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Final nail for native timber harvesting driven by Victorian Supreme Court

On Tuesday this week the Victoria’s Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by VicForests against an earlier decision of a judge in the Trial Division of the Supreme Court. This has ended any hope of an attempt to continue native timber harvesting. Source: Timberbiz, Weekly Times

President Karin Emerton, Justice Cameron Macaulay and Justice Stephen Kaye rejected all arguments of VicForests’ appeal, upholding Justice Melinda Richards’ initial ruling from November last year. The Court of Appeal held that the trial judge had correctly interpreted the requirements of the Code and that the declarations and injunctions were lawful.

VicForests said it was disappointed with the appeal outcome and would review the decision in full before making any further comment.

VicForests had appealed a Supreme Court decision to halt logging after finding the forestry company failed to adequately survey for protected glider species.

Costs of the appeal were awarded to the community group respondents, Environment East Gippsland and Kinglake Friends of the Forest.

Full details on the judgement summary were not read out in court.

Last year Justice Richards ruled the state-owned enterprise’s pre-harvest surveys were inadequate and it was not doing enough to protect two possum species – greater and yellow-bellied gliders, with VicForests ordering stop work orders due to the injunctions.

Tuesday’s decision is the final nail in the coffin for the native timber harvesting industry which is set to close from 1 January next year after the Victorian Government’s decision to cut short its 2030 phase out.

When handing down the 2023-24 state budget Treasurer Tim Pallas said: “The courts have taken the decision out of our hands.”

Last Friday VicForests released an amended Timber Release Plan to support the new transition time frame out of native harvesting.

The approved TRP changes include 184 new coupes, 12 coupe boundary changes and two coupe driveway additions for previously approved coupes.

VicForests said they had opened the new coupes to create flexibility in the coupes available for harvest to provide supply and employment for industry during the government’s managed transition to 1 January 2024.

“In light of court orders, new reserves and species detections, there are currently significant constraints that limit the ability to plan a coupe to harvest stage,” VicForests said in a statement.