By Evelyn Leckie
A protest group near Kinglake is ramping up its efforts to stop VicForests from logging native timber in the Mt Robertson Forest.
Protesters have been stopping contractors from logging near Extons Road by walking through the Spyglass Coupe – an area allocated by the State Government to a paper mill company for native timber logging.
Sue McKinnon and Gayle Cole from Kinglake Friends of the Forest group said VicForests called a meeting with the protesters to ask the protests to stop.
“VicForests made an agreement with us that they will stop logging until the meeting,” Ms McKinnon said.
“They reneged on that agreement and continued logging the morning of the meeting – it’s not on for a government department to do that.”
At the meeting, group members expressed their concern for fire safety risks with regrowing forests, the risk to the greater glider species that live in the area and their frustration of lack of community consultation.
The group members said VicForests admitted in the meeting that they weren’t implementing the new harvesting methods termed the ‘precautionary principle’ during their logging operations.
The principle is a mandatory clause in the Code of Forestry Practice which means careful evaluation of management options must be undertaken wherever practical to avoid serious or irreversible damage to the environment.
“They [VicForests] mentioned they had a contract to fulfil – the pulp agreement with the paper mill company that goes to 2030 for supply of Victorian native forests with a specified cubic meter portion per year,” Ms Cole said.
“Native forests have benefits that provide for all Victorians – not just a few people in the surrounding area.
“Forests are more valuable standing than being cut down – it’s not just about the greater glider species – they’re a gauge for the health of forests and ecosystem.”
VicForests told the Review the meeting with Kinglake Friends of the Forest was originally scheduled on a maintenance day at the coupe – but due to delays in equipment – the planned maintenance had to be rescheduled.
“In this way, the planned ‘down time’ didn’t coincide on the day,” a VicForests spokesperson said.
“In a show of good faith, VicForests ceased harvesting operations at the coup from when the meeting began that morning, until the end of the day.”
VicForests disagreed with the protest group saying they were in fact abiding by the ‘precautionary principle’ when harvesting in the Spyglass coupe.
“The greater glider is a vulnerable species and we have a multi-layered approach to ensuring its protection. This includes retaining and protecting habitat trees across the coupe and retaining approximately 30 per cent of the coupe in protected greater glider zones,” the spokesperson said.
Protests continued yesterday while police took to Facebook to warn the community there would be strong police presence at the protest.
“We won’t be backing down,” Ms McKinnon said.