VicForests response to recent media reports on its 2019 FSC® audit report results
12 October 2020
VicForests is aware of recent media reporting regarding our 2019 FSC® audit report results.
We note that our audit against the FSC® Controlled Wood Standard has found significant and large-scale improvements which help demonstrate VicForests' commitment to achieving conformance to the Standard.
Such changes include our shift to smaller harvesting coupe sizes and improved high conservation value management comprising of a new habitat tree assessment and retention strategy.
The audit team also unanimously commended the following behaviours:
VicForests staff and contractors demonstrated consistent commitment to positive change and supporting new approaches in efforts to achieve FSC certification. This support of innovation and changing practices was found throughout all levels of the organization.
Notwithstanding some further refinements that were identified, stakeholder engagement was assessed to be greatly improved compared to prior audits.
VicForests staff maintained high levels of professional behaviour during the audit despite very stressful circumstances (SCS Global Services Report 2019, p.39).
Against this backdrop, VicForests was found to have complied with the vast majority of the 44 applicable criteria used to assess compliance against the Standard.
In relation to claims made in the media regarding old growth forests, VicForests has worked with the Office of the Conservation Regulator to develop, test, and implement a new Old Growth Regulatory Guide and Old Growth Assessment Tool. This included extensive stakeholder engagement including input from DELWP’s Scientific Advisory Committee to develop a clear framework. This approach is now being applied to all coupes as part of pre-harvest assessment processes.
This is in addition to VicForests already implementing corrective measures for the non-conformances raised in the audit report as these findings were based on outdated harvesting methods.
VicForests maintains its commitment to achieving the FSC® Controlled Wood Standard at an appropriate time.
VicForests update on FSC® Controlled Wood Standard
7 October 2020
Pursuant with our announcement in August, VicForests has today released the FSC® Controlled Wood Standard audit report developed on the basis of fieldwork conducted in November 2019.
Although this work was unable to be completed due to the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19), remaining challenges arising from last summer’s bushfires and ongoing legal issues, feedback from the auditors has been incorporated into our ongoing improvement processes.
VicForests remains committed to pursuing the FSC® Controlled Wood Standard certification process at an appropriate time.
Seed funding to grow more timber and Gippsland jobs
2 October 2020
Victoria’s forestry transition will be boosted with the creation of a new VicForests nursery at Nowa Nowa in east Gippsland, helping both local forests and economies recover from the devastating 2019/20 Victorian Bushfires.
Establishment of the $10 million Victorian Forest Nursery will increase the eucalypt seedling supply chain and create up to new 30 jobs, most of which will be ongoing.
Production of eucalypt seedlings will support forestry coupe regeneration, bushfire recovery replanting and Gippsland plantations and farm forestry programs in the coming years.
VicForests will move quickly to lodge an appeal now the Federal Court has finalised its Orders relating to the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum case.
The orders made by the Court make it clear that the decision relates only to the small number of forest areas that were the subject of the proceeding. It was based on areas harvested between 2014 and early 2019.
VicForests has now moved to a fundamentally different approach to harvesting that provides even greater protection for threatened species. This is in addition to the government setting aside extensive areas for biodiversity protection at the end of 2019, including 96,000 ha set aside last November as part of its Victorian Forestry plan.
All timber harvesting and regeneration operations have and will continue to be conducted in accordance with Victoria’s strict environmental regulations and the State’s Forest Management Zoning scheme. VicForests’ operations are scrutinised by the Office of the Conservation Regulator and its strict regulatory guidelines ensure the protection of threatened flora and fauna.
VicForests’ postponement of FSC® Controlled Wood Standard
12 August 2020
VicForests has decided to postpone achieving the FSC® Controlled Wood Standard by the end of 2020.
This decision is based off multiple restrictions impeding completing the assessment, including:
COVID-19 restrictions on international auditors which impacted their ability to complete their in-field coupe assessments to satisfy the fieldwork component of the assessment.
remaining challenges arising from last summer’s bushfires.
the legal issues regarding VicForests’ upcoming appeal against the Federal Court decision.
concerns VicForests will not receive a fair assessment owing to FSC® Australia governance; this includes three directors of FSC® Australia who are leading public activism and advocacy, calling for the complete cessation of native forestry and actively seeking to discredit VicForests.
VicForests remains committed to demonstrating conformance to international standards for forest management certification.
This includes focusing our efforts on consolidating the significant changes that we have made by introducing and implementing adaptive harvest and regeneration management systems and ensuring there is a clear alignment with the current and emerging forest management frameworks.
VicForests’ Timber Release Plan Approved
27 July 2020
VicForests has today released the amended Timber Release Plan (TRP) following the completion of its consultation period.
The gazetted plans provide industry with certainty, and helps communities to understand where timber harvesting may take place. The amendment to the TRP includes an additional 59 new coupes in the Benalla-Mansfield, North-East and Tambo Forest Management Areas.
In accordance with the requirements of the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004, VicForests’ Board approved the change to the Timber Release Plan and the notice of that change was published in the Victoria Government Gazette S373 on 27 July 2020.
VicForests harvests under strict regulation, controlled by the Government’s Code of Practice and Management Standards and Procedures.
To view the schedule of the approved timber harvesting areas and location maps available on the VicForests website, click here.
VicForests' response to Wilderness Society's false and misleading "industry alert"
20 July 2020
We are aware that the Wilderness Society sent an “industry alert” to timber industry stakeholders on 10 July 2020. This document sets out several alleged “high risks of illegality” regarding Victorian supply chains which are false and incorrect.
VicForests can state categorically that it complies with the legislative and regulatory regime for timber harvesting in Victoria. Reports to the contrary are incorrect and misleading and VicForests welcomes the opportunity to work with processors to undertake due diligence in accordance with the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act and applicable regulations, prior to processing timber supplied by VicForests.
Please use the below link to read the alert that VicForests sent to industry stakeholders in order to help correct several erroneous statements made by the Wilderness Society.”
Extension to invitation to comment on VicForests’ proposed changes to VicForests’ Timber Release Plan
14 July 2020
VicForests has extended its feedback period on the proposed changes to its Timber Release Plan (TRP). This follows some difficulties experienced by stakeholders opening web links to online information.
The public consultation period has been extended until 5pm Tuesday 21 July 2020 to enable comment on the proposed TRP change by affected and interested parties and stakeholders.
The amendment to the TRP proposes an additional 59 new coupes in the Benalla-Mansfield, North-East and Tambo Forest Management Areas. Feedback on these changes and the new format of the TRP is sought in accordance with the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 and will be considered prior to the reviewed TRP being submitted to the VicForests Board for approval.
A schedule of the proposed TRP change, including an interactive map, is available here.
Format change to the VicForests Timber Release Plan
6 July 2020
VicForests has made format changes to the VicForests Timber Release Plan (TRP). There are no additions, deletions or alterations to coupes, nor changes to the spatial information relating to the last approved TRP change in December 2019 and continue to be available on VicForests’ website.
The reason for this format change is to align the content and information contained within the Timber Release Plan with section 38 of the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 (SFTA).
Call for input on proposed Timber Release Plan changes
29 June 2020
VicForests has commenced public consultation on proposed changes to its Timber Release Plan in response to the 2019/20 bushfire season.
The proposed TRP covers 59 coupes that VicForests is considering harvesting under strict controls in the Benalla-Mansfield, North-East and Tambo Forest Management Areas (FMAs), excluding the East Gippsland FMA.
VicForests is conducting its public consultation process until 10 July 2020 to ensure suitable input and comment from interested parties, including the community.
VicForests Paper: Response to IUCN Listing of Mountain Ash
10 June 2020
The Mountain Ash forest ecosystem in the Central Highlands of Victoria is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Ecosystems and is categorised as critically endangered. This listing is based on an ecological assessment conducted in 2014.
