With the daily developments in Covid-19 restrictions dominating newsfeeds, you wouldn’t be alone if you’re unaware of the changes being proposed to Victoria’s Code of Practice for Timber Production. But it’s a big one.
Created in 2014, the Code is a legal requirement, to which VicForests – the state-owned business responsible for the harvest, commercial sale, and re-growing of timber from Victoria's forests on behalf of the state government – must abide. The government says their amendments focus on “clarifying roles and responsibilities, obligations, and correcting administrative errors” and that they will lead to "a clearer framework for timber harvesting”, “greater accountability and improved opportunity for compliance by industry”.
"...an urgent threat to our precious threatened species and ecosystems"
Environmental groups believe the proposed changes significantly deregulate logging in Victoria’s native forests and may undermine community legal challenges to perceived illegal logging. They would see many zones designed to protect habitat of threatened plant and wildlife, landscapes and public recreation areas become governed by wishful targets rather than regulations. And on top of that, stakeholders feel they haven’t been given enough time to respond to the complex changes spread out over more than 350 pages of documents.
"Our forests are under attack", declare Friends of the Earth (FoE) Melbourne, who see the proposed changes as an urgent threat to our precious threatened species and ecosystems. “At a time when stronger protections are desperately needed for forests and wildlife after the catastrophic bushfires of 2019/20, the Department seems to be hell bent on weakening the laws which govern logging. A major review of the bushfires’ impact on our forest landscapes is still underway, but the government is rushing through substantial changes to the Code of Practice for Timber Production.”
Alongside FoE, 16 other environment groups including Victorian National Parks Association, Rubicon Forest Protection Group, Goongerah Environment Centre, Kinglake Friends of the Forest, and Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum have united against the “insidious” proposed amendments. These diverse groups have long been active in calling for greater protections for Victoria’s forests. They highlight the universal value of aspects like rare Mountain Ash species and the vulnerability of our biodiversity in these habitats, already significantly damaged and reduced by impacts of the climate crisis.
In May, hardware giant Bunnings reaffirmed its boycott of VicForests timber. In an explanation, Bunnings stated that their policy requires their suppliers to source from legal, responsibly sourced and well managed forest operations – a blatant vote of no-confidence.
More of the like momentum will be needed as the forest defenders ally in the face of this latest threat.
Protect Victoria’s native forests. Oppose changes to the Code here by July 29.
Also have your say in the Government's Bushfire Review c/o Goongerah Environment Centre by August 31.
Banner image – recent logging in the Central Highlands. Photo: Manic Seeds Media.