“Sustainability means not turning resources into junk
faster than nature can turn junk into resources.”
- Eden export chipmill makes a loss!
- Gunns trading halt.
NOT SO GOOD NEWS
- Vic Budget axes environment by $130M.
- Vic Koalas left in the lurch.
- Govt sluggish on recording species finds.
- FOI for survey results.
- Burnt quoll found after prescribed burn.
- Govt still spoon feeds logging lobby groups - over quarter of a million.
- Logging accountability - off the rails in Victoria.
- Govt not playing by FOI laws.
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- EDO - Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act
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Eden export woodchip business in the red.
The Eden export woodchip mill has just recorded its first ever loss in over 40 years of woodchipping south east Australia’s forests.
It disclosed to ASIC a loss of $126,430 for 2011.
This could raise serious questions about the chipmill’s future. Despite its near record levels of turning trees into small shredded bits, and the cheap prices it pays for public forests (subsidized by our taxes), it still couldn’t make a cracker profit.
The cost to our forests, wildlife and water is in comparison, incalculable.
Recently a question in the NSW Parliament revealed that Forests NSW (NSW version of VicForests) is still making a loss selling public forest logs the south of the state. So why do they persist in stripping the forests bare when it’s a lose-lose-lose situation?
Jill Chipstop/Harriet Swift
Gunns in a trading limbo
Tasmanian woodchip company Gunns’ ongoing trading halt is now in its seventh week. Greens forestry spokesman Kim Booth believes this is "very close to an abuse of ASX listing rules".
The company keeps telling the ASX that it’s chatting up another potential partner. Kim Booth says it’s just a fantasy and is stalling for time. ASX rules state that a company requesting a voluntary suspension must detail how long it expected to remain in limbo. Gunns can’t hold its breath forever.
NOT SO GOOD NEWS
Baillieu govt slashes environment budget.
Ted Baillieu’s new budget has axed $130.6 million from its environment department. This includes post- bushfire work (assistance to VicForests to salvage log?) and climate change programs.
An example of these cuts was seen at Horsham where a team of 10 people working to rescue and propagate endangered plant species have been sacked.
We wonder if the cuts to agriculture, TAFE, environment etc will also be seen by cuts to VicForests’ welfare. Every year the logging arm of government has enjoyed handouts to the tune of up to and over $50 million.
How much can a Koala bear?
The formal status of Australia’s Koalas was delivered on 30th April by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke. The long-awaited for declaration announced that Queensland, NSW and the ACT will have their koala’s listed as vulnerable under the national environment protection law. But koalas in South Australia and Victoria are excluded. However, if these Koalas, with their new status, happen to live where the states want to clearfell their forest - that’s OK. Miners and developers will have to seek approval from the Federal government but not so loggers.
So why were Victoria’s Koala’s excluded? The Strzelecki population is a very rare and seriously declining mainland genetic group. Mostly their habitat is on private land that Hancock’s clearfells to feed the Maryvale paper mill. It’s estimated that 10,000 hectares of koala feed trees have been cleared in the past 15 years. Was this a political decision or did Burke’s scientific advisors get it terribly wrong?
Environment groups were hoping for a National listing but instead Minister Burke listed healthier populations under little threat (and therefore not threatening developers and loggers) and ignored koalas in other key areas. We hear this announcement was delayed for 10 weeks so that outstanding approvals in NSW and Qld, particularly for mining, could be approved prior to the listing. Once listed developments that could impact on Koalas would then need to be referred to the Federal Govt.
Land clearing, logging and burning of our forests is the biggest threat to our koalas and this listing does nothing to protect Victorian or South Australian populations.
Wildlife survey data languishes.
EEG has been asking where the information ends up from VicForests’ surveys that are carried out (not every planned logging area gets one). It seems that the survey information is very slow to get fed into the DSE’s biodiversity system and made publicly available.
In the last piece of correspondence, the DSE tells us that:
DSE has a system in place to fast-track such records into the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, however this is currently being reviewed to ensure it is as efficient and quick as we can make it.
