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‘Crazy’ Victorian process to clear Wombat Forest – documents now unnecessary

Victorian Government bureaucrats have tried and failed in their bid to throw yet another hurdle in front of timber workers trying to salvage up to 500,000 tonnes of windblown fallen timber from the Wombat Forest, following the June 2021 storms. Source: The Weekly Times

Harvest and haulage contractor Jim Greenwood, who is salvaging timber from five coupes in the forest, was ordered by Victoria’s Conservation Regulator to produce hundreds of pages of documents last week or face a penalty of $18,174.

Mr Greenwood began salvaging fallen trees in mid-April, after the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning repeatedly blocked VicForests’s attempts to broker an agreement with the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owners of the forest to harvest the windblown timber.

It is understood Premier Daniel Andrews intervened in the end after the risk of leaving an estimated 500,000 tonnes of fallen trees on the forest floor during the fire season was highlighted last month in The Weekly Times.

Since then, Mr Greenwood has been forced to deal with activists wandering into the salvage coupes, forcing him to stop work.

Then last Thursday he was hit with a notice to produce a raft of documents from the Conservation Regulator Kate Gaven and her officers, all of whom work for DELWP.

The orders demand Mr Greenwood and his wife, Chris, who run their small company JD Logging with three harvest workers and four to five truck drivers, provide the Conservation Regulator with everything from truck routes, drivers names and addresses, workers’ time sheets to all business records and contracts linked to salvaging the Wombat Forest coupes.

“I only came up here to clear storm damage and I get this s–t,” Mr Greenwood said.

“If it’s not the greens it’s them (DELWP).”

But by Monday this week the Regulator’s office had pulled the notice, with Conservation Regulator’s timber harvesting compliance unit senior forest and wildlife officer Sarah Bellhouse stating the production notice had been withdrawn and no longer required a response.

“Further correspondence may be submitted to you regarding these or other matters in the future,” Mr Greenwood was told.

He said he was stunned by the whole process – “it’s crazy.”