Conservationists' vs. Department's view

Conservationists view

Conservationists argue that the rainforest buffers DSE and Forestry Victoria apply in the field are in total breach of the Code. Given the Code has legal statutory authority and the Forest Management Plans do not, this has lead conservationists to the view that much of the logging that goes on near rainforest in Victorian is illegal.

These views are supported by the following facts:

1. Section 2.0 of the Code states that:

"plans and prescriptions must be consistent with the Code and will exceed the minimum requirements outlined in the Code where necessary to protect environmental values."

This statement means that to be consistent with the Code it is reasonable to expect that any listed buffers are to be regarded as the minimum requirements. Hence Forest Management Plans and regional prescriptions must, as a minimum, adopt the Code rainforest buffer requirements outlined in section 2.3.7 of the Code

2. In January 1995, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) was commissioned by the Victorian State Government to conduct a review of the Code of Forest Practices.

CSIRO advised that a conservative and cautious approach to rainforest buffer widths is required. CSIRO advised that the Code buffer widths are to be regarded as a 'interim minimum' recommendation.

However for some reason the reference to 'interim minimum' was not included in Section 2.3.7 of the revised 1996 Code of Forest Practices.
See extracts of CSIRO recommendations (OREN website)

3. Conservationists campaigning in the Otways successfully challenged the legality of the Government decision to ignore Code rainforest buffers in the Geelong County Court, January 2003.

4. EPA Code Audits in 2002/03 revealed poor rainforest buffer marking in the field due to poor procedures for rainforest identification.

Departments View

Senior officials from the Department of Sustainability & Environment (DSE) argue that applying increased buffers detailed in the Code means there will be less logs for woodchips and timber. Hence DSE find arguments to justify Code rainforest buffers being ignored and the smaller Forest Management Plan buffers applied.

Specific technical arguments and actions put forward by DSE to counter the Conservation views points (see above) include:

1. In Section 2.3.7 of the Code it states:

"in the absence of detailed strategies within an approved Forest Management Plan, which address regional characteristics, the following prescriptions will apply."

DSE interpret this to mean that if a Forest Management Plan exists, they do not need to follow the Code buffer prescriptions. This view has already landed DSE into legal trouble in the Otways.

The East Gippsland and Central Highlands Forest Management Plans, contain rainforest strategies that provide for rainforest buffers that are less than Code buffers. This breaches Section 2.0 of the Code.

2. DSE argues it does not specifically state rainforest buffers are to be regarded as minimum distances in Section 2.3.7 of the Code. Hence DSE ignore the advice from the CSIRO. See extracts of CSIRO recommendations (OREN website)

3. DSE publicly acknowledged they needed to review the way they interpreted the Code after losing in the Geelong County Court, January 2003. However after this review, only the rainforest buffers in the Otways were increased from 40 to 60 metres.

4. DSE and the government acknowledge that better methods of rainforest identification needs to be developed, this has yet to officially occur across Victoria. See press release.

EPA Code audits - 02/03 and 03/04