Since that study was published, VicForests has introduced and implemented a range of changes to its forest management systems to improve the protection of high conservation values. This paper responds to the listing and the assessment, and outlines VicForests’ current approach to harvesting.
VicForests acknowledges today’s decision of the Federal Court and will carefully consider the implications on its harvesting program.
We note that extensive areas for biodiversity protection have been set aside at the end of 2019 for protection, including 96,000ha set aside last November when the Government developed its Victorian Forestry plan. In addition, a new Greater Glider Action Statement is in place under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and is being fully implemented by VicForests.
VicForests harvests 2500-3000 hectares each year, about 0.04%, of the entire public native forests in Victoria – nominally equivalent to 4 trees in the 10,000. About 94% of Victorian native forests are in protected areas that cannot be harvested or are unsuitable.
VicForests on Bushfire Recovery Timber Harvesting
28 April 2020
The 2019-20 bushfires affected 1.6 million hectares across Victoria, mostly in the East Gippsland and the North East areas.
VicForests has developed a bushfire recovery timber harvesting program and sustainably harvest a very small part of burnt areas.
This allows VicForests to harvest severely fire-affected timber before it becomes unsuitable for processing by our customers.
VicForests will harvest up to 3,500 hectares over several years in areas already allocated to it for harvesting in the fire-affected 1.6 million hectares – equivalent to 2-3 trees out of 1000.
Bushfire recovery timber harvesting documents are available here.
VicForests accepts Forest Stewardship Council's advice that it is not currently eligible for membership
16 April 2020
The Forest Stewardship Council of Australia recently advised VicForests that it cannot currently be a member until it is FSC certified.
The Council has stated that it will welcome an application from VicForests when it could satisfy the current membership requirement and has strongly urged VicForests to continue its pursuit of the Controlled Wood Standard.
The Council’s advice does not affect our commitment to achieving the FSC’s Controlled Wood Standard and has not been influenced by the current continuing audit process.
The Controlled Wood Standard is considered by VicForests to be an important step in achieving full forest certification through FSC.
We will consider the FSC's invitation to seek membership if we become eligible.
VicForests is already certified by the Responsible Wood Standard which is the largest such system in the world, and it has maintained this status since 2007.
For more information on VicForests certification and compliance processes, please click the below link.
Newspaper gets it wrong: VicForests strongly rejects 'illegal logging' claim
20 March 2020
A story in Melbourne's The Age newspaper this week that "Victoria's state-owned logging company doesn't comply with Australian requirements designed to stop illegal logging ..." has been roundly denounced in this article from Timber and Forestry News.
VicForests is assessing today’s Supreme Court decision. We will consider the outcome of the proceedings and make further comment in due course.
VicForests reiterates its Zero Harm Hazard Alert
13 February 2020
There have been increasing incidents of forest protestors entering coupes without prior authorisation and notice, and encroaching on areas where mechanical harvesters are felling trees.
VicForests would like to reiterate that active coupes are dangerous environments – posing a significant risk of serious injury or death, and that these incursions also create an unacceptable workplace risk to machine operators.
VicForests asks for all protestors to adhere to Timber Harvesting Safety Zones and, in the strongest possible terms, urges anyone entering an active coupe to notify safety officers at the coupe landing.
The ABC has corrected its report on 19 December 2019 claiming that VicForests had illegally harvested outside its Allocations Order.
The ABC amended the article and stated: “Editor’s note: This story has been edited to clarify that no formal finding of illegality has been made.”
VicForests had complained to the ABC about the article after it was published.
VicForests made its complaint after a similar earlier incident in a 2018 story, in which the ABC also incorrectly claimed VicForests had harvested illegally.
On that occasion, the Audience and Consumer Affairs Investigations Manager said the ABC accepted that the relevant online story: “stated incorrectly that ‘An ABC investigation recently found VicForests had illegally logged some areas because it was operating outside of its allocation’.” This claim was corrected some months after the complaint.
VicForests has submitted to the ABC that it has not upheld its own Editorial Standards 2.1 and 2.2:
2.1 Make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context.
2.2 Do no present factual content in a way that will materially mislead the audience. In some cases, this may require appropriate labels or other explanatory information.
