Victoria’s timber industry leaders say Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio could end the legal lockup of native forests by spending $100 gazetting Greater Glider possum protections into the Code of Practice for Timber Production. Source: Weekly Times
Victorian Forest Products Association chief executive Deb Kerr said the minister’s failure to act meant that it had been left to the Supreme Court to decide what protections should be put in place.
Last December Supreme Court Justice Melinda Richards slapped injunctions on any coupe within 240m of a Greater Glider sighting, which has led to 90% of the state’s Victorian Ash being locked up across the Central Highlands, East Gippsland and the Tambo region.
Yet protections under the Government’s 2019 Greater Glider Action Statement simply require that where five or more gliders are found per kilometre, during spotlight surveys, VicForests must “retain at least 40% of the basal area of eucalypts across each timber harvesting coupe, prioritising live, hollow bearing trees”.
The Weekly Times understands VicForests has not only been adhering to the action statement protocol since it was first published four years ago, it has kept 40% of coupes intact where three or more gliders are spotted per kilometre.
However, in her ruling of last December Justice Richards dismissed the action statement, saying it was not a legislative instrument.
Justice Richards said: “It is arguable that the prescription of 40% of basal eucalypts in the action statement is not determinative of the level of habitat retention necessary to comply with the Precautionary Principle (within the code).”
But Ms Kerr said if the minister gazetted the 40% rule into the code, it would gain the legislative power the court had to recognise.
One industry leader said gazettal of the 40% rule would stop current court cases “in their tracks” and allow many coupes to be reopened.
“The industry is being held to ransom because the government has not codified the greater glider protections from the action plan,” Ms Kerr said.
“It could be done for the cost of issuing it in the government gazette — $100.”
But Ms D’Ambrosio’s office said: “Protection of Greater Gliders is complex, and any changes require proper assessment.”