Old growth forest legal case update September 2020
Firstly, thank you so much to everyone who supported us during our trial last year. We couldn’t have done it without your support.
Since our initial trial, the government announced protections for old growth forests, but old growth forests are still scheduled to be logged.
Following a late application made by the Secretary to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the first defendant, the further trial in our old growth forest case has been adjourned to 5 November 2020.
Our Supreme Court case to protect old growth forests begun in 2017 and remarkably, even before the case has finished, we have already seen many critically important areas of old growth forests protected from logging!
These protections would not have happened without your generous support to run our case to protect old growth forests.
Unfortunately, despite the government agreeing that ancient old growth forests should not be logged, many important old growth forests are still under threat from logging and haven’t been placed in protection zones.
The case has been reopened to introduce new evidence about the government’s old growth forest announcements and the impacts of the recent bushfires.
Please donate to our fundraiser to support us in court this month to achieve lasting protections for old growth forests:
When it all began
Back in November 2017, as logging machines were rolling in to the ancient old growth forests of Kuark in East Gippsland, we secured an urgent interlocutory injunction in the Victorian Supreme Court to halt the logging and launched our case against Victoria’s state government logging agency VicForests and the Secretary to the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning (DELWP) to save some of East Gippsland’s remaining wet and damp old growth forests
The Victorian Government promised 20 years ago to protect a minimum of at least 60% of wet and damp old growth forests from logging. Our case shows that they have failed to maintain these minimum standards.
In court we argued that no logging of old growth forests should occur at least until the precious, ancient forests of East Gippsland were afforded their promised protection levels.
While our case was running 34 forest areas remained protected from logging and as the case drew on, 21 of those areas were put into protection zones or removed from logging plans. However, the remaining 13 areas, along with many other areas of old growth forest in East Gippsland, were left out of protection and still needed our help.
So we are back in court to fight for those forests to be protected.
Where are we now
Throughout 2018 we prepared and ran our Supreme Court case with the trial finishing in early 2019. During the trial, a key witness for the Environment Department conceded that DELWP’s position is that logging old-growth forests is not best practice and should cease entirely, despite allowing the practice to continue.
This shows just how important it is to hold governments to account in Court to protect our magnificent forests.
Then, in November 2019, while awaiting judgement in the case, the Victorian government made a forest policy announcement that signalled an end to old growth forest logging in Victoria.
However, despite the positive headline, the devil in the detail showed that the government’s plans do not place remaining old growth forests in protection zones as the rules require.
The government’s plans have not and do not intend to meet the minimum 60% protection levels as part of the reserve network that the law requires them to maintain.
How can the government’s Environment Department let protection levels fall below the minimum requirements, announce new protection of old growth forests, and yet still the legal requirements aren’t met?
Instead, the Department released a field guide to be used by the logging agency VicForests which will not ensure our old growth forests are protected, so we are going back to court.
With the unprecedented and devastating 2019-2020 summer bushfires it is even more critical than ever that all remaining old growth forests are properly protected.
The case seeks to ensure the Environment Department follows the minimum old growth protection laws set out in forest regulations and management plans. Without this case, we cannot be confident that our forests are being lawfully managed to conserve Victoria’s magnificent old growth forests.
What happens next
We had been waiting for judgement after trial, and we are now faced with a new phase of our case that we weren’t expecting.
In the last six months, the Environment Department has reopened the case to introduce new evidence about the government’s old growth forest announcements and the impacts of the recent bushfires.
Preparation for the 2018-2019 trial was a massive effort. We are now again working around the clock with our legal team at Environmental Justice Australia to prepare the case and defend these ancient forests. We will ensure that no stone is left unturned to protect old growth forests and keep East Gippsland’s ancient forests standing.
We were only able to achieve our fundraising goals to run the trial because of the generous support of so many people like you who know how important it is to give our old growth forests the best chance of survival, even to defend them in court if that is what it takes.
For the 2018-2019 trial the community’s support enabled us to engage the amazing legal services of Environmental Justice Australia as well as some of the best barristers in the country, and to obtain expert environmental consultants to present evidence in our case.
With this team we put forward an excellent case giving Victorians the best chance to hope that our old growth forests can be protected and our environment laws and forest reserve systems will be properly upheld.
Now we need our legal team and environmental experts to see our case through again and continue the fight for East Gippsland’s old growth forests, which are still under threat from logging.
If you can support our case, please donate here: