A SHORT STORY OF LOGGING IN EAST GIPPSLAND
The local logging industry had its beginning back in 1882. The first batch of timber was cut in a sawmill at Orbost on the Brodribb River. Before 1939, most timber in East Gippsland was cut close to the railway line. Then the terrible fires of 1939 wiped out much of Melbourne's main timber-cutting area in the Central Highlands. East Gippsland became the new 'hunting grounds'.
In 1950, 75,000 cubic metres (about 3,000 truck loads) were being processed annually. By 1955, the cut had risen to 195,000 m3. Then in the late 1960s the Japanese export woodchip mill was established nearby at Eden and woodchipping became a main driver of logging.
In the 1980s 345,000 m3 (about 14,000 truck loads) of sawlog trees were being cut down every year, plus even more as woodchip logs. When the conservation movement proved this was overly voracious, the logging industry was forced to begin slowing down as the natural forests were rapidly disappearing. But in 2003 there was still over 420,000 m3 (almost 17,000 truck loads) cut down and sawn or woodchipped. Over 80% of this is classed as "waste" and destined for the export woodchip trade.
There is still much controversy surrounding the woodchip industry and old growth logging. About 13 football fields of forest each and every day are clearfelled in East Gippsland. Relative to the size of this region, we are logging our natural forests at about the same rate as the Amazon is being cleared! Mostly the areas clearfelled are the original ancient forests, which many threatened species depend on for survival. They are also of World Heritage value. This unchecked destruction has resulted in years of campaigning and protests by the community both in the forests and in the cities.
Today only about 8% of our forests remain as old growth. The rest has been logged, burnt, grazed, mined and generally degraded. Vast areas of mountain and foothill forests have been clearfelled since woodchipping became entrenched in the late 60s. These once magnificent forest ecosystems have been systematically converted into single species industrial tree crops perfectly suited for the export woodchip industry.
These monocrops are intensively managed to feed the Asian pulp and paper factories young white tree trunks. No natural diversity is allowed to return to these areas. It is conversion from natural forests to tree 'deserts'. This is made even more criminal by the fact that our original forests are being sold by the state government for the price of a postage stamp!
Direct action, including forest protest has played a significant and important role in the campaign to protect Victoria’ s old growth forests, water catchments and threatened species habitat from logging and export woodchipping.
The forest movement in Victoria has a long history of forest-based protest and other direct action, which is invariably linked with interactions with police and Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) staff, and raises a series of issues and questions regarding legal rights and process.
The guide (available here), prepared by Lawyers for Forests Inc. (LFF), is intended as a response to some of the most common legal questions and issues that arise in forest actions.