First Independent Forests Audit Welcomed

Media Release
First Independent Forests Audit Welcomed

DATE: Friday, January 16, 2004

Acting Premier John Thwaites today welcomed the first independent environmental audit of Victoria's timber harvesting on public land and accepted all its recommendations.

"This is the first time that every element of forestry operations has been independently scrutinized - and we will continue to do this so that Victorians can have confidence in the management of our state forests," Mr Thwaites said.

Overall, the audit commissioned by the EPA found forest operations had an 87 per cent level of compliance with the Code of Forest Practices for Timber Production.

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

It found a high level of compliance in protecting soil structure and water quality and the use of cording (logs) and matting (bark) on heavily trafficked areas, and some problems with boundary tracks and the marking of a rainforest buffer in one coupe, where a 40-metre buffer mark was breached by 15 metres.

"No rainforest was harvested, but the integrity of buffers is vital to protecting rainforests from any possible negative effect from harvesting, and I have asked the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) to take immediate action," Mr Thwaites said.

DSE will be providing more expert training for staff to improve the identification and field marking of rainforests, among other measures including:

· Improving the method of boundary track installation by department operators;

· Amending management prescriptions for harvesting to have consistency across the State;

· Specifying appropriate measurements of rainforest from the canopy;

· Ensuring all forest buffers are clearly marked; and

· Providing allowance in coupe plans for soil types and soil erosion.

"I have asked the Secretary, DSE to report back to me on progress and I expect the next independent audit to provide feedback on implementation of this year's audit recommendations."

Representatives of the timber industry and conservation groups were involved prior to and during the audit.

"This audit has given us important benchmarks for continued improvement and is a major step forward in building a sustainable forestry industry in Victoria," Mr Thwaites said.