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Day 9 - MyEnvironment v VicForests Transcript Thursday 16 02 2012

The morning began early (at 10:00 am) with the Evidence-in-Chief of Dr Jacqueline Schirmer. After confirming her report and supplementary report Mr Waller, for VicForests, had no further questions.

Cross-examination by Ms Walker, for My Environment, was almost immediately interrupted by Mr Waller when Dr Schirmer referred to the VicForests' Corporate Plan which apparently had been provided to Dr Schirmer (and the court) as a confidential exhibit, being considered "commercial-in-confidence". Mr Waller suggested questions relating to the plan be heard In camera.

In the event this proved to be unnecessary and questioning resumed.

Dr Schirmer confirmed that cessation of logging in the three Toolangi coupes would have a relatively small effect on production, if any, well within uncertainty margins. She also agreed that such cessation could not be said to cause any permanent loss of jobs, although it might bring forward the loss of jobs that are expected to be lost. Dr Schirmer informed the court that she had not been told that amendments could be made to Timber Allocations and Timber Release Plans (which might have the effect of compensating for the removal of the three coupes) and her report did not take those possibilities into account.

Re-examination was very brief and Dr Ajani commenced her evidence. She confirmed Dr Schirmer's evidence that there is capacity to use the undercut (which Dr Schirmer had estimated at 15%) to keep production running through, so that if the three Toolangi coupes were excluded the loss would be relatively small and could probably be accommodated within the log-cut without any material effect on employment.

Under cross-examination Dr Ajani pointed out that her view that the commodity sector of the forest industry should transition to plantation resources was based on building an economically robust industry, not philosophical objections. She explained that such a transition had a "nice compatibility - ecological integrity" whereas exposing native forests to commodity productions means the two objectives (a robust industry and ecological integrity) are fundamentally in conflict. She confirmed her conviction that, "Australia's environment needs more help from its citizens."

After briefly recalling Dr Schirmer, Mr Waller closed the case for the defence and the hearing was effectively over.