State owned logging company VicForests has been deregistered as a government business according to a government gazette, as of August 5 2023. Conservation groups understand this signals the first step to winding up the state owned business, but it’s unclear what the next steps are to abolish the agency in light of the state government’s plans to end native forest logging by the end of 2023.
“For years VicForests has been a total environmental and economic liability. It’s good news that the state government is taking the first step to wind up the rogue agency.” said Chris Schuringa, Campaign Coordinator for the Victorian Forest Alliance.
VicForests is responsible for two decades of mismanagement of forests, causing destruction of critical habitat for threatened wildlife, and important carbon stores. VicForests has received millions of dollars in subsidies and reported over $50 million in losses just in the last financial year.
“We now need assurance from the government that they will abolish VicForests, and scrap dodgy laws that lock in the pulping of forests, and remove the exemption from complying with federal environment laws. Forests won’t be safe while those laws are in place, even if VicForests is disbanded.” said Chris Schuringa.
“The Government needs to articulate a clear plan about what's coming next and how these unique forests will be managed into the future.” said Chris Schuringa.
In June, lawyers from Environment Justice Australia filed an ACCC complaint on behalf of the Victorian Forest Alliance for false claims of environmental sustainability on VicForests’ website. The complaint alleges VicForests failed to regenerate forests after logging, make spurious claims regarding climate credentials, and falsely assert that they conduct adequate surveys for threatened and endangered species prior to logging, and protect natural values.
In August, following reports VicForests’ used public funds to spy on conservationists speaking out against logging, a damning IBAC investigation concluded that "VicForests conducted unlawful surveillance on several members of the public". Court cases against the state company have shown VicForests have breached countless environment laws, and have failed to meet their legal obligations to survey for and protect endangered wildlife.
Despite the Victorian state government announcement in May to bring forward the end of native forest logging from 2030, to January 1 2024, logging in Western Victoria under ‘community forestry licences’ could continue beyond the proposed end date until June 2024.