Otway Ranges Environment Network



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Judge finds logging at Ciancio Creek illegal.

In January 2003 a County Court judge (in Geelong) found logging at Ciancio Creek in 2001 was in breach of the Code of Forest Practices and illegal. Charges against about a dozen people arrested for obstructing the logging back in 2001 were dropped.

Essentially the statutory requirements of the Code required a 60 meter buffer to be applied between logging operations and rainforest. However forestry officers had a policy to only apply only a 40 meter buffer. The Judge found the logging approved by the forestry officers was unlawful. Hence it could not be argued that the actions by conservationist to obstruct the logging operation was unlawful.

After the court case, the forestry department admitted there needed to be a review of logging across Victoria (See Age article below). This prompted conservationists to set up a new Victorian state wide rainforest watchdog called the Victorian Rainforest Network(VRN).

For details about VRN and the rainforest buffers issues, see the new Victorian Rainforest Network website.

The AGE - January 31, 2003

Greenie's court win leads logging review
January 31 2003
By Melissa Fyfe
Environment Reporter

The State Government will review its guidelines for logging near rainforests after losing a court case against an anti-logging protester.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment yesterday admitted the case raised a "grey area" for how it interpreted the Code of Forest Practices for Timber Production.

In the Geelong County Court on Wednesday, Hayley Shields, 23, successfully appealed against a charge of obstructing a lawful logging operation. It was a win that environmentalists believe will have repercussions across the state.

Ms Shields was involved in the 2001 protest in the Ciancio forest block in the Otways. Protesters believed logging was too close to protected rainforest.

The former Department of Natural Resources and Environment had allowed for a 40-metre buffer between logging and rainforest, as recommended by the local forest management plan.

But the code says that - in the absence of a detailed forest plan - there should be a 60-metre buffer for forests that are more than 20 per cent myrtle beech trees. This is to ensure that logging and road activity does not spread the fungal disease myrtle wilt, which is fatal to the trees.

Judge John Nixon ruled that the department had interpreted the code incorrectly and the local forest management plan did not contain a detailed strategy for the protection of rainforest.

Following the case, prosecutors agreed to drop similar charges against 13 other protesters arrested in the same forest block.

Environmentalists saw the case as a test of whether the department can be legally bound by the code. They mounted a similar case about rainforest buffers in East Gippsland last year but lost.

"It was a win that environmentalists believe will have repercussions across the state."

The department will now review how the code fits with local forest management plans across the state. "In the light of the court's decision, the DSE (department) will review the circumstances of this case in order to clarify the application of the Code of Forest Practices relating to the protection of rainforest," a department statement said.

Although recent cases have focused on the protection of rainforest, the broader issue is whether the anti-logging movement can prove operations are illegal. If this is proved, it will be more difficult for protesters to be charged under the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act for obstructing a lawful logging operation.

The DSE said Judge Nixon had ruled the department and its officers had acted in good faith, believing that they were complying with the appropriate prescription and on that basis he did not award costs against the department.

The department said it was premature to predict whether the timber industry's access to wood - through wood utilisation plans - would need to be altered.

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