Victoria's environment department has charged the government-owned logging agency VicForests over its illegal logging of rainforest buffer zones in East Gippsland. The allegations relate to a logging operation in the Serpentine Creek Rainforest Site of Significance near Cann River, which caused serious damage to protected warm temperate rainforest.
The logging breach was reported to the department in April 2016 by Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO). After an investigation lasting nearly two years, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning concluded that protected rainforest buffers were logged in breach of section 45 of the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act.
It is the first time the government’s forestry regulator has laid charges against VicForests since the Daniel Andrews government was elected, despite dozens of reports by the community of serious breaches. If found guilty, VicForests could be fined up to $38,000.
GECO spokesperson Ed Hill said: "We're pleased to see the department carry out their role and enforce the laws that protect our precious rainforests. We hope this prosecution is the beginning of a new approach by the Andrews government and we expect them to lay charges against VicForests for dozens of other breaches currently under government investigation.
"VicForests has shown systemic failure to adhere to environmental protections. Victorians expect that if a rainforest is illegally logged, the perpetrators will be prosecuted. Under the previous Liberal government VicForests were let off the hook after charges were laid against them for logging rainforest in 2012. We hope this time the Labor government will follow through with the full force of the law, in line with community expectations.
"Rainforests are one of the things that make East Gippsland so amazing and special. This particular area was warm temperate rainforest. These areas are really precious because they offer a rare example of primitive flora that was around millions of years ago.
"Logging in these sensitive forests is senseless and unlawful destruction. The Andrew's government must act to urgently protect East Gippsland's forests within this term of government."