News - 20 April 2021

VicForests caught out again

The burnt landscape of East Gippsland after the 2019-20 bushfires. Image: Nick Clemann, ARI

The Victorian state government logging business, VicForests, has again been found to be logging illegally, raising further questions for all processors, retailers, and consumers of timber and paper products made from wood sold by them.

Already domestic and international markets are wary of wood or woodchips supplied by VicForests, because of the risk of illegal logging, logging in old growth forests, rainforests, and habitat for rare forest animals, like the Leadbeater’s Possum, Greater Glider, and Sooty Owls.

The state government’s Office of Conservation Regulation (OCR), which regulates VicForests’ logging, has found that the agency has been logging on steep slopes, which is not permitted under Victorian regulations, or national environment law. Logging on steep slopes impacts water quality and quantity.

In a water-constrained world, it’s ludicrous to be logging forests to make cardboard boxes, and in so doing, impact the water that flows in kitchens and bathrooms across Victoria. Logging makes water dirty, and logging also steals water from streams, rivers, reservoirs and dams.

After the 2019-20 bushfires, which burnt more than 67% of the East Gippsland region, wood supplied by VicForests is more controversial than ever before. So it’s hardly surprising that markets are declining VicForests’s wood.

The Victorian state government must bring forward the 2030 timetable for phasing out native forest logging. Not only is VicForests’ logging demonstrably illegal, endangered forest animals are exposed to extinction by VicForests, and workers in the industry need certainty so they can plan their futures.

Victoria’s native forests, regional communities, and the logging industry need regulatory certainty. The Office of Conservation must be frank and fearless in enforcing the law. 

If logging regulations are reviewed, as has been flagged by the state government, the OCR must also ensure regulation is best-practice, based on peer-reviewed science, and meets the expectations of the Victorian community that Victoria’s High Conservation Value native forests will be protected, and not logged.

This latest finding of illegality further puts domestic and international wood, paper, timber, energy and packaging markets on notice: beware your exposure to the risk of illegality if you buy wood from VicForests. 

For further comment contact Amelia Young on 0404 074 577.