The ‘fast tracking’ of the inclusion of new species records has been frozen for months. If it were a development application it’d be fast tracked in a couple of weeks.
But the web based Biodiversity Interactive Maps here mapshare2.dse.vic.gov.au/MapShare2EXT/imf.jsp?site=bim are claimed to be based on the most recent ‘approved information’. This doesn’t say much as we don’t know how long it takes for information to be ‘approved’. The Victorian Biodiversity Atlas (the old Wildlife Atlas is now very out of date) will be made publicly available in the next couple of months we are told. We aren’t sure if this will be free or cost the public hundreds to access. The public would love to know what has been detected out there and where.
FOI for survey data.
On a similar topic, under Freedom of Information Environment East Gippsland has been trying to obtain their pre-logging survey data from VicForests for about a year now. We expect to be sent about 300 pages of documents very soon - and hopefully they won’t be mostly blacked out! (as past FOI releases have been).
Endangered Quoll found dead at a DSE burn
In early April a male Spot-tailed Quoll was found dead on the road at a prescribed burn site at the Providence Ponds Reserve between Bairnsdale and Stratford. There had been no records of the endangered Quoll in this area since the 1970s, mainly due to lack of surveys.
DSE has claimed it was 'unlikely' to have been escaping the fire when it was hit. This supposition seemed to have no basis.
The EPBC Act requires DSE to refer their proposed burns to the federal environment department when that burn could threatened a listed endangered species. We called the Planned Burning Manager for Gippsland and asked what the DSE is doing to comply with this Act.
If biodiversity staff were to find something ... it is the responsibility of the Districts to then contact the Federal Department for approval.
The fact that there have been sweet FA surveys for decades seems to count for little. The system is still based on ‘what you don’t see don’t matter’. So listed species are never identified and so never protected from the burns. Rare frogs for instance are difficult to detect without focused surveys, yet those which inhabit forests away from creeks (and some do) are extremely susceptible to these burns.
In the Mallee for instance, the DSE has been thoroughly torching the preferred habitat of the threatened Mallee Fowl without so much as a ‘pardon me’. The same happens in Gippsland with the Long-footed Potoroo, Quoll and other fire sensitive wildlife.
The Federal environment department has been made aware of this problem.
Logging industry given quarter of a million to feed their propaganda machine
NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon asked a question in Fed Parliament on how much the logging lobby groups were given from the government between 2009-2011.
The highlights included:
- The National Association of Forest Industries (NAFI) were handed $10,000 to hold a dinner and were also given $263,000+ for various other propaganda purposes.
- Timber Communities Australia were handed $94,000 for a Timber Community and Forest Industry Bushfire Recovery and Rebuilding Centre in Healesville, ie, a logging industry propaganda centre.
How nice it would be to get handed that sort of dosh to set up an enviro centre and get our planet saving messages out there?
Logging accountability off the rails under Baillieu.
Since scraping into power at the last election, the Baillieu government has wasted no time in taking a chain saw to what logging controls there were. One previous process carried very useful information about the overall picture of logging - area clearfelled, volumes of logs taken and so on. This annual MAHP program has already been dumped. And we expect an announcement soon that will gut biodiversity and threatened species protection in State forests by rewriting parts of the Code of Forest Practices. Regulation of the process that mapped forests to be logged in 5 year time frames (Timber Release Plans) has also been weakened since the approval of these plans was handed to (National Party) Minister Peter Walsh and his Department of Primary Industries.
The Baillieu Government has also dramatically reduced the scale of audits of VicForests’ compliance with the Code of Forest Practices. It now only requires an audit every second year. But even the audit last year only checked 60% of the number of coupes that were checked in past EPA audits. EEG listed many concerns about the poor quality of the new audit system and notified the government.
