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Environment East Gippsland Forest Update

Hello – it’s been a while since an update was written, so there’s a fair bit of news below.

Two items just in:

Good News: Tony Burke has knocked on the head, plans for ‘scientific’ cattle grazing in the alps National Park. The media is now full of a few outraged spokespeople claiming we’ll all be burnt to a cinder.

Startling News: We discovered that the CSIRO is a paid up member of the political logging lobby group Australian Forest Products Association (it used to be NAFI). Our request for an explanation and to cancel their membership of AFPA was refused. In fact CSIRO justified this! It makes you wonder if they are also members of the coal industry lobby groups and the nuclear industry. The Minister has refused to answer our letter – sent last November. This was an unbiased, objective, credible, organization, but now politically captured.

Hard News:

  • 1. Baillieu regime – destroying the law to destroy the environment
  • 2. Cobb Hill - Rainforest Site of National Significance – our next legal stoush!
  • 3. VicForests still refusing to pay EEG’s legal costs
  • 4. Please help us -
  • 5. Eden woodchip mill’s incinerator pellet factory loses legal challenge
  • 6. Gillard’s carbon trickery
  • 7. Alps grazing lobbyists put on VicForests’ board
  • 8. Juggling Acts - and who administers them
  • 9. Central Highland’s summer of action – Toolangi
  • 10. Tasmania forest deal turning to rubble

By the way...
  • 11. Baillieu’s new top advisor sees red on greens
  • 12. Pulp and paper industry to fall in 2012
  • 13. Job on offer at The Wilderness Society
  • 14. Fraudulent squandering of loggers’ exit packages uncovered
  • 15. Prescribed burns – add to climate problems
  • 16. Plans to stop illegal timber imports – effective?
  • 17. UK company boycotts Tassie wood
  • 18. Env. Minister Ryan Smith’s CV
  • 19. Media bias (nnnho!) on climate stories
  • 20. Aussies - environment half as important as economy
  • 21. Time Magazine’s person of the year for 2011 -‘The protester’

Now – for what you can do – and see
  • 22. Book into this year’s Forests Forever Ecology Camp at Easter
  • 23. Click and submit a letter against the pellet factory
  • 24. Learn about climate solutions - zero emissions – Melb Uni 6th Feb
  • 25. Nominate your favourite species – Federal Govt wants new listings
  • 26. Upcoming EDO events

Hard News:

1. Baillieu’s Axe-ion plan – written by logging lobbyists

Premier Ted Baillieu seems to have handed his government over to miners and loggers to run. Its latest Timber Industry Action Plan, released on 13 December, could have been written by the logging industry at a bucks’ party... on steroids.

This plan aims to fall every last tree from every last corner of every last forest.

Here are some of its proposals:
  • logging in parks and water catchments under the guise of ‘ecological thinning’
  • burning native forests for electricity
  • extending current 5 year contracts to 20 year contracts
  • massive compo to loggers when the 20 year commitments can’t be met
  • changing laws so that protected species and habitats don’t get in the way
  • converting native forests into plantations suited for commercial use only
  • converting prime agricultural land into plantations, even if under 40 ha
  • eco-certification systems rendered useless
  • VicForests to have power to set their own rate of logging (cut-out and get-out)
  • taxpayers to pay for legal defence of VicForests in future cases against their unlawful logging
  • taxpayers, not VicForests, to foot the bill for policing blockades.

  • The next few years will be challenging!

    What can be done? We need conservative voters to exhibit their extreme conservative outrage (especially in marginal seats). That’s what will hurt the Baillieu government most. The Coalition cares not for logic, ethics, science, the environment or differing opinions. Peter Walsh, the state minister in charge of logging and agriculture, was interviewed on ABC National radio on 14 December 2011 about the above plan. He is clearly confused about what a park is, but maintained his number one rule for pollies: always appear in control, even when you’re making a fool of yourself.

