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Environment East Gippsland Forest Update

Hello fellow forest supporters,

Since last we sent out the updates in early September, there has been a strange mix of happenings. From the forestry side of the CFMEU abandoning their long-held support of native forest logging and woodchipping to Nippon Paper’s share price falling, to the new global threat of electricity furnaces in Europe and Asia devouring the planet’s forests. The Last Stand and Markets for Change have been relentlessly shaming retail outlets which sell forest destruction (see below for this Saturday’s latest Harvey Norman action if you can help). My Environment also won their injunction to halt logging in a small area of the Central Highlands.

This year alone Environment East Gippsland has sent off at least 40 letters to Ministers, VicForests, the EPA, CSIRO, the Federal Government and others. We have requested clarification or/and exposing the dysfunctional management, cover-ups, errors, public misinformation and unquestioned acceptance, excuses and support for VicForests ongoing and financially irresponsible obliteration of public lands. Currently there are nine letters that are overdue for responses. Most of our letters document very clearly, stuff-ups and cover-ups. Most of the responses ignore responding to them, offer generic placations and repeat that everything is legal and hunky dory and if you want more detail come down to Melb and have a friendly meeting. Clearly the government and VicForests are cautious in their responses to Environment East Gippsland. Who knows when we might have them in court again. That’s a good question and I’m sure they’d like to know the answer.

VicForests have still not paid our legal expenses despite it being a court order. We hope to sort out their pathetic shenanigans by the end of the year.
The news in more detail is below.

  1. Harvey Norman actions across the country – this Saturday.
  2. Leadbeaters possum to have its day in court – Feb 6th.
  3. Central Highlands has only 1% old growth remaining.
  4. Nippon’s share price tumbles.
  5. VicForests’ commissions a counter report – then trips on its own lies.
  6. Reflex paper finally stripped of dodgy eco-label.
  7. Logging unions shuns
  8. East Gippy biomass spruiker exposed
  9. Alps grazing ‘trails’ – Baillieu keeps digging downwards.
  10. Logging machinery destroyed in mysterious fire in central Gippsland.
  11. Local councils jack-up over road damage by trucks.
  12. Another year – another dead loss for VicForests.
  13. New dolphin species discovered in the Gippsland Lakes.
  14. World Banks Forest Advisor – forests more valuable than as logs.
  15. Quolls get a reprieve – Feds step in on poison bait plans.
  16. Kmart caught selling rainforest destruction
  17. Blitz burn fire management gets a rewrite – have your say
  18. Forest photography exhibition – SE Australia’s best.
  19. World logging takes new direction – from paper to power supply.

1. Global 24 hours of No Harvey No! action this Saturday morning

Across the globe and nationally, 24 hours of community action on Harvey Norman’s stores selling Aussie forest destruction, starts this Saturday morning, 10am, 8th October. Nation-wide and internationally At over 30 stores, Community members are planning actions at Harvey Norman stores in Australia, New Zealand, Slovenia and Ireland, and at iconic landmarks internationally, including two spectacular actions in inner-city Sydney and Melbourne. Over 30 actions have been confirmed in 13 countries, and many more are expected to be confirmed.

For more information go to

2. Leadbeaters Possum in Court

Central Highland’s based conservation group MyEnvironment has successfully obtained a court injunction to stop logging in three forest coupes near Toolangi because they believe the stands of forest are home to the endangered Leadbeaters possum. The case will be heard 6th February 2012. Stay up to date with the issue here

3. Highly endangered old growth total 1% - still being clearfelled in the Central Highlands

Before our forebears arrived with axes and chainsaws, the old growth forest full of 90mt tall giants covered 80% of the Central Highlands (north-east of Healesville). Now only 1% survives.

The old-growth is almost gone and on the verge of being unrecoverable. One more bush fire could send it the way of the Thylacine, and the regenerating logged forest and regrowing burnt forest less than 20-30 years old would be turned into wattle scrub, killing off the seeding potential of the immature eucalypts.

In research published in US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, David Lindenmayer, from Australian National University said the forest is one of the saddest things he’s ever seen in 30 years of ecological science. “What we are seeing is a truly iconic forest evaporating before our eyes and it will never be the same again''.

