VicForests bungle exposed

11 December 2012

This is a little complex but it basically shows that VicForests excel in stuffing up. Public forests are vested in VicForests for a number of years while it gets around to clearfelling them and then afterwards while it oversees the supposed regeneration of them. This can take years – and of course costs them many thousands to regenerate each area.

In late October the Victorian Government forced VicForests to take back responsibility for 1,500 hectares of logged forest that it had wrongly returned to the Government. VicForests has been told to properly regenerate the areas.

VicForests is supposed to satisfactorily regenerate logged forests and only then it can transfer these areas back to the government land manager – DSE. In what VicForests describes as an administrative error, the clearfelled areas ended up being returned to the Government in 2009. VicForests botched the process to transfer logging coupes marked on an old plan to a new logging plan. The bungle saw over 40 logged coupes totalling 1,500 hectares handed back to the Government without undergoing any checks for regeneration.

Priestlys track habitat trees

At the time of the bungled transfer in 2009, VicForests had logged about 30,000 hectares so about 5% of the logged area had been wrongly handed back.

The fact that such a huge area was returned incorrectly without anybody raising an alarm shows there are giant holes in the so called regulatory framework covering logging in this State.

How can any of the annual audit results that have time and time again given VicForests a clean bill of health, have any credibility? The audits don’t even check that logged areas have been regrown beyond bracken and wattle.

The debacle raises other questions: since the coupes were returned to the Government in 2009, who has been responsible for ensuring the areas were properly regenerated? How has the bungle affected VicForests and DSE’s financial statements? (Forested areas are regarded as a valuable asset for whoever holds them and adds to their a$$et figures).

But the biggest question of all is: where are the rest of the coupes incorrectly transferred? The logged forests that VicForests has been told to take back are all on our list but according to our analysis, there are at least another 35 coupes that should have been included. We are writing to DPI to find out if there has been a further stuff up – that they’d like to admit to!

We assume this is simply a classic bungling by forestry bureaucrats – rather than a sneaky method to hand back to the public, thousands of hectares of totally degraded stuffed once-was forest.

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