    This is the section of the Plan they were discussing -

    SIMON LAUDER: The Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh says the state government won't allow logging in national parks.
    PETER WALSH: This is about those areas that have already been set aside for timber production into the future being managed better so you increase the value of timber that is being produced.
    SIMON LAUDER: What are the "parks" that are referred to in the plan?
    PETER WALSH: Well, it is not national parks.
    SIMON LAUDER: What is it then?
    PETER WALSH: Well, it is those areas that have already been set aside in the public estate for timber harvesting into the future.
    SIMON LAUDER: Could it mean national parks in the future?
    PETER WALSH: It does not mean national parks. And those people who are trying to imply that it does are just making mischief.

    Maybe he means the Botanic Gardens then.
    Before Xmas, as Baillieu threw this bundle of money at VicForests and the logging industry to ensure they continued plundering and pillaging, he also announced new measures to ‘balance the state books’. These included getting rid of 3,600 public servants’ jobs and raising car rego costs.

    2. Cobb Hill rainforest logging injunction – here we go again!

    The application for an injunction was heard on Monday 30 January, and VicForests went in asking for yet another adjournment. But not only was it refused an adjournment, His Honour Justice Jack Forrest suggested they speed things up and go straight to trial. So rather than a time line that would have seen a Spring case, the new speedy version as suggested by His Honour will have VicForests in the Supreme court in April. We liked the idea. VicForests didn’t. It opposed it. It lost.

    Background In December, VicForests sent logging contractors into a very controversial stand of forests - a protected buffer for the National Site of Significance for Rainforest. Our appeals to VicForests and DSE to pull logging machines out, of course, were ignored and police arrested people protesting at the site.

    The law states that areas designated as Sites of Significance for Rainforests at a National level will be fully protected. The DSE and VicForests now claim the maps that have been around for years were just shonky. It wasn’t really in a protected zone.

    Even though VicForests is still refusing to pay our legal fees from the Brown Mountain court win in September 2010, despite the court order, we have been forced to once again sue VicForests. We applied to the Supreme Court for an injunction. The generosity of you lot out there meant we managed to get the court papers lodged in record time and pay all the associated costs(thanks also to our super-human legal team).

    It is just incredible that in this day and age, in a developed,supposedly democratically-run country, a small local environment group has to take on a government agency to prevent the illegal logging of a National Rainforest Site of Significance. The rest of the world knows the value of forests and rainforest, but the Baillieu government doesn't.

    3. VicForests refuses to pay up

    Despite the court order of September 2010, VicForests steadfastly refuses to pay 90% of our legal costs of taking them to court over Brown Mountain. Despite ongoing communications and having to respond to their requests for details on the ins and outs of duck’s bum - to put it impolitely–we have still not seen any money. We are set to go through ‘mediation’ this month and if they still don’t want to play, it will hopefully be heard in court sometime soon after.

    4. Can you help us out?

    We run on the smell of an oily rag, but the legal machine doesn’t!
    So here is a good spot to let everyone know we have another way of accepting donations on line – safely and quickly (with no PayPal fees). You can also opt to make an automatic monthly donation. Even $10 a month from 30 of you would make an enormous difference to our ‘resource security’. More would be even better.
    Click on the image to the right and it tells you how.

    5. That woodchip mill won’t say die

    The overseas woodchip market is slowing down, but our major exporter has other plans.
    Even though it’s across the dotted line in NSW, the Nippon export woodchip mill at Eden (100% Japanese owned) is the monster that drives East Gippsland’s forest destruction. About 85% of the wood that is hauled out of East Gippsland goes to this mill and then via ship to paper factories overseas. Our forests help make up about a million tonnes a year that are exported from Eden.

    Part I: Recently, the Nippon mill has been seeing a downwards trend in the world market for shredded trees and so has hatched another plan – to export small pieces of tree (extruded pellets) as fuel to burn for electricity generation.

    BUT – thanks to the NSW group South East Forest Rescue (SEFR), a legal challenge was mounted and recently won! Congrats Lisa and Tony!

    They prevented the operation of the already-built wood pellet factory at the chip mill. Bega Valley Shire Council gave a hasty OK for the building to start in June, and SEFR warned they would take legal action if it was to proceed. It did ... and they did.

