Media Releases - 06 May 2024

Landmark appeal over right to criminally prosecute alleged illegal logging in Tasmania’s Valley of the Giants

The Wilderness Society has filed a landmark appeal in the Supreme Court of Tasmania over its right to criminally charge Forestry Tasmania for alleged illegal logging in the Styx Valley of the Giants, home to some of the world’s tallest trees.

Represented by lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia, the Wilderness Society is appealing the Magistrates Court’s decision that it did not have jurisdictional authority to bring a private criminal prosecution against Forestry Tasmania for alleged breaches of the Forestry Practices Act.

The Wilderness Society says it is pursuing the appeal because the forest practices regulator is failing to regulate the state owned logging agency, Forestry Tasmania. The regulator did not take enforcement action over the alleged illegal logging.

The wood from allegedly lawless logging is flowing into supply chains across Australia, at huge risk to the viability of the industry both domestically and abroad, and turning native forests into low value products like wood chips.

Australia is a global deforestation hotspot—and extraordinary carbon-rich forests are being demolished at the same rate as the Congo and Amazon.

Industrial logging in the Styx Valley destroys globally-significant forests and threatens wildlife vulnerable to extinction including waylitja / swift parrots, Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles and eastern quolls.

The appeal is one of five ‘live’ cases before Tasmanian courts alleging widespread unlawful native forest logging in Lutruwita / Tasmania.

Tasmania’s native forest logging industry operates outside of Federal environment laws because of disastrous logging loopholes called Regional Forest Agreements (RFA) that exempt the native forest logging industry from the laws that protect species at risk of extinction.

The Albanese Government came to office in May 2022 with a commitment to reform Australia’s nature law. But their timeline for the urgently needed reforms to address Australia’s extinction crisis is now unclear

Environment groups are calling on Federal Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, to address the scourge of deforestation and impunity by removing logging exemptions, an increased focus on compliance through an EPA to rein in unsupervised mass bulldozing, and by adding a land-clearing trigger to our national environment law.

Alice Hardinge, Campaigns Manager for the Wilderness Society Tasmania, said, “The community expects Tasmania’s precious forests to be protected by strong laws, but the regulator is nowhere to be seen. If the Forestry Practices Authority can't or won't do it, the community should have the right to do so.”

Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Natalie Hogan said, “Having run court cases for years to protect native forests in Victoria, our lawyers have seen some unfathomable destruction. What we’re seeing in Tasmania—in the Styx Valley of the Giants no less—is hard to believe.

Our client will argue that the public, including the Wilderness Society Tasmania, has a legal right to hold Forestry Tasmania to account by bringing criminal charges for alleged breaches of Tasmania’s logging laws.

It’s outrageous that community groups have to take on these cases, because the regulator is failing to enforce Tasmanian law, while Forestry Tasmania is completely exempt from Federal law.

This case raises real and shocking questions about impunity in the native forest logging sector—and that’s why it is so important.

Minister Plibersek needs to get on with it and hold the native forest logging industry to account under our national environment laws, like every other sector.”