The Victorian Government has introduced a $14 million package that will focus on upholding environmental standards in timber harvesting, including by:
- providing increased clarity for meeting obligations under the precautionary principle through compliance standards
- furthering best practice regeneration of timber harvesting coupes.
Why are compliance standards needed?
- The precautionary principle is a broad requirement that seeks to manage scientific uncertainty when dealing with threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage within complex forest ecosystems.
- Recent legal action has emphasised that there is a need for clarity regarding the interpretation of the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014 – in particular, the precautionary principle.
- Compliance Standards will be developed by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and give the industry guidance on what measures can be taken that will comply with the precautionary principle.
- Clear regulatory standards will provide certainty for industry as well as greater enforceability for the regulator.
What will the funding provide?
- New legislation in early 2022 will enable development of Compliance Standards that specifically set out how the timber industry can meet its obligations.
- This will establish a legal presumption that operations complying with the guidance outlined in a Compliance Standard will have met the requirements of the Precautionary Principle.
- These changes do not change the scope of the Precautionary Principle, it remains a mandatory action under the Code, but Compliance Standards will remove much of the ambiguity about how it is implemented.
How will the compliance standards work?
The standards will be enforced by the Conservation Regulator and give the industry guidance on what measures can be taken that will comply with the precautionary principle.
The Compliance Standards provide clarity about satisfactory methods to meet the requirements of the Precautionary Principle, which increases certainty to industry, the public and courts that obligations under the Code have been met.
The timber harvester can either comply with the standard, or it can apply alternative measures to meet the requirements of the precautionary principle, as is currently the case.
If the timber harvester acts in accordance with the compliance standard, it will be deemed to be compliant with the precautionary principle requirements of the Code.
If the timber harvester does not act in accordance with the compliance standard, the question of whether the timber harvester has acted in accordance with the precautionary principle requirements of the Code can be investigated by the Conservation Regulator and enforcement action taken if a breach is confirmed.
Will there be consultation?
Public consultation on the compliance standards will take place as part of Code variation process in 2022.
The Victorian Government will invest in a $14 million package to enhance regulatory certainty and environmental outcomes following timber harvesting. This includes $2.38 million to establish best practice procedures for the long term management of regenerated timber harvesting coupes and their reintegration to DELWP’s broader, active management of state forests.
What will the funding provide?
Regeneration of forests after timber harvesting is a critical part of ecologically sustainable forest management of Victorian forests as we transition away from timber harvesting by 2030.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) will develop a new best practice Forest Coupe Regeneration and Reintegration Procedure.
The Procedure will:
- clarify regeneration practices, and handback procedures, including a role for the DELWP Secretary in the removal of regenerated coupes from the Timber Release Plan
- strengthen land manger oversight of regeneration activities including confirmation that regeneration has occurred to the standards required in the Code of Practice for Timber Production
- establish confirmation of coupe regeneration before a coupe is removed from the Timber Release Plan, and land management responsibility transfers from VicForests to DELWP
- establish steps for reintegrating the finalised coupes into DELWP’s management of the broader State forest estate
- specify active forest management approaches to protect the environmental condition of these sites, supporting the many forest values that Victorians enjoy.
What does it mean for our forests?
Victoria’s forests are among the most ecologically diverse in Australia. Victorians value their forests for many reasons and are interested in their future.
State forests face significant challenges from climate change, more frequent fires, population growth, and changing community needs. These multiple pressures need to be managed alongside timber harvesting operations, until the end of native forest harvesting in 2030.
DELWP, in partnership with Traditional Owners and other land managers, actively manages the State’s forests to enable these regenerated coupes to continue providing their many forest values for Victorians into the future.
Ecologically sustainable forest management enables a range of forest uses, including timber harvesting operations, to occur whilst retaining and protecting forest values. A key part of this is regeneration of timber coupes when harvesting is complete.
Obligations for regeneration apply to VicForests. After the coupe is regenerated, it is then managed as part of the broader forest estate by DELWP.
This initiative will improve processes across all stages of regeneration activities. This will include communication of coupe finalisation and reintegration into DELWP’s land management responsibilities, and the systems and operations that are appropriate to support regenerated coupes.
This will provide for healthier forests through better regeneration and management systems. Healthier forests will continue to support the many benefits Victorians derive from forests.
Victorians depend on the ecosystems forests provide for example water filtration, biomass, retention of soil and carbon and opportunities for recreation and tourism.
Page last updated: 17/12/21