    On 16 December 2011, a decision was handed down in a NSW court saying the approval to build the pellet factory was invalid. The shire didn’t take into account public submissions, the Ecologically Sustainable Development principle and the land zoning. This means that the chip mill must not operate the pellet factory. A significant win for our forests!

    Part II: Bega Shire will have to look at this proposal again and PROPERLY consider all aspects of it. This is where you can help stick a spanner in the works.

    In just a few clicks, send a cyber letter/ petition asking Bega Valley Shire Councillors not to approve a wood pellet plant at the Eden chipmill. It goes to all Councillors.
    or else go via which gives more info.

    There are just a few more weeks to stop this project. The local groups are also putting an ad in the newspaper to let locals know what’s brewing.

    PS. An interesting item from WA this week might also help sink Nippon’s little ship.

    It says that Australia’s biggest plantation-based biomass pellet plant in WA will close its doors. It tried for two years but the Albany-based export company, Plantation Energy Australia, said it was uneconomic.

    6. Gillard’s carbon trickery on logging forests

    If you get confused by all the talk of carbon trading, prices, international negotiations and Kyoto rules, you’re not alone. But here’s an attempt to simplify a part of it. Sadly, forests are still being done over by the latest wheeling and dealing.

    Late last year there was the Durban Climate Conference. Countries worked on a system to deal with land use and logging (awkwardly called Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry - LULUCF). But surprise, Australia is trying to rort it. How?

    Our Aussie reps, with the help of Canada and other developed logging countries, were trying to push for new rules that overlook carbon and greenhouse gas pollution that’s released when forests are logged and burnt (about half a billion - with a B - tonnes globally a year). At the same time they were trying to get rules accepted that then allow them to claim credits for logging instead of being landed with carbon debits!

    The rort goes like this:
    We all set a baseline level of logging of so many thousand hectares a year. Then if we log below it, we’ll get credits! If we log above it, we pay debits. Guess where that baseline level would be set? Yep – as high as possible!

    The Ozzie reps don’t want to calculate a level based on historic logging (even that would allow status quo), but want to make it include every hectare of forest that is currently mapped as being up for logging! So there’s no way we could possibly go above that baseline level (unless we clearfelled our Parks!). In fact our logging exploiters could then claim huge credits for bowling over less than 50 gazillion hectares a year.
    Australia’s forest destruction accounts for about 20% of our annual emissions. No wonder they’re doing their darnedest to cheat and keep logging from entering the big carbon equation.
    8 December 2011

    7. Alpine grazing lobby appointed to VicForests’ Board

    Graeme Stoney was the Liberal member for Central Highlands for 14 years, and shadow spokesperson for logging for four years, and is now the executive officer for the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association, aka farmers squatting on public land.

    Minister Peter Walsh appointed Graeme Stoney to the board of VicForests last October. Former managing director of the Australia Wheat Board, Gordon Davis, was also appointed. He was a forester with the Tasmanian Forestry Commission for 10 years. He’ll be the chairperson. Another board member, Alison Posa, worked with Southern Hemisphere Pulp and Paper business Fletcher Challenge.

    What a team. They will help oversee the running of one of the biggest government-owned environmental vandals in the state - not to mention welfare recipients.

    8. National Party Agriculture Minister takes over environment

    There seems to be a fair bit of shuffling of roles and responsibilities going on between the Coalition government’s Peter Walsh (Ag Minister and the Nationals Deputy Leader) and Ryan Smith (Environment Minister and Liberal MP).

    Much of the responsibilities for the environment and logging, including key sections of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, will now come under Walsh.

    These changes, made just before Christmas, give the National Party a major role in overseeing the environment in Victoria.

    Peter Walsh will have more say in the logging of native forests, including ‘protester management’ (see map below). He also has more influence over hunting laws. Ryan Smith will have the job of ordering logging audits, but this doesn’t mean much as they’re planning to whittle back these checks to the point of being useless anyway.

