VicForests rejects allegations that it has adversely impacted drinking water
21 April 2021
In its report on 20 April 2021, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) made allegations that VicForests has put Melbourne’s drinking water supply at risk by ‘systemic’ unlawful timber harvesting on steep slopes. These allegations are false, misleading and misconceived.
The ABC relied on a report authored by two academics from the Fenner School at the Australian National University (ANU). The ANU report refers to research undertaken in 2019 within the Upper Goulburn catchment area. The Upper Goulburn is not within Melbourne’s water catchment area.
In 2020 the Government regulator, the Office of the Conservation Regulator (OCR), investigated the matters alleged within the ANU report and determined that:
no systemic and widespread breaches of slope prescriptions had taken place
there was no evidence of impact on water supply protection area values.
The OCR stated:
“The overall proposition raised by the [ANU] report that there is systemic and widespread breaching of slope prescriptions could not be substantiated. The allegation was found to be based on modelled data and insufficient in-field sampling to be able to make a valid inference.” [Bold emphasis added.]
It follows that, contrary to the ABC’s allegations, VicForests’ operations have in no way affected Melbourne’s drinking water supply.
VicForests notes that there are instances in which harvesting on steep slopes (with more than 30 degree inclines) is permitted by the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014 and the Management Standards and Procedures for timber harvesting operations in Victoria’s State forests 2014. In such instances any potential environmental impacts, such as potential impacts to water quality, are carefully managed.
VicForests puts in place a range of protections (such as stream buffers) in its harvesting operations for the protection of water quality in accordance with the rigorous regulatory requirements. VicForests works with the OCR in relation to these matters.
All timber harvesting and regeneration operations are conducted in line with Victoria’s strict environmental regulations and the State’s Forest Management Zoning Scheme.