VicForests reiterates that it is confident that all its current harvesting operations are consistent with the Allocation Order and that it takes its responsibility to harvest native timber seriously.
VicForests’ CEO Monique Dawson has committed to the continued support of 10 contractors and 90 workers who have been impacted by a force majeure notice because fires have meant timber supply cannot be guaranteed in the foreseeable future from East Gippsland.
VicForests response to The Age article 'While Victoria's forests burnt, logging continued'
17 January 2020
VicForests has not conducted any timber harvesting operations in East Gippsland since 20 December 2019.
All available VicForests foresters, planners and harvest crews, are involved in, and in many cases leading, local fire response. This includes direct firefighting, firebreak works and managing emergency road clearance.
VicForests is balancing its significant contribution to the fire response with the need to ensure sufficient timber supply to avoid processor shutdowns as this would deepen the impact on towns already affected by the fires.
VicForests operates in accordance with Forests (Fire Protection) Regulations and procedures that are more rigorous that Total Fire Ban restrictions.
Around 20% of the timber felled through harvesting is left as biomass to support forest regeneration.
VicForests responds to Victorian fires
7 January 2020
VicForests staff and contractors are supporting the fire response and state-wide recovery efforts currently underway across the east and north-east parts of Victoria.
VicForests response to the ABC regarding a news item making inaccurate allegations about our harvesting activity
19 December 2019
The following comments from VicForests CEO Monique Dawson were provided to the ABC:
“It is normal for the TRP to include some coupes or areas outside the Allocation Order. VicForests cannot harvest these areas without prior special approval from the regulator.
Typically, areas beyond the AO include road accesses, regenerating coupes from previous TRPs, and sometimes a part of a coupe whose boundary follows natural features that fall outside of the AO.
VicForests does not harvest without appropriate approvals, and when an area is recognised to be outside the Allocation Order we have always sought and received required permissions from the regulator or the Minister before harvesting.
The ABC claims have focused on a coupe called Squirrel’s Paw.
The current, more detailed, Allocation Order 2019 has clarified and confirmed that Squirrel’s Paw is within the harvesting area. This is consistent with VicForests’ view that Squirrel’s Paw was within the harvestable area when it was harvested.
VicForests is confident all its current harvesting operations are consistent with the Allocation Order.”
VicForests has today released the Timber Release Plan (TRP) amendment following the Victorian Government’s release of the Allocation Order.
VicForests Chief Executive Officer Nathan Trushell said the TRP provides detail on which coupes will potentially be harvested - subject to forest protection surveys, operational assessment and stakeholder consultation.
VicForests Celebrates Victorian Forests on World Forest Day
21 March 2019
Victorian forests are vital for the economic, social and environmental future of our state. They support thousands of jobs across Victoria in the native timber, processing and manufacturing industries, provide beautiful locally grown and sourced materials for buildings and furniture and are a vital ecosystem protecting and fostering local biodiversity.
This World Forests Day, VicForests acknowledges and celebrates the important role of forests in our society.
VicForests continues to provide important education and community support activities across Victoria, highlighting Victorian forests' contribution and their place as the ultimate renewable resource.
There is 7.1 million hectares of public forests across Victoria with 94 per cent protected in parks, reserves or unsuitable for native timber harvesting.
VicForests is a state-owned business that takes a science-based approach to harvesting timber, undertaking this task on a sustainable cycle, allowing regrowth of 50 to 100 years, and operating under rigorous Government regulation and independent scrutiny.
VicForests has announced its successful 3-year re-certification under the Responsible Wood standard.
An audit was conducted across the business in December 2018 and recommended VicForests re-certification highlighting its thorough workplace and contractor safety standards, contractor management and continued contribution to research.
The Responsible Wood standard is endorsed by the international Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) – the largest such system in the world which covers more than 300 million hectares of forest, has 49 national members and equates to around two-thirds of the world's total certified forest area.
