VicForests Performance Gets Big Tick

VicForests’ environmental performance has been given a big tick, the latest independent audit finding that the state forestry agency conformed with 95 per cent of the required criteria for timber harvesting. The level of full conformance for individual coupes ranged between 80 per cent and 100 per cent.

The 2019-20 audit, commissioned by the Department of Land, Water and Planning, investigated 30 VicForest coupes, of which 15 were in the Central Highlands. Three of these were located in Melbourne Water catchment areas. The Central Highlands is the source of quality native forest timber for sawmills in West and Central Gippsland, including the Latrobe Valley, and the Yarra Valley.

The average level of full conformance varied across audit themes and included:

protection of forest soils 96 per cent
protection of water flows, water quality and river health 96 per cent
protection of biodiversity values 98 per cent


compliance 88 per cent


design 81 per cent

construction 85 per cent

maintenance and closure 96 per cent


compliance 96 per cent

Audits of individual harvest coupes considered up to 146 compliance criteria. These were based on the legal requirements of the Code of Practice for Timber Production and management standards for timber harvesting. The auditor is accredited by the Environment Protection Authority.

Selection of coupes was randomised,the audit found, but was weighted towards coupes with higher risk features,including waterway crossings,
long in-coupe roads, steep slopes, more erosive soils, records of presence of Rainforest vegetation and threatened flora and/or fauna..

Some incidents, such as inappropriately built waterway crossings, were assessed against several criteria. A total of 27 individual incidents were observed in the audit, of which 26 were detected in coupes in the Central Highlands , which are more intensively managed.

The 26 non-conformances with moderate potential environmental impact related to various incidents. These included construction of an in-coupe road waterway crossing with a culvert outlet that was elevated above the downstream bed of the temporary stream, excessive lengths of an in-coupe road draining directly into waterway crossings, and construction of a long length in-coupe road without any cross-drainage features.

One incident was assessed to have major potential environmental impact — the incursion of a regeneration burn into a Leadbeater’s Possum Special Protection Zone (SPZ) that was intended to be left unburnt. Also, a tree in a Leadbeater’s Possum SPZ was accidentally felled.

VicForests said in a statement that the results were testament to the hard work and care of its staff. “As a result of the 2019-20 audit, we will continue to increase our focus on improving road design, road construction and infrastructure in our harvesting operations,” the state forestry agency said.