    Walsh did have full control of the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act but it’s now being shared with Ryan Smith – maybe because DSE staff will be doing a lot of the reviews and altering of Codes and regulations that relate to ‘sustainable forestry’ (logging), so their boss had to have some role there.

    Placing logging under the Agriculture portfolio is yet another brazen indication that they regard our forests as a crop for the logging industry; no longer public forest for public use.

    Walsh also declared the biggest native waterbird killing season in over a decade. Hunters can shoot 10 birds a day for 87 days starting on March 17. Gord ‘elp these little birds! (coz ‘Gord’ didn’t make ‘em to provide boofy gun-toting voters with some macho enjoyment).

    Ryan Smith mucked up very early by letting cattle back into the Alpine National Park. Then he said that Victoria’s target to cut greenhouse gas emissions might be reduced. It was also revealed that he owns shares in a company that was given a $50 million government grant.

    Below is the ‘protester management’ map of no-go zones for the public – it’s what the government euphemistically call “Public Safety Zones”. Step inside these red zones and anyone witnessing the VicForests clearfelling of public land can be arrested and charged! No wonder tourism is having such a battle. And this is supposed to be keeping us all ‘safe’ from the 0.1% they tell us they log each year!

    9. Toolangi forests – the green hole in the black donut

    You’da thunk VicForests might have learnt something from the Brown Mountain case. Nup. It’s in court again, this time with another group. Environment group, MyEnvironment, is suing them to stop them logging a stand of known Leadbeaters Possum habitat at Sylvia Creek. The Sylvia Creek case will be heard on Feb 6 at Melbourne’s Supreme Court.

    The Yellowdindi Rd forests in the Central Highlands’ Toolangi area was blockaded for a few days, but logging has now continued. Not surprisingly, the rare Powerful Owl and many gliders were identified in this mature stand of grey gum and mountain ash by volunteers.

    Toolangi forest has recently gained the nickname 'the green hole in the black donut'. It is a comparatively small area of unburnt forest, making it a rare sanctuary for many critically endangered birds and mammals whose populations were severely knocked out by the fires.

    Many of these animals, such as the Leadbeater's Possum and the Sooty and Powerful Owls, need mature forests and tree hollows. Trees 120+ years old are the most valuable but are becoming rare. And with so many old trees destroyed by the fires, Toolangi’s forests provide a much-needed refuge for these species. Logging is the main cause for the grim decline in the hollow-dependent wildlife.

    Locals also fear that more clearfell logging in the area will increase the risk of fires. The huge mess of wood waste left behind is dangerously flammable, and the thick mono-species regeneration is extremely combustible. The mature, multi-storied, damp cool forests are less fire prone.

    News in: VF could be moving in to log on the edge of the Yarra Ranges National Park - the western flanks of Mount St Leonard! These forests contain Leadbeaters monitoring sites. Pretty cheeky and possibly timed it to coincide with the court case!

    10. Tassie forest deal turning to rubble

    Tasmania has been subjected to another logging agreement within the first logging agreement that undoes that agreement … ! How Giddings and Gillardish!

    Last August (2011) a deal was made between the Tassie and Federal governments that 430,000ha of high conservation value forests would be protected (Clauses 25 & 26).

    Now the deal has been rewritten – because Forestry Tasmania has kept logging within this zone – and has thumbed their noses at the deal. So in response, governments have now agreed to allow the destruction of 44 areas being logged, comprising 1,949 ha.

    By the way...

    11. Baillieu’s new top advisor sees red with greens

    Tony Nutt was the Liberal Party’s state secretary prior to election. He orchestrated the ‘put the Greens last’ call. He now has the top job in Baillieu’s office after Michael Kapel’s sudden departure.

    12. Good news - Pulp and paper to fall in 2012

    Business analysts predict that of the five Australian industries that will have the biggest falls in 2012, pulp and paper will be one of them. The big ones on the rise are biotech, online shopping, diamond production, cars and on-line education. Those to fall are listed as iron and steel, public building construction, cotton processing, cut flowers and pulp and paper!

    iPads and eReaders are taking over from printed books plus the price of woodchips should stay high, making paper more expensive and overseas paper imports cheaper.