VicForests is supporting Patchwork Collections Yarra Valley Inc. with a $2000 contribution toward the purchase of backing fabric, wadding and threads.
The grant, delivered under VicForests’ Community Support Program, ensures Patchwork Collections Yarra Valley can continue their vital work providing quilts to those in need.
Since 2010, Patchwork Collections Yarra Valley has provided hand-made quilts, free of charge, to local community members impacted by hardship, illness and given to very sick children at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Deloitte Access Economics Study Provides Insight into Economic Impact of Native Timber Industry
30 November 2018
VicForests, today, released a study by Deloitte Access Economics showing the economic impact of native forestry in Victoria.
Commissioned by VicForests, The Economic Impact of VicForests on the Victorian Community found the native timber industry generates significant revenues and supports thousands of jobs across regional Victoria.
The study found VicForests, its customers and contractors generated $770 million in revenue during 2015/16 and supported over 2500 jobs, many which are in regional areas.
VicForests Response to ABC Claims of Illegal Harvesting
21 November 2018
VicForests refutes claims made by ABC regarding illegal harvesting.
The ABC have based their story on a narrow interpretation of the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004. Under the Act, VicForests must comply with the terms and information described in the Allocation Order as gazetted.
VicForests is confident its operations are consistent with the Allocation Order including the forest zoning scheme.
VicForests, today, released the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) audit report (May 2018) and reaffirmed its commitment to pursuing certification of FSC® Controlled Wood standard.
In conjunction with the results, VicForests released its FSC® 2020: VicForests Controlled Wood Roadmap outlining the steps for VicForests to achieve its goal and address non-conformities raised in the audit.
VicForests will resubmit for certification of FSC® Controlled Wood standard by 2020.
Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s Central West Investigation Draft Proposals Paper
31st August 2018
VicForests welcomes the release of the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s (VEAC) Central West Investigation Draft Proposals Paper.
The VEAC report provides an important opportunity for public debate around the conservation, use and sustainability of public forests and reserves in central west Victoria.
Through its Community Forestry program, VicForests undertakes operations in many areas reviewed by the VEAC investigation including Mount Cole, Mount Lonarch, The Wombat and Wellsford State forests and the Pyrenees ranges.
A media story has been prominent in the last two days alleging VicForests admitted a research project it is undertaking in East Gippsland may cause the death of Greater Gliders.
These claims are misleading. It’s important to clearly state some facts:
The words in the email referred to in the story were written a year ago and had nothing to do with the current research project.
VicForests apologises to the many interested parties who found the story distressing.
VicForests will continue to operate in a safe, efficient and sustainable manner, balancing needs of the environment, our staff and rural communities whose livelihood depends on a successful forestry industry.
This information may assist in providing some facts around the current story. read more
NAIDOC week statement
VicForests would like to take the opportunity during NAIDOC week to reflect, acknowledge and respect the long-held forest based cultural and spiritual connections that Aboriginal people have. These connections are significant, current and respected. Aboriginal people developed and implemented land management techniques and fire regimes over millennia which shaped the forests that Australians know, love and value.
Aboriginal people are a part of the forest and timber industries and we encourage this going forward.
With respect to this year’s NAIDOC week, ‘Because of Her, We Can!’ we would particularly like to acknowledge Aboriginal women and their connections to forests and community. As well we’ve recently met with female Traditional Owners from the East Gippsland region and we would like to take this opportunity to once again thank them for their generosity during these meetings.
Finally, we wish Aboriginal communities an enjoyable NAIDOC week.
VicForests today released to the Mirboo North community a social impact scoping summary report that assessed concerns and support around plans to harvest coupes near the town.
VicForests’ General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Alex Messina, said he has released the report to give stakeholders, including the Preserve our Forests Steering Committee, the community and Local Government a summary of feedback provided to VicForests during interviews in August 2017.
VicForests today released to the Noojee community a social impact scoping summary report conducted last August that assessed concerns around plans to harvest coupes near the town.
