Audit cuts into logging

Tanya Giles and Danny Buttler
Herald Sun
16 Jan 04
Audit cuts into logging

THE state's first independent environmental audit of logging on public land has shown breaches in protecting rainforest buffer zones and habitat trees.

The Environment Protection Authority's score card showed logging operations overall had an 88 per cent level of compliance with government codes, but barely managed a pass in other areas. Buffer zones, areas left untouched to protect rainforest from logging disturbances, scored lowest: 56 per cent.

The EPA reported problems with boundary tracks, and one 40m rainforest buffer was breached by 15m. There were no incursions into rainforests.

Acting Premier John Thwaites said yesterday that protecting rainforests was important.

"No rainforest was harvested, but the integrity of buffers is vital . . . and I have asked the Department of Sustainability and Environment to take action," he said.

The Victorian Rainforest Network said the audit had highlighted the problems of logging near rainforests.

"We're still concerned about the protection of rainforests and we want to work with the department, Government and EPA to ensure rainforests are being protected," spokesman Simon Birrell said.

While the protection of habitat trees scored 86 per cent, some were lost in forest regeneration burns because of inadequate care. And problems with boundary tracks that led to soil disturbances resulted in a mark of 64 per cent.

But the report gave high scores for compliance in protecting soil structure and water quality and the use of logs and bark on heavily trafficked areas.

Mr Thwaites said the Government would accept all of the report's recommendations.

The audit sampled 30 logging coupes, 7 per cent of all coupes harvested in Victoria in 2002-03.