    13. Forest Campaigner’s job at TWS

    The Wilderness Society is after a Victorian Forest Campaigner. Can you lobby, research, share info, organise events, generate media, analyse state politics, hold conferences and fundraise?

    For more info on this position email, or call The Wilderness Society on 9038 0888.

    14. Our taxes wasted on logging industry payouts

    This one is a ripper if you take a moment to read it.

    Andrew Darby, an Age journo based in Hobart, revealed in early January that the $45 million of our taxes about to be handed to Tasmanian loggers could be money down the drain.

    One exit program of the Howard era was supposed to ease loggers into new jobs or help make the industry slow down and change its ways. But when expensive new equipment was bought with the dosh, it was followed by a more costly exit package for those same logging businesses in the next handout package (to compensate for the value of their new equipment).

    Greens senator Christine Milne is looking into this through a Senate committee. Ernst & Young investigated the $54 million Howard government program. It handed out 108 grants, from $6,000 to $10.5 million, mainly to upgrade and buy new logging gear.

    The federal Auditor-General had Ernst & Young investigate this in 2010.

    Their study said that, in 60 cases, the govt department could not find the loggers income and expenditure statements to support their applications. That means there was no proof that the loggers actually needed our money. In 29 cases, money was handed over before funding deed requirements were met. In 26 cases, either there was no confirmation the claim was for an approved purchase, they were given more money than agreed, or there was no tax invoice on file.

    After that mess, Tasmania’s logging industry again went downhill. Another $17 million of our taxes was then given by the Labor government in another program in late 2010.

    Looking at the two programs, it shows that at least five logging contractors scored up to $410,000 for new logging machines in the first round, then were later given up to $825,000 to leave the Tasmanian industry in 2010-11. They were given huge sums of money to stay, followed by even more to go!

    The list goes on - $175,000 for a mill that was never built, $1.48 million for installing plant and equipment at Wesley Vale that was shut down soon after.

    A fraud investigation into the 2010-11 program was carried out by the Federal Department, but of course didn’t refer any matters to the police. Now the Gillard govt is considering applications for the third, $45 million, tranche of aid to the Tassie loggers!

    Of the 98 applications, about 75% don’t give enough information to make a decent assessment. Senator Milne is demanding a legal process and independent assessments.

    15. Planned burns increase carbon pollution

    Just what we’ve been arguing for ages – just before Xmas, Science Daily did a story on prescribed burns. They suggest that government burns planned to reduce severe fires will in fact release more carbon to the atmosphere than any amount saved if it ever does prevent fires.

    Oregon State University scientists conclude that, even in fire-prone forests, there are high carbon losses from prescribed burns and only modest savings in reducing the severity of fire.

    The researchers found that even a low-severity fire released 70% as much carbon as did a high-severity fire that killed most trees. The majority of carbon emissions come from burnt surface fuels, which occur in any type of fire.

    16. Illegally logged wood – import

    A promise of the Federal Labor government was to stop the importation of illegally-logged timber from other countries. But so far the planned laws look like being a facade.

    The current draft legislation would see people fined or jailed if they import illegally-logged timber. Greenpeace looked at this draft law and believes that declaration forms are so simple they would not trigger any concern from Customs officers. These officers, by the way, are not likely to be trained in identifying possible illegal timbers. These include the usually darker timbers from Malaysia, Indonesia and New Guinea, as well as Vietnam, China and Korea.

    The Australian Timber Importers Federation also wants the words 'knowingly, intentionally and recklessly' inserted; a nice big loophole that would let almost everyone off the hook.

    The Senate committee which investigated this should release its report in February.

    17. Good news for some Tassie forests

    The UK company, International Plywood, made a decision to not buy wood products from Ta Ann Tasmania (Ta Ann is the new Gunns). This was the result of a visit from representatives of Markets for Change and the Huon Valley Environment Centre who showed graphic evidence of Ta Ann's destruction of high conservation value forests in Tasmania.

