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Unlawful Stream Logging by VicForests Contractors in Toolangi

Mary woodridge at stream logging

When laws ain't quite laws?

VicForests has avoided legal indictment again, this time for allowing its contractors to dump logs in streams. The incident was investigated by DSE in an audit of operations last year and found VicForests contractor was liable for work suspension under the Sustainable Forests (Timber Harvesting) Regulations 2006. When VicForests were told by the DSE to award penalty points to their contractor, VicForest simply  disagreed and claimed that “VicForests applies its penalties via contracts where it is warranted.  We do not believe any deliberate conduct has occurred and do not believe it would be prudent to penalise the contractor in this instance.”.

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When laws ain't quite laws

Mary woodridge at stream logging

MyEnvironment Inc reported the stream destruction to DSE in June 2010, three months before the 2010 Victorian State Election. A coalition of environment groups, including ME Inc. and TWS took several shadow ministers from the Coalition and their advisers into the forests of Toolangi and Warburton to show them how VicForests were not complying with forestry laws. Amongst many breaches witnessed that day was a stream in the headwaters of the Goulburn that had been badly damaged when large trees were cut and dropped into the gully, knocking down many tree ferns. Logging debris had also been pushed into the stream.

These breaches were presented to the group that included Gary Blackwood, the Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry and Fisheries, who referred the issue on to the CEO of VicForests, David Pollard. Mr Pollard emphatically denied that there  were any problems with this coupe in respect of the Code of Forest Practices.

Mr Pollard's confident assurances turned out to be incorrect and DSE later found VicForests to be in breach of the Code of Forest Practices. The DSE stated that VicForests had felled trees into waterways in five instances and this constituted a breach of the Act. DSE stated that 10 demerit points were to be issued by VicForests to contractors, equal to seven days of work suspension for the contractor. VicForests denied any wrong doing and refused to penalise the contractor. (After all, the absence of a contractor would mean they could not meet wood supply arrangements - hardly an incentive to penalise?)

VicForests said that it was not responsible for the contractors they hire or the actions of the contractor and the contractor is not responsible for his actions either. And the streams damaged in all of this, well that's just part of the business of logging our water catchments for woodchips. A lesson for everyone involved. Why bother with laws and certification?

Liberal Party Tour

Mary Wooldridge and the Libs at the scene of the crime

Mary Wooldridge was shadow Environment Minister at the time, now Minister for Mental Health, Women's Affairs and Community Service

Mary woodridge at stream logging

Gary Blackwood correspondence with David Pollard

Gary Blackwood ( at the time wrote the current Liberal party forest policy) correspondence with Dr David Pollard (CEO VicForets) reveals that Dr Pollard believes that the river filmed above is a snig track!

Blackwood statement pollard response

DSE audit report

DSE Audit report findings of stream logging breach

Investigation summary:

investigation details

Findings summary:

findings

DSE recommendations summary:

recommendations

Penalty points recommended to be awarded summary:

demerit points

Details here

VicForests response summary:

vicforests response