ALL FORESTS in western Victoria, including the Wombat Forest, have been removed from the Allocation to VicForests Order to end community concerns that logging would be expanded in the region, Environment and Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings announced today.
As a result the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) will regain responsibility for managing the small existing native timber industry in western Victoria.
“The Brumby Labor Government respects the concerns of communities in western Victoria about protecting their forests which is why I have amended the Allocation Order so that the DSE rather than VicForests will manage forests and commercial timber harvesting licences in western Victoria,” Mr Jennings said.
“The decision to extend the VicForest Allocation Order in May to include western Victoria was intended to provide them the opportunity to manage commercial timber licences across the State.
“The May decision required DSE to operate solely as an environmental regulator and was consistent with government commitments to separate commercial timber harvesting from the regulatory and land management functions of government.
“Unfortunately, that decision was used by a small, vocal minority to give the impression logging activities would be expanded. The current amendment to the Allocation Order provides absolute assurance that there are no plans to resume harvesting in the Wombat Forest or the Otways.”
Jennings said his decision to reverse the May Allocation followed an announcement in July by VicForests that it had no plans to assume management of the small native forest sawmilling industry in western Victoria.
“Consistent with the public commitments of our Government there has been no sawlog or pulpwood harvesting in the Wombat Forest since 2005 and there was no intention to resume it,” he said.
“It was this Government’s legislation that established significant parks in the Otways Ranges which ended commercial timber harvesting there,” he said.
Member for Ballarat East Geoff Howard and Member for Macedon Joanne Duncan welcomed the announcement and said it proved the Government was listening to the community.
“I have received many letters and phone calls from the community who have been concerned by the mischievous comments of a small number of people. The removal of forests in western Victoria from the Allocation Order shows we have heard their voices,” Mr Howard said.
“Our focus has always been on developing and implementing a balance between the needs of the community and the environment in our approach to forest management,” Duncan said.