    18. Ryan Smith’s background

    Previous Occupations - Treasury Officer, North Ltd 1989-1992 (big pulpmill proponents at the time). Currency Dealer, National Australia Bank 1992-94. Treasury Officer, BP Finance 1994-99. Finance Officer, Orica Ltd, Pacific Dunlop 1999-2000. Foreign Exchange Specialist, Suncorp Metway 2000-02. Manager, Institutional Banking Service and Sales, Commonwealth Bank of Australia 2003-06.

    19. Media bias on carbon price and climate stories

    The Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ) released research showing news coverage of the carbon price debate in Rupert Murdoch's News Limited papers had negative stories at 82% and positive stories at 18%.

    Bluescope Steel was quoted 71 times. This was more than the number of times all NGOs and scientists combined.

    The Australian used ‘tax’ in 44% of stories and only ‘price’ in 11%.

    News Limited controls most Australian metropolitan newspapers, and The Australian. But a new News Limited CEO, Kim Williams, has just started. Will they turn over a new leaf?

    20. Aussies

    Roy Morgan’s State of the Nation Report that tracks trends and changes in Australian society was released in December 2011.

    Australians are now saying economic issues (at 33%) are the most important facing Australia, while the environment has seen a recent drop (to 16%).

    Full Details:

    21. The protester! TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2011

    This is a good thing!,28804,2101745_2102132,00.html

    What you can do to help:

    22. Forests Forever 6-9 April 2012

    Book in to this year’s Forests Forever Ecology Camp at Easter. Guided walks into rainforest and old growth areas, forest photography workshop, evening botanical entertainment, legal update, learn, explore, tour, survey and be inspired...

    Contact to book or call Carmen on 5154 0102, or Jill on 5154 0145.

    23. Submit a letter against the pellet factory

    Go back to point 5 above and click on the link to send an email against the pellet factory at the woodchip mill.

    24. The Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) Plan

    If you’re keen to learn more about The Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) Plan you can get along to a discussion group session happening this Monday at Melb Uni.

    6:30- 8pm Monday 6 February 2012,
    Fritz Loewe Theatre (entry via level 2)
    McCoy Building University of Melbourne,
    Cnr Elgin & Swanston Streets, Carlton

    Gold coin donation.

    This month’s topic is about logging, land use and farming, which is responsible for at least 16% of Australia's emissions. The ZCA Plan considers changes to land use practices to minimise emissions. The research has now been going on for around six months. Come along to get an update on the results so far.

    25. Is your favourite species threatened? Nominations due by 22 March

    Threatened species and ecological communities listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 are protected. There is now the opportunity to extend this protection to other species.

    The Federal Government is calling for nominations from the community for new listings of threatened species, ecological communities or key threatening processes. Nominations are invited for listing under national environment law.

    The conservation theme for this assessment period is corridors and connecting habitats (including freshwater habitats). Nominations consistent with this conservation theme are encouraged, but nominations outside the theme will also be considered.

    Koalas and our large gliders could be nominated for example. For more information including how to nominate, see the SEWPAC website.

    26. Upcoming EDO events

    Sustainable Living Festival 17–19 February 2012
    The Environment Defenders Office (EDO) will be presenting a mock trial as part of the Sustainable Living Festival on Saturday 18 February 11am–12.30pm, BMW Edge, Federation Square.

    VCAT Planning & Environment Appeals Workshop – Wednesday 22 February 2012
    The next VCAT Planning & Environment Appeals workshop will be held at the 60L Green Building on Wednesday 22 February 2012, 5.30pm–7.30pm.

    Individuals and community-based conservation groups can learn how to most effectively participate and represent themselves in planning and environment matters before VCAT. This two-hour workshop, presented by an EDO lawyer, gives members of the community practical and legally-focused information about VCAT proceedings and hearings with opportunity for questions and participation. This training is only for those who are objectors on environmental grounds.

    RSVP: EDO Victoria (03) 8341 3100 or For more details and further dates, see the EDO website.

    For other key dates on law reform issues, check out Law Reform key dates section on the Environment Defenders Office website.

               Jill and the team.

                Environment East Gippsland Inc.      FORESTS - our breathing space!