Contributed from Victoria
An investigation by the Australian National University (AMU) has revealed that VicForests, the Victorian government’s logging company, has carried out illegal logging activity. This has been verified by Victoria’s Office of the Conservation Regulator (OCR).
The OCR has decided not take no action over this.
In addition to destroying habitats, excessive logging can ;pose a threat to the quality of drinking water for population centres. Forests act as a natural filter. Melbourne is a case in point. Its water supply is dependent on surrounding forested high country. Logging is therefore a threat to longer term water security.
Logging on slopes greater than 30 degrees in banned in the state, because these steep slopes are the most important filters. Clearly, the enforcement of regulations requires a lot of strengthening. Adequate controls are necessary.
Logging steep slopes such as this one at the Thomson Catchment threatens water security
One example of the allegedly illegal logging has taken place in the Thomson catchment area. It is Melbourne’s most important catchment. Other examples across the state are at the Upper Goulburn
This begs the question, why has the OCR failed to act?
According to the chief regulator Kate Gavens, there has already been an investigation and there were not sufficient grounds to take this further. Experts disagree.
ANU Professor David Lindenmayer, slammed the OCR for being “ as useful as an ash tray on a motorbike, or screen doors on submarines”.
“I think that it’s extraordinary that you could go to a place that is a 35-degree slope and not find a breach,” he said, and added, “the regulator needs to do its job and VicForests needs to obey the law”.
He observed that to be effective, any regulator must be proactive and not wait to act after the damage is done. This requires a body with teeth, something that is obviously missing at present.
According to policy and the powers of the regulator, the authority to act is in place, if there is a risk of harm.
Why isn’t this authority being applied?
Logging laws and their administration arm and the state owned logging company require a thorough investigation at the very least. This must lead to change. Victoria is entitled to a regulatory regime that will genuinely protect our forests.