity of a logging operation. This includes people who may wish to visit forest areas for recreation, walking or cycling, as well as anyone monitoring threatened species or documenting logging operations,' she continued.
'Under the new laws, there are no longer clearly defined boundaries of the exclusion zones. One must ask why the government has deliberately moved to make it easy to break the law.'
'Since these laws were introduced, we have only seen them used to prosecute individuals exercising their concerns about the ongoing logging of our old growth forests,' said Ms Caulfield.
'These important ecosystems belong to all Victorians not just the logging industry,' concluded Ms Young.
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society Victoria Inc
288 Brunswick St
Fitzroy, Vic, 3065
Phone: 03 9038 0888