Media Release 24 September 2016
VicForests claims that ‘contractual obligations’ are behind the need to log 27 ha of some of the best forest left in the Strathbogie Ranges (Country News 21.9.16). In the same article VicForests stated that it notified community groups of the impending logging and that the sign nailed to a tree related to the safety zone area. These statements are completely misleading and border on deception, according to Strathbogie Sustainable Forest Group spokesperson Fiona Townsend.
“The Group have been in discussion with VF and the Victorian Government about the 11 coupes/450 ha in question, for the past three years” says Ms. Townsend, “and VicForests had repeatedly stated that it had no immediate plans to harvest in the Strathbogie Ranges”. So for Mr. Trushell to state that VicForests “…did notify the community groups…” (Country News 21.9.16), is plainly misleading.
On 26th May 2014 VicForests wrote “While VicForests does not have any immediate intention to commence operations in the Strathbogie area, we are committed to communicating our future plans to residents as soon as possible.” (VicForests community letter)
On 19th November 2014 VicForests stated it “…had no immediate plans to harvest in the Strathbogie Ranges and had not harvested in the area for some time.” (Euroa Gazette)
In February 2015: “We made a commitment to the community to continue discussions regarding their concerns and our plans for work in the Strathbogie Ranges.” (VicForests webpage)
In email correspondence between VicForests and the Group during August 2016, absolutely no mention was made of the impending logging. VicForests had even invited the Group to a Field Day on September 3 for ongoing discussions. The sign nailed to the tree in the coupe was the first anyone in the community knew of VicForests intentions. In subsequent email correspondence, VicForests acknowledged that timing of the signage was unfortunate “We are aware of the concern this signage has caused…” wrote VicForests’ David Walsh, Manager Compliance and External Relations. “For Mr Trushell to claim the community was notified is simply untrue”, says Shirley Saywell from the Euroa Environment Group, another community organisation concerned by VicForests’ plans.
This, then, raises the question – Why did VicForests enter into contracts that assumed access to wood supply from the Strathbogie forest, when it was telling the local community it had no firm plans to log? “Come on, who are they kidding?” asks another group member “From the outset VicForests has known that we are calling for a moratorium on native forest logging in the Strathbogies until there’s been a comprehensive assessment of all the values in the forest. The last time that was done was 30 years ago!”
Another Group member, Fiona Townsend, adds “For heavens sake, these coupes contain resident Koala populations and the highest densities of Greater Gliders (a species of gliding possum listed as threatened with extinction by the Australian Government) recorded anywhere in the Strathbogie Ranges, and VicForests didn’t even know about these values until the local community surveyed the area. Why would VicForests enter into contracts to supply timber from the Strathbogie forest without even knowing the non-timber values being affected by their logging, or the risk that these values might pose to wood supply? That seems like a very questionable business model if you ask me”.
VicForests’ actions make a mockery of repeated assurances given to the Strathbogie Sustainable Forests Group by the Victorian Government, such as:
“Your care and concern about the Strathbogie Ranges is appreciated. The Andrews Government is committed to managing Victoria’s state forests for the benefit of the community, delivering positive environmental outcomes and community enjoyment well into the future“(source).
Does Premier Andrews know how VicForests treats rural communities, or how it does it’s business? We suspect not, but we might try to bring it to his attention.
Both community groups reiterate their call for the Victorian Government to support a moratorium on logging until the values in the Strathbogie forest (economic, social, environmental) have been assessed and informed decisions about forest use can be made. Messers Townsend and Saywell again, “VicForests’ latest twists and turns have absolutely reinforced our community’s determination to demand a voice in what happens to this forest.”
With logging due to start any day, the community is prepared to stand strong in the face of VicForests’ tactics.
Media enquiries –
- Strathbogie Sustainable Forests Group – Mr. Sim Ayres 0455 246 141
- Euroa Environment Group – Ms. Shirley Saywell 0427 246 900