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Friday analysis: It was the death by a thousand cuts


VicForest staff Gippsland

VicForests will be gone by 30 June. It really doesn’t come as any surprise.

The writing was on the wall, and writ large the moment the Victorian Government announced it would be shutting down the native timber industry by 2030.

It brought that death forward when it announced that the industry would be shut down at the end of last over claims the sector had become unviable because of ongoing legal action.

What is so disappointing is that the Victorian Government could have stepped in to prevent the “lawfare” campaign again VicForests. But it didn’t.

The number of injunctions issued by conservation groups over logging – coupe by coupe – has had an enormous impact on VicForests.

Third-party litigation locked up coupes, delayed harvesting and forced VicForests to pay harvest and haulage contractors compensation as it struggles to meet contracted log volumes.

Even when VicForests won cases it struggled to recover court-awarded costs against environment groups.

In the 2022-23 financial year, VicForests returned a net loss of $60.1 million, despite receiving a $149 million bailout from the state government. The record loss followed a loss of $54.2 million the previous financial year.

VicForests described the financial result as having been “fundamentally impacted by litigation” brought by environment and community groups against its logging operations.

Legal representatives for VicForests announced the 30 June deadline in the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne on Wednesday during yet another hearing involving Wombat Forestcare and its case alleging VicForests breached requirements to survey for threatened species in western Victorian forests.

It was the first time a decision on VicForests’ future had been revealed after the Victorian government deregistered it as a state business corporation in September last year, removing the requirement for it to be commercially focused.

However, many in the industry believed the 30 June closure was inevitable.

Needless to say, many of those groups which were so vehemently opposed to VicForests will be dancing on the organisation’s grave this weekend.

Deputy Leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell, said the writing had been on the wall for VicForests for some time, after the company was plagued with illegal activity and controversy after controversy.

She said the Victorian Labor Government now needed to direct its department to focus on forest restoration and protection and invest in specialised staff who have these skills.

But with so many logging contractors forced out of the industry, who will be left to carry out that sort of work.

Community and Public Sector Union industrial organiser Kassey Dickie said VicForests’ 100 employees were aware the company would close on 30 June.