Media Releases - 25 November 2021

Spying should be final straw for rogue state logging corporation VicForests

The Wilderness Society condemns the vile actions of VicForests outlined by the ABC and calls on the board of VicForests to resign or be stood aside and an administrator be put in place while an independent governance review is undertaken.

Wilderness Society’s Victorian Campaign Manager, Richard Hughes said, “When a state-government owned entity sets surveillance onto private citizens in this country they’ve crossed a line that never should have been crossed demonstrating that they cannot and will not ever be brought to heel.

“VicForests faces ongoing allegations of illegal logging, and in 2020 was found guilty of logging illegally by the Federal Court. The regulator has failed to properly investigate mounting claims of illegality, and when it comes to logging regulations, does not enforce with rigour.

“VicForests continue to go after conservationist Sarah Rees because she is effective at bringing scrutiny to their environmental destruction. Paying a private investigator to tail a leading critic is a gross violation of the duties of a state-owned entity and an egregious infringement on the rights of a member of the community.

“VicForests’ actions have been criticised by Auditors-General, Federal and High Court Justices and review after review. But none of this has yet led to any consequences for those governing this state-government institution. It’s time for that to change because it’s patently clear that without consequences, VicForests will not change.

“Following on from years of environmental negligence and an unwillingness to change its culture, and now with further evidence of the organisation’s intransigent actions on the public record, it’s time for the board to go. The Wilderness Society calls for the board to take responsibility for the actions of their organisation and to resign immediately and if they don't, the Treasurer as Government shareholder, should force their hand. An administrator should be put in place while a full governance review is carried out, just like the one that led to the disbandment of the NSW Game Council for similar governance failings.

“We are also calling on the Victorian Public Sector Commission to investigate the use of surveillance by VicForests over members of the public. This should not be left to VicForests to look into themselves. The failure to carry out a genuinely independent investigation would bring into disrepute the whole reputation of the Victorian Public Service and its oversight,”Richard Hughes concluded.

For further information: Tim Beshara on 0437 878 786