News - 28 November 2019

A brighter future for Victorian forests?

Kuark Forest in East Gippsland. Image: Rob Blakers

In November there was a major breakthrough for Victoria’s forests: the Andrews Government admitted that logging the state's native forests is unsustainable1. It has announced an end to native forest logging—but not until 2030, because that’s when unsustainable wood contracts enshrined in special legislation for one company, Nippon, run out. 

In light of the recent developments, we've compiled a list of key points from the Andrews Government announcement. 

“An end date for native forest logging cannot come soon enough. 2030 is still a decade away—and continuing to log and burn Critically Endangered forests that supply Melbourne’s drinking water, in a warming and drying climate, is just not credible," says Amelia Young, the Wilderness Society's Victoria Campaign Manager. "The policy to end logging by 2030 should happen earlier, and must be guaranteed. 

“The forests have been so badly mismanaged, it’s not sustainable to keep logging them. We need every stick of forest to remain standing for a range of values, rather than destroyed and wasted by just being woodchipped and pulped to make paper and cardboard products.”

Victoria is home to forests like no other, with warm temperate rainforests from the tropics overlapping with cool temperate rainforests like those found in Tasmania. Families of tiny Leadbeater’s Possums (Wollert) leap between Critically Endangered Mountain Ash trees; forests rich in species from the ancient supercontinent Gondwana still cloak the mountains. They're a valuable asset that need to be protected. 

The Andrews government has promised that “90,000 hectares of Victoria’s remaining rare and precious old growth forest—aged up to 600 years old—will be protected immediately”2, and that “logging in remaining old growth forests will cease immediately”3.

However, the government is unable to explain where the 90,000 hectares of old growth forest is exactly, and cannot guarantee that logging coupes won’t be scheduled in that area.

And when it comes to banning old growth logging—which should have happened decades ago!—we’re concerned that government is using outdated criteria, and relying on loggers to decide what is and isn’t old growth. Even worse, old growth logging is happening right now in East Gippsland. This has to stop. 

Volunteers survey the destruction left by logging in the ancient Toolangi forests. Image: Teresa Hu

The Government also announced the creation of ‘Immediate Protection Areas’ in the Central Highlands, Strathbogies, Mirboo North and East Gippsland. These protected areas, promised by Premier Andrews, include some parts of Toolangi—just over an hour from the centre of Melbourne (Naarm). In the language of the Taungurung people—the Traditional Owners of part of the region—Toolangi means 'place of tall trees'. 

In the tragic 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, forests all around Toolangi were burnt. Yet immediately afterwards, the green, unburnt forests of Toolangi were logged. It broke the hearts of local residents who had fought to defend their homes and neighbouring forests from bushfire, only to find they had to then defend the forests from the state government’s own loggers. Now, finally, some important forests in Toolangi are earmarked for protection.

But there are problems: the so-called ‘Immediate Protection Areas’ include burnt forest, logged forest, and forest that isn’t commercially attractive to the industry, meaning it was unlikely to ever be logged anyway. 

And while it’s good that the Greater Glider Action Statement is out, it weakens existing protections for the species in East Gippsland. Rather than putting in place a 100ha Special Protection Zone when a density of Greater Gliders is detected, now logging can take place when Greater Gliders are detected! 

Now, Government must provide a timetable setting out how it will make good on the promises made to protect forests. There’s more work to be done, because the announcements aren’t in line with the science, or in line with community expectations. And there’s a large gap to close, since the announcements don’t change the critical need for the Great Forest National Park or Emerald Link—both of which government should declare.

The Andrews Government announcements happened because people have petitioned for change. Thousands have chosen an Ethical Paper over Reflex Ultra White, which is made from Victoria’s native forests, and asked Nippon to transition out of forests and into plantations. The recent announcements happened because the company finally agrees that ultimately, its future is in plantations and recycled fibre. It definitely needs to move out of native forests a lot earlier than 2030, though. Earlier this year, when the Victorian Government surveyed the community about Regional Forest Agreements, the response was resounding: Australians overwhelmingly want forests managed for wildlife, water and climate. 

This is why, right now, we're asking you to again write to Dan Andrews, the Victorian Premier, to tell him you expect him to keep to his word, to actually protect 90,000 hectares of precious old growth, and ensure there is no logging of old growth forest.

1 "Ms Symes said the Government had no choice but to phase out native timber harvesting because it “isn’t sustainable”." from Native logging to end 2030: 2500 Victorian timber workers face bleak future, The Weekly Times, Nov 7, 2019.
2 Minister D'Ambrosio, Media Release, PROTECTING VICTORIA’S FORESTS AND THREATENED SPECIES, 7 Nov, 2019.
3 Premier Andrews, Media Release, Securing The Future For Forestry Industry Workers, 7 Nov, 2019.

Save Victoria's great forests

The Victorian Premier promised to protect old growth forests. Now we need the details. Tell the Premier you expect him to keep his promises. Write to him today.