''If it collapses into acacia scrub, it is impossible to get out again. It really is a catastrophe in the true sense of the word.'' Losing the tall Mountain Ash forests has a huge impact on wildlife (40 species of wildlife in the CH rely on tree hollows), water supply for Melbourne's catchments and carbon dioxide emissions.

A 2009 paper found the central highlands' forest was the most carbon-dense in the world.

    The Age 12/9/11

Read more:

4. Nippon Paper’s share price

Nippon is a large Japan based paper company and its Australian assets (like its Eden export woodchip mill) are only a small part of it, but it’s been suffering a downward trend for years now. However, as the company’s share prices are dropping and the number of trucks delivering loads is dropping, the volumes of woodchips it processed last financial year is still over 1 million tonnes. We wonder if this year will be its turning point – if we count on it not finding other reasons to cut and burn forest.

5. VicForests trips up on its own lies

  1.     Plantations can provide all the timber currently supplied by the native forest industries expect a tiny 2% for high value uses.

  2.     Around 80% of Victoria’s forests were being used to woodchip for pulp and paper or exporting to overseas paper companies. Another 18% was used for cheap commodity products that can easily be replaced with plantation wood. (The Wilderness Society)
VicForests commissioned their own report in response to another written by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research. The NIEIR report showed that the logging industry could be almost 100% plantation based within 5 years and ... get out of native forests. VicForests and Australian Paper considered this blasphemy, so together they commissioned Pöyry Consulting Group (who work for the world’s logging industry) to bung out a report that argues the opposite.

The report said plantation wood wasn’t high enough quality. What? For woodchips?! What they meant to say but didn’t, is that it wasn’t cheap enough. They admitted that plantation wood was not economic to shift around the state rather than there wasn’t enough of it. However, there seems to be no impediment to transporting logs long distances when it comes from native forests, or is being sent to Japan or China. Why? Because you and I, via an industry-complicit government, are paying to subsidise forest destruction. Rather than pay $5 a tonne for woodchip logs from our forests, the industry would need to pay a plantation grower the commercial price of at least $30 a tonne. If VicForests put a realistic commercial price on our forests, that covered all road damage, forest repair and regeneration, management, use of water and so on, the price would then be comparable to plantation grown wood. But currently it’s you and I and the environment that pays these costs.

Of course the report raised that old furphy: ‘if we don’t burn and pillage our forests, we’ll have to buy from overseas countries that burn and pillage their forests.’

It’s strange how that report received more media coverage than the initial NIEIR report.
Another reason for the media enquiry.

6. Five year battle strips eco-label off Reflex Paper

After a 5 year battle to highlight the corrupt nature of eco-certification of Reflex paper in particular and various logging interests in general, Australian Paper (AP) at Maryvale lost its Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) eco-tick (called by the cynical ‘FSC light’) for Reflex paper. And who supplies AP? VicForests does. This means VicForests’ claim that their woodchip logs are cut from sustainably clearfelled and burnt native forests has been shown to be a big fat porky.

Rainforest Alliance was the certifying body that assessed timber and paper companies wanting to display a green tick. It has recently been stripped of its right to assess and certify companies to use the international FSC logo. The FSC Chain of Custody in Australia is the ‘light’ version of a full certification label. And under the Rainforest Alliance (sounds green doesn’t it) auditing system, it seemed to be riddled with corruption and corner cutting; very convenient for the likes of Australian Paper, Hancocks and Gunns.

However, not all is fixed. The practices of Hancock Victoria Plantations (South Gippsland) remain FSC certified. HVP are still clearfelling High Conservation Value forests. The concern over HVP's practices goes way back before the AP complaint. The FSC in Australia will never be able to confidently claim "well managed forests" until the HVP issue is resolved.

7. Logging Union shuns logging group

Remember when Michael O’Connor of the loggers union stood up and shook hands with John Howard before the 2004 Federal election, supporting the Coalition’s ‘leave no tree standing’ forest policy? The Forestry section of the CFMEU is now distancing itself from the logging industry and its shysters, like its self-certification body that gives itself an environmental top mark for sensitive forest destruction. This is called the Australian Forest Standard certification label, but most people don’t realise it’s a con.