VicForests’ General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Alex Messina, said he has released the report because it will give stakeholders including local residents and the Baw Baw Shire Council a summary of the feedback provided to VicForests during the interviews in August 2017.
Media Statement following hearing in Federal Court
10 May 2018
The Federal Court today continued an injunction brought against VicForests by the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum (FLBP), preventing VicForests from harvesting timber in five coupes in the Central Highlands and West Gippsland.
The application for an injunction was submitted by FLBP, as part of the Amended Statement of Claim; a follow-on of the original case brought against VicForests in March regarding the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act exemption.
A Spot-tailed quoll was recently sighted in the Erica State Forest.
Spot-tailed quolls are rare; they are listed as Threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC)
VicForests today released pre-harvest maps of a Noojee timber coupe indicating that total protected and buffered areas comprise 13 hectares, or nearly one quarter (24%), of the gross coupe area.
This area includes about 7ha of additional voluntary visual buffers in response to community preferences to screen the “Backdoor” coupe from the centre of the township.
The Noojee coupe plan is available on request.
Federal Court grants interim injunction
24 April 2018
VicForests will defend an application for an injunction brought by the Friends of Leadbeaters Possum Inc (FLBP).
The court today granted an interim injunction regarding six coupes until 2 May, 2018, when the Court will hear arguments about whether a final injunction will be imposed.
VicForests announced today that it would retain habitat areas around about 20 habitat trees identified through field assessments and three night surveys of the Noojee Backdoor coupe, scheduled for harvesting towards the end of April.
Alex Messina, VicForests General Manager Corporate Affairs said “This is part of a routine and thorough pre-harvest process designed to double check and update desktop data before any harvest.
After listening to the Noojee community VicForests has confirmed it will implement a 100 metre wide buffer on a timber harvesting coupe nearby to ensure the area will not be visible from the centre of town.
This buffer, which is an extension to the existing environmental buffers, was confirmed at an Open Day VicForests hosted in Noojee on Sunday 18 March.
The Neerim South Wetlands played host to the 2017 Neerim Frog Festival, celebrating a decade-long rehabilitation of the wetlands by Neerim District Landcare group.
Following a ‘pilot’ festival last year supported by VicForests, this year’s Neerim Frog Festival attracted more support, activities and attendees, who came out to see, and appreciate, Landcare’s work on the wetlands.
Consultation period runs from 4 December 2017 to 12 January 2018
VicForests is seeking input from local community members on the proposed updates to its Timber Release Plan, relating to timber harvesting operations in North East Victoria, West Gippsland and East Gippsland regions.
Listening to the community ensures that we are aware of what is important to them, so that we can incorporate these things into our plans. (More.)
A $2,000 investment in Warragul-based charity, Baw Baw Combined Churches Food Relief, will go towards helping more than 700 families within the Baw Baw Shire access emergency food supplies.
The grant was provided by VicForests, as part of its Community Support Program, and will go towards the operational costs of the volunteer-run organisation, which relies on donations and contributions to continue providing its vital services to those in need. (More.)
Cann River Community Centre this year awarded two prizes worth $250 each as part of its 2017 Arts, Crafts and Photography Expo thanks to VicForests’ Community Support Program contributions.
The Expo, running from 3 to 7 November, had 189 entries from 61 artists, which showcased the artistic skills of the local community with a wide range of art forms represented, including quilting, painting, photography, drawing, soft textiles, woodwork and mixed media. (More)
VicForests has commenced a stakeholder consultation phase to encourage relevent stakeholders to comment on our expertise in, and execution of, forestry management practices as journey towards our goal of seeking Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Controlled Wood (CW) certification for our operations in the regions of Central Highlands and East Gippsland. (More).
Click hereto read more about our plans to seek FSC®
VicForests has achieved a positive profit from operations before tax of $1.5 million in 2016/17, highlighting the continued demand for native timber in Victoria. This is a good result considering the operational challenges we have faced. The company’s result after tax was a loss of $3.2 million, due to a decrease in the accounting valuation of the area of State forest available to be harvested for timber. (More)