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Alarming discovery by citizen scientists sparks concerns illegal logging will continue

Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH), Victorian Forest Alliance (VFA) and Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) Media Release

Citizen scientists from Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) and the Victorian Forest Alliance (VFA) have discovered state-owned logging company VicForests has continued to illegally destroy numerous endangered Tree Geebungs while doing ‘regeneration’ works. The area is within the Immediate Protection Areas announced by the Daniel Andrews government back in 2019. One tree knocked over is estimated to be hundreds of years old.

The groups have reported the illegal logging of the endangered plant, calling for VicForests to be charged for violating state environment laws. The Environment Department’s regulator has responded saying they don’t have the power to act on the breach because the protection areas haven’t been formalised.

“State-owned VicForests have once again been caught red-handed. The agency repeatedly flouts the law, while the regulator does nothing to stop them. Despite the government’s plan to bring an earlier end to native forest logging, we hold grave concerns for forests and endangered species like the Tree Geebung, that are still under threat from VicForests destructive logging. VicForests needs to be wound up,” said Chris Schuringa, Victorian Forest Alliance Campaign Coordinator.

While the government has said they are phasing out native forest logging on Jan 1, they have not made a decision about the future of failed state-owned logging agency VicForests.

Tree Geebung (Persoonia arborea) is a mid-story tree found only in the tall wet forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands. Research shows trees over 20 cm in diameter can be hundreds of years old[1]. On 26 October 2022, Warburton Environment Inc. won a landmark Supreme Court case against VicForests over the agency’s failure to protect Tree Geebung from logging. In his judgement, Hon. Justice Garde stated;

“…no attempt was made by VicForests to show that it was not reasonably practicable to protect the significant number of Tree Geebungs… Given the evidence as to the past harvesting and burning practices of VicForests, it is highly likely that significant numbers of mature Tree Geebungs have been lost in the Central Highlands in the past through harvesting and regeneration burning. The precise extent of the loss will never be known, but on the basis of recent records it is likely to amount to many hundreds or even thousands of mature trees.”

“Citizen scientists and volunteer groups have been shouldering the responsibility of finding and reporting countless breaches of the laws for years. Yet the state government recently brought in laws to further criminalise citizen scientists and peaceful protestors, who now face thousands of dollars worth of fines and potential jail time, instead of cracking down on rampant illegal logging,” said Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) President Hayley Forster.

“The government must enact proper protections for forests, particularly after Jan 1 when logging is slated to end. Logging has had terrible impacts on forests over the last 50 years, and there’s a lot of important ecological restoration work that needs to be done. But VicForests have shown that it cannot be trusted in that role,” said Hayley Forster.

“These areas were promised to have been protected since 2019, but the government has been slow to formalise, now threatened species are being smashed up in the name of restoration. The forests need real restoration, not further destruction,” said VNPA Executive Director, Matt Ruchel.

“The community has lost faith in VicForests and they need to go sooner rather than later,” said VNPA Executive Director, Matt Ruchel.


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  1. Williambtm

    The truth is that the logging of State Forests in each State of Australia has been little other than State Premiers showing their reckless indifference toward any environmental conservation concerns being sought by the people in their respective State.
    The objective of the knuckle-brained logging fraternity was to grab whatever could be converted to money, their attitude.
    Ahh, it’ll grow back by itself in the fullness of time.
    But no it will not, the former forested areas with its resultant debris are set on fire to become little more than ground zero.

    Vicforests had engaged in the illegal logging of the heritage listed Brown Mountain in the region of Gippsland, it meant nothing to the Vicforest loggers having been permitted by past and present Victorian Premiers to wipe out the last of the Gondwana-era forests. No State government really gives a damn about their State’s forests as it creates unbudgeted revenues to piss up the wall.
    Gondwana era forests being logged in the State of Victoria. his same reckless indifference occurs in State of Tasmania, the logging of this State’s “old growth crown-land forests” continues unrelenting, whichever party be it Liberal or Labor, is elected to govern for the best interests of Tasmania’s people.
    That just does not happen.
    What a joke this has become, when whichever political party is elected into office, neither party gives a damn schitt about the concerns of Tasmania’s people or about our forests.

    New anti-protest statutes had been legislated in this State to halt the caring protesters trying to prevent this State’s logging destruction… nowadays these people arrested by the uncaring State’s police, they prefer the worthy citizens being carted away to be locked up in the slammer for caring about this State’s forested environment.

    Nowadays, no State government in Australia can be trusted.

  2. Clakka

    Thanks for the article.

    Without doubt, there are very many causes for reform of ecologically depletive policies and laws across the country, and protest is a valid way of bringing the issues to public attention. It is excellent that the forest logging protests over a very long time appear to have been at last successful, however, in other less-specific issues, some forms of protest have had a tendency to alienate the broader community from protestors – not the way to go.

    Those ‘scattergun’ protests seem to have given rise to the recent draconian anti protest / freedom of assembly laws that affect all / any in-public protest. It is questionable whether the broader public has much enduring interest in those ‘protest heroes’ languishing in jail. More than ever now, it is important that protest be strategic, pointed and solutions-driven to bring the broader public alongside to affect change.

  3. leefe


    Unless people are directly affected by protests, they don’t notice and don’t care.
    This has nothhing too do with the methods used by protesters, and everything to do with governments becoming more autocratic in eliminating dissent to development and environmental damage.

  4. Clakka


    Thanks Leefe for you opinion directed at me.

    I am well aware of the notions of ‘governments becoming more autocratic’, although, I may ask, “Compared to what?”. And note the abounding existential fear, faced not only by the broader populace brought about by many factors including access to science, and other information and misinformation and various opinions and agendas via social media, mainstream media, and the internet, but also the fear felt by the politicians elected to ‘look after us’. It’s all part of the massive change rapidly occurring in our consciousness and our environment, reasonably dubbed the ‘Great Acceleration’ in the ‘Anthropocene’. This is not the first time in history civilisations have faced existential crisis, and have either acted or perished. That said, there appear always to be those that don’t want change, those that will fight change, those that don’t understand change, and those that want change to occur faster, and those that appear not to care. And of course much has to do with dreams, nightmares, the ‘hip pocket nerve’, notions of paradise and hell, and mortality etc.

    I am well aware of the nuances, and pros and cons of protest, and have not stated I am carte blanche against it. To the contrary I have said it is “is a valid way of bringing the issues to public attention.” And sadly I note that the mainstream media (and often academia) beholden to corporate / political strangulation, has much to answer for in their failure to maintain ethical objectivity, reportage and opinion on behalf of the entire diversity of our populace, but I guess that too is nothing new.

    Bearing in mind that many exist in a soup of belief, faith, instinct or a chemically affected oblivion, rather than the reductive epistemology of science, in Oz, it matters not, all are granted suffrage. As such, I believe the methods used by protesters is very relevant and might entertain strategies so as not to alienate the many, but bring them to support and affect change.

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