One of the CFMEU’s reps on that AFS board has resigned and sent a scathing letter to its head. He said if he stayed on it would wreck his ‘professional reputation’. He said the AFS needs to be overhauled.

The CFMEU is also stepping away from the industry and seems to be instead looking at a new future for their workers in the plantation industry.
Interesting times.

    The Age 13/9/11

8. Tree looter turns up as biomass spruiker

People might have read the article in the Age on the 27th Sept. Unfortunately it only made it to the Business pages. But by golly it did a great job of publicly exposing our leading ‘underworld figure’ of the logging industry in East Gippsland, Garry Squires. And that was only a tiny sample of his deeds over the years. It started:

A government consultant closely involved with a controversial firebreak project that was investigated over the alleged theft of $1 million of timber from public land has emerged as a key figure pushing the Baillieu government to burn tens of thousands of tonnes of native forests to generate power.

That was former manager of the Gippsland Department of Sustainability and Environment Garry Squires. Now he’s a private logging consultant and secretary of the Orbost Chamber of Commerce (which he claims is supporting a biomass burner).

He says he’s pushing this electricity furnace for the good of the town. Jobs and all that y’know.

But let’s look back to 2003. Under the cover of the bushfire mayhem, smoke and panic, Squires, at the time the CEO of the biggest logging company in East Gippsland was commissioned to oversee a 42km back burn line which became an illegal lineal illegal logging coupe – almost as wide as 60mts in places (back burn lines only need to be two bulldozer widths wide). It was investigated by the DSE and the Auditor-General which showed valuable trees were cut down and stolen from the Snowy National Park and disappeared into local sawmills.

He was given the job of managing a team of bulldozers and fallers along the Snowy National Park while also overseeing a logging company. The conflict of interest and the abuse of this position were bleedingly obvious.

So we have to ask who is he working for now? It’s pretty damned clear there’s another conflict of interest happening here.

Add to this the fact that VicForests is struggling to find buyers for its logs, so has turned its attention to the latest trend to burn forests for ‘renewable energy’. If not via a local biomass furnace, it’d be for exporting to other countries to burn. VicForests revealed this in the annual report it tabled in September.

VicForests said their proposal to cut down, sell and burn public forests is a commercial-in-confidence document that was “developed with one of our potential customers''.

Squires said a power plant would use at least 50,000 tonnes of wood a year and “After that you can just go as big as you like, depending on how much you want to produce.''

9. National Parks staff warned govt to keep beef out

This Age story was as a result of the Gippsland Environment Group FOI’ing govt documents.

Parks Victoria warned the government that scientific, economic and social evidence did not support alpine grazing before the Baillieu government sent the cows in last Summer – a matter of days after Baillieu’s government was sworn in.

FOI’s documents show Parks Victoria gave adamant advice to the Department of Sustainability and Environment last December. But the cows were inside the Park in January.

In March, Canberra ordered cattle from the park as the ‘trial’ needed approval under Federal laws. In July, a senior adviser to the environment minister with the help of the Nationals, had hatched another plan to bypass federal laws. In August the federal government was looking at new powers to oversee national parks to checkmate Baillieu’s strategists and beef farmers.

Parks Victoria also suggested that if the government really wanted to test alpine grazing's effects on fire, there were options closer to settlements with more build-up of fire-prone material. Most of these sites were ignored in favour of traditional lush grazing in remote areas.

    The Age 12/9/11

10. Logging excavator destroyed by fire near Yarragon

A logging excavator was destroyed by fire at Shady Creek north of Yarragon in high winds in mid September. CFA investigators were looking at the cause of the blaze, which could have been a fault in the machine, an escaped burn off or who knows what else. The fire burnt windrowed dead trees in a logged forests. There were 12 fire tankers that took about 4 hours to bring it all under control.
    The Age 20/9/11

11. Local governments sick of paying for road damage

The Municipal Association of Victoria has asked the state govt to put more money into road and bridge repair costs than they currently do. The MAV wants local governments to have a greater say in activities of the heavy road users like mining and logging. They are responsible for much damage to roads and bridges but are exempt from rates under state law.
    ABC News 20/9/11

12. Another year – another dead loss

VicForests annual report is now available for those wanting to know the nitty gritty grimy dirty operations of VicForests – and that’s after they’ve sanitised it!