Getting sensible answers out of Minister Ryan Smith and his staff has been an uphill battle. Initially, we sent DSE and URS (who ran the audit) about 12 fairly straight forward questions but got no answers. Since the Brown Mountain court case, the Government is reluctant to put too much in writing, insisting that we come and have a chat instead. The absurdity of these invitations was highlighted recently when the Department told us they couldn’t answer some of our questions because “the people responsible for those reports are no longer available”. Do they really expect us to waste time visiting Melbourne for a chat with people who know nothing about what’s going on?
The Department’s claim that it “still places a high value on the Forest Audit program as a key part of the regulatory framework” is nonsense. According to the DSE web site, there is a large backlog of audit reports that were supposed to have been released:
Table from DSE website www.dse.vic.gov.au/forests/managing-our-forests/management-framework/timber-harvesting-compliance showing Audit reports (“Modules”) that were due for release.
So far, none of the reports listed for release in 2011/12 have been made public. For 2010/11, DSE claims it has released all the reports. Module 5 is claimed to be the Code Audit done by private industry consultants URS . EEG has questioned the dubious data used in the Module 6 audit but DSE can’t explain the discrepancies. Module 7 was meant to be an audit of the regeneration of forests logged in 2008/09. DSE claims that the last Coupe Finalisation report (a report prepared each year when VicForests hands back responsibility for logged forests to DSE) is the Module 7 audit. This is rubbish because this report includes coupes logged as far back as 2004 and has very few forested coupes logged in 2008/09.
Under the current Government, the Forest Audit program is a full-blown farce.
Auditor-General's report into Freedom of Information
On 18 April 2012 the Auditor-General tabled a scathing report into how Victorian Government agencies deal with requests for information under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. The report stated that ‘apathy and resistance to scrutiny have adversely affected the operation of the Act, restricting the amount of information being released’.
The findings of the report exactly match the experience of EEG , the Environment Defenders Office and many other groups. We regularly make FOI requests seeking information on how Government agencies make decisions that have impacts on the environment. Requests are hardly ever processed on time, and when a decision is received, rarely do they grant access to documents being sought, even though the requests all relate to matters of general public interest.
A legal response to the Auditor General's report can be found on the Federation of Community Legal Centres website.
Environment Defenders Office
SEE, LEARN, HEAR, HELP or GET INVOLVED
Environment East Gippsland Fundraising stall
We’ll be setting up a stall in Smith St Collingwood on Sunday 20th May.
We will have our new range of calico shopping bags, aprons, t shirts, cards, information and a colourful range of homemade beanies to keep your noggins warm through winter. Donations of good eco-friendly sellables will be warmly welcomed. If any members would like to help please contact Jill on 5154 0145 or firstname.lastname@example.org
EDO Seminar Series 2012 - Victoria’s flora and fauna – where’s the guarantee?
Tuesday 15 May 2012 5.45pm - 7.30pm
For threatened species such as the Leadbeater’s Possum and the Quoll, Victoria is a dangerous place to live.
As developments like logging and vegetation clearance drive many species closer to extinction, Victoria’s biodiversity laws do little to protect these species and guarantee their survival.
The Environment Defenders Office (Victoria) has released a report on Victoria’s biodiversity laws in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow logging in Toolangi and the Victorian Government’s decision to wind back protection for threatened species under the Forestry Code.
Come along to the 60L Building, Carlton and hear our panel of speakers talk about what these changes mean, and what you can do.
NO CHARGE BUT BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL
Register now on the EDO website at www.edovic.org.au/seminar-registration.
- Nicola Rivers, Law Reform Director, Environment Defenders Office (Victoria) Ltd
- Luke Chamberlain — Campaigns Director, The Wilderness Society (Victoria)
- Kylie White — Executive Director, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment
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Click here and fill in your details. Otherwise - just donate what you can and we’ll send you a tax deductible receipt for using when doing your tax - which is looming closer.
Or leave the forests a legacy in your will.
If people are considering revising their will or in fact writing a will for the first time, EEG has a legally approved paragraph that can be inserted. It will allow you to leave some of your estate to our ongoing work. Please contact Jill for details. We’ll also have this information on our website in the near future.
Jill and the team.
Environment East Gippsland Inc.
FORESTS - our breathing space!
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