News

Reprieve for possums

By Country News

An environmental group challenging whether the native logging industry can be held accountable for its impact on endangered species has scored a win, receiving an interim injunction in court last week.

Friends of Leadbeater’s Possums have taken Victorian Government-owned harvester VicForests to the Federal Court, claiming the native logging that was taking place in Central Highlands — which includes Broadford, Kinglake and Toolangi — is not in accordance with the Regional Forest Agreement because it had not complied with state-based regulation.

The claims include allegations that VicForests did not conduct detection activities or surveys for greater gliders, which are also present in the areas that have already been logged, and is not protecting the species in more than 30 planned coupes.

Following the implementation of an interim injunction last Tuesday by Justice Simon Steward, VicForest is prevented from conducting timber harvesting operations until Wednesday, May 2.

Leadbeater’s possums, Victoria’s fauna emblem, are currently critically endangered due to loss of habitat and can be found only in a small region about 75km east of Melbourne. It is estimated only 2040 remain in the wild.

Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Danya Jacobs, who is representing Friends of Leadbeater’s Possums, labelled the win ‘‘good, but temporary’’.

Friends of Leadbeater’s Possums president Steve Meacher said the fight was not over.

‘‘The government recently announced an extension to the Central Highlands RFA designed to lock in another two years of logging our critically endangered possum’s habitat — despite non-compliance with rules that are meant to protect threatened species,’’ Mr Meacher said.

‘‘If the government won’t act to protect the state’s faunal emblem, we will.’’

The injunction is valid until Wednesday, when a further hearing of the injunction application will proceed before Justice Mortimer in the Federal Court in Melbourne.

VicForests chief executive officer Nathan Trushell said he remained confident that VicForests’ operations were compliant.

‘‘We will defend our record and oppose this injunction,’’ Mr Trushell said.

‘‘VicForests undertakes a comprehensive and heavily regulated planning process prior to any harvesting, and we believe our operations are compliant with the RFAs.

‘‘VicForests harvests only select timber that has been allocated to it by the State Government. This totals six per cent of public forest areas, and we harvest only 0.04 per cent of forests in any given year.’’