For the fourth year running no dividend was paid. The state of Victoria and tax payers not only missed out on getting any return for having our environment butchered and laid waste, but we also handed them a grant of nearly $6m to bludgeon the fire damaged forests that were trying to recover.

With this massive handout they could smugly claim a profit of $2.3m.

There is so much that this report leaves out or covers up it would take the day to read about. So we’ll just let you know the outcome of our follow ups when we have them.

13. New dolphin species discovered in Gippy Lakes

This just shows how easy it is to not see the obvious.

Dolphin colonies in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes have recently been formally recognised as a new species. The Burrunan dolphin or Tursiops australis, is thought to number about 150, but more research is needed. They differ from the other bottle-nosed dolphins of the area in skull shape, size, and colour.

Read more:

    AAP 15/9/11

14. Let’s quote this wherever we can:

"I will go out on a limb here and suggest that the conservation, recreation and carbon values of the Australian natural forest resource are worth more than its log value on net present value terms. Sustainable forest management projects should be evaluated with full incorporation of the resultant loss of non wood values; the formula should not be based merely on a technical estimate of maintaining log volume increment over the stand".

Who said this? It was Australian Jim Douglas, who spent the last eight years as the World Bank's Forests Adviser in Washington, writing a guest editorial in the latest "Australian Forestry" magazine. I’ll bet the editors choked as they had to print and distribute that issue recently.

15. Some good news for the surviving Victorian quolls

The National party-controlled Baillieu govt is still planning to broadcast aerial poison baits from planes to kill wild dogs next Autumn – right over the top of the last stronghold for Spot tailed Quolls. After letters were sent to the Feds early this year, the state is now obliged to run the poisoning plan past the Federal Dept of Environment who’ll determine if it would impact on a nationally listed endangered animal under the EPBC Act. We don’t think that even the DSE spin-doctors and bullshit generators could claim such a plan wouldn’t impact on the last viable population of quolls in Victoria.

16. Kmart caught out selling rainforest in envelopes.

Laboratory tests found that Kmart’s envelopes contain rainforest pulp from Indonesia. Kmart said they were ‘surprised’ and will take the matter extremely seriously. Indonesia's Forestry Ministry is joining Australia’s logging industries to counter environmental concerns and campaigns.

Recently formed forest campaign group Markets for Change (MFC) commissioned a US lab to analyse various papers. MFC’s previous analysis has seen Officeworks and IGA stores stop buying supplies from some of the worst logging and pulp giants such as Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL) and Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).
    The Age 26/9/11

17. Code of Practice for Fire Management review

The Code of Practice for Fire Management on Public Land is currently being reviewed and will replace the current (2006) version, taking into account the Bushfire Royal Commissions recommendations.

A draft of the revised code is available here:
If you have anything to tell them, public consultation will run until early December.

18. Australia’s SE Forests: A photography exhibition

19. World’s forests – from paper to power supply

The threat of turning forests into furnace fodder for electricity isn’t going away. The emerging new market for selling biomass pellets as fuel for power generation is Korea. So says a well-know global logging consultancy group Pöyry Management Consulting Inc. It also believes Europe is an upcoming market and also Japan is now looking for alternatives to nuclear. The US is already on the wood pellets bandwagon and set to ship its forests as biomass pellets to Europe’s electricity generation furnaces.

Currently, Malaysia, Canada and Chile are supplying biomass pellets to Korea, and demand is expected to grow rapidly.

This information came from a US biomass conference in early September that was organized by the newly-formed U.S. Industrial Pellet Association. It’s geared toward upping the sale of wood pellets for burning right across the globe and shifting the world’s forest to the world’s electricity furnaces while raking in more profits to influence (buy?) world governments to clear the path for this ‘emerging market’.

           Jill and the team.

            Environment East Gippsland Inc      FORESTS - our breathing space!