VicForests is recommencing its project to seek Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®)certification. We plan to undergo an audit this year against the FSC® Controlled Wood Standard as a stepping stone to seeking full Forest Management certification. We are currently working to confirm the timing of a Controlled Wood audit with auditors but expect this will occur in the second half of 2017. Our plans to undergo an audit had previously been postponed to allow work to take place on the management and protection of the Leadbeater’s Possum in Victoria’s forests. A significant amount of work has been completed since we went through a gap analysis with auditors against the FSC® standards in 2013 including the release of our Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management Plan and draft High Conservation Value Strategy.
We have also seen improvements in the way High Conservation Values are managed including the protection of more than 300 new Leadbeater’s Possum colonies since February 2015. Further consultation with stakeholders will take place in the coming months and we look forward to sharing the timing of an upcoming audit as soon as this is confirmed. We remain committed to seeking FSC® certification to complement our existing Australian Forestry Standard certification. Many of you will be aware that there has been discussion in the media in recent weeks regarding timber supply to the Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) mill in Heyfield beyond June 2017.
We continue to discuss issue of future supply with ASH but these discussions are not related to VicForests plans to seek FSC® certification.
Review project plan and timelines
Review Forest Management Plan and High Conservation Value strategy
March - September 2017
Further stakeholder consultation
March - September 2017
Conduct audit (subject to auditor availability)
Review audit results and engage and address gaps as appropriate
The East Gippsland Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) has been extended until 27 March 2018, allowing existing protections to continue while the RFA five-yearly reviews are underway.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, said that it was important that the environmental, social and economic benefits of the current RFA continue until the five-yearly review of implementation can be completed.
“RFAs strike a balance between the competing economic, environmental and social uses and values of Australia’ s public native forests,” Senator Ruston said.
“They provide for resource security, creating a stable investment environment which contributes to industry certainty, provide for ecologically sustainable forest management and have established a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) reserve system based on nationally agreed criteria.
“The forestry industry is important to the East Gippsland region and Australian economy as a whole–we’re committed to providing the right regulatory balance to allow the industry to thrive for generations to come.
Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said the Andrews Labor Government is delivering sustainable economic growth for all Victorian communities.
“Together with the Commonwealth, the Victorian Government has agreed to extend the Regional Forest Agreement in East Gippsland for an additional 13 months, through to the March 2018.
“This short term extension brings the East Gippsland RFA’s expiry into line with the expiry of the Central Highlands RFA,” said Ms D’Ambrosio.
The East Gippsland RFA amendment for the extension was signed by the Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, and the acting Premier of Victoria, the Hon. James Merlino MP.
VicForests, as part of Forest Fire Management Victoria, will shortly commence its planned regeneration burns to assist in the regrowth of forests across the state.
These burns are crucial in assisting the forest to regrow after harvesting operations and are critical in allowing regrowth to occur more quickly.
The burns are comparatively small and localised in nature and a thorough planning process has been undertaken in conjunction with Forest Fire Management Victoria.
All planned burns are approved for ignition following a thorough risk assessment process and are supported by a chain of command that includes the Chief Fire Officer.
We are very conscious of the community’s sensitivity towards fire and want to ensure people are not alarmed by smoke they may see as a result of this process.
The burns are generally completed within a day or evening and monitored by trained Forest Fire Management Crews who are onsite throughout.
There is a relatively narrow window for these burns to take place and the burns program is totally dependent on favourable climatic conditions that can change very quickly.
Although the burning of harvested areas is one of the most visually confronting stages of the regeneration process it is an essential step in the re-growing of forest as Victoria's eucalypt forests regenerate naturally by fire.
These burns replicate the natural regeneration process of our forests by creating a seed bed on the ground.
We also take great care in areas that contain retained environmental values to ensure these values remain intact.
Following the burns, a program of aerial seeding will take place to spread locally-sourced seed by helicopter across the harvested sites.
Some lower intensity regeneration burns will be conducted in the evening or at night to take advantage of cooler weather conditions.
The burns are part of a larger planned burning program being undertaken by Forest Fire Management Victoria.
Forest Fire Management Victoria consists of specialists staff drawn from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water and VicForests. These staff work alongside the CFA, other emergency services and communities across Victoria to protect people, property and the environment.
VicForests will soon be seeking comment from local community members on its proposed Timber Utilisation Plan (formally Wood Utilisation Plan) relating to small-scale timber harvesting operations in Victoria.
The community consultation period will commence shortly.
VicForests General Manager Stakeholders and Planning, Lachlan Spencer, said: “The Timber Utilisation Plan outlines the areas VicForests is planning to harvest for a period of up to three years and will be updated annually.
“The proposed Timber Utilisation Plan includes modifications of boundaries on existing areas based on improved planning information, the sustainable addition of new harvesting areas, and the exclusion of areas which are no longer required” he said.
Community feedback is sought on specific operational aspects of our proposed harvesting locations or boundary changes.
This process is an opportunity to provide comment regarding concerns with:
· The timing of harvesting operations;
· The use of particular haulage routes;
· The proximity of proposed harvesting to private property or public use areas; or
· The identification and protection of other forest values within specific harvesting sites.
“We welcome the community to raise any specific concerns they may have about the proposed operations. Public submissions are closely considered by VicForests’ Planning staff before the plans are finalised,” said Mr Spencer.
“Public consultation is an important part of this process and offers the community the opportunity to have important input in our planning process.”
The finalised Timber Utilisation Plan, along with all submissions received, are then submitted to the VicForests’ Board of Directors for consideration and approval. These plans must be approved before harvesting commences and all operations are required to comply the detailed regulations which relate to native timber harvesting in Victoria.
A number of our staff took part in a National Library of Australia (NLA) “Women at Work” project which is focusing on photographing Australian women working in a broad range of non-traditional occupations.
VicForests was very excited to take part in a project that showcases the diversity of our industry and highlights the many roles that women perform in forestry.
A pilot of this project began in January and the selected photographs will be added to the National Library’s Pictures collection and made available to the public through the online catalogue.
The NLA are hoping this pilot project will be followed by a larger Australia-wide endeavour.
We are looking forward to seeing some of our staff showcased in this project.
VicForests recently donated some messmate timber to the Powelltown Football Club as a part of our Community Support Program.
The timber will be milled by Hugh Kelly of Kelly’s Timber and sold locally to make a range of products. All profits will go back into the club and its activities.
VicForests is proud to support local community groups within the regional areas in which our staff, contractors and customers, work and live across.
We regularly support and assist local communities, from financial assistance via Community Support program grants, to timber and bark donations, as well as ongoing partnerships with local groups and services as we strive to enhance the communities we work and live in.
Our community support program assists organisations that contribute to the wellbeing of local communities by providing grants to charity groups, sporting groups, educational and community groups located across Western Victoria, Central Highlands, Gippsland and East Gippsland.