GEG Inc. v VicForests

Parslows Track, Mt Delusion – Photo Lisa Roberts

updated 12.2.2024
GEG v VicForests summary

In May 2022 GEG commenced legal proceedings in the Victorian Supreme Court against VicForests regarding their failure to identify and protect Yellow-bellied Gliders and Greater Gliders in State Forest covered by the Gippsland Regional Forest Agreement. This area includes the Tambo FMA and part of Central Gippsland FMA and North East FMA.

The GEG proceedings were essentially the same as the Kinglake Friends of the Forest (KFF) (Central Highlands FMA) v VicForests and Environment East Gippsland (East Gippsland FMA) v VicForests cases, which had been managed together since December 2021.

Our barristers were Jonathan Korman and Dr Kylie Weston-Scheuber and solicitor Kwabena A Larbi.

On 27 May 2022 Gippsland Environment Group (GEG) Inc v VicForests was heard before Justice Richards.

Yellow-bellied Glider, Harding Rd, Mt Alfred State Forest Gippsland
Yellow-bellied Glider, Harding Rd, Mt Alfred State Forest, GunaiKurnai Country

Interlocutory Orders were granted to GEG, similar to orders granted KFF on 22 December 2021. VicForests was prohibited from logging any coupe in which a Greater Glider had been sighted or within 240 m of the coupe boundary. GEG Inc v VicForests was ‘stayed’ i.e. on hold, until the EEG/KFF v VicForests judgement was handed down.
Read GEG Inc v VicForests judgement here.

4 November 2022 Justice Richards handed down her judgement on KFF/EEG v VicForests. Her Honour determined that VicForests was logging illegally as they had failed to effectively survey for and protect threatened gliders as they are required to do by law. Her Honour stated that “the ecological evidence was that Greater Gliders would probably die” as a result of VicForests’ logging practices.

11 November 2022 Final Orders were granted EEG and KFF. VicForests could have consented to the same orders being granted to GEG immediately but delayed.

10 Nov 2022 Monique Dawson CEO of VicForests was reported in the Weekly Times as stating that all VicForests logging statewide would cease at 10 am Friday 11 November 2022. However, VicForests contractors continued logging near Mt Baldhead west of Swifts Creek.
GEG applied for an urgent injunction, which was heard before Justice Ginnane on 30 November 2022. GEG was successful in obtaining Final Orders in the same form as KFF Final Orders granted on 11 November 2022.

VicForests was prohibited from conducting timber harvesting operations in coupes in the Gippsland FMAs (excluding coupes clear-felled since 1939) unless the company:

  • effectively surveyed for Greater Gliders and Yellow-bellied Gliders and their feed trees and hollow bearing trees.

In any coupe where gliders were detected Vic Forests must:

  • exclude timber harvesting from the Greater Glider’s located home range and 100 m waterway buffers
  • retain 60% basal timber area of eucalypts in the harvested area, including sap feed trees and hollow bearing trees.

The GEG Orders were Interlocutory orders in the form of Final Orders until the appeal deadline in KFF/EEG v VicForests passed, or all avenues of appeal are exhausted.
Read Justice Ginnane’s judgement.

Greater Glider – Mt Alfred State Forest, July 2022

VicForests sought and won an application to re-open the KFF/EEG case in regards to waterways protections. This was heard on 3 Feb 2023. The evening before the hearing VicForests abandoned plans to apply to amend Final Orders to permit logging of drainage lines.  However, VicForests won its application to use existing roads (including roads through riparian strips) and coupe infrastructure, and to construct new roads through the 100m waterways buffers.
On 20 Feb 2023 GEG Final Orders were also amended as above.

On 8 December 2022 VicForests had applied to appeal the KFF/EEG judgement and orders. The appeal was heard on 23 March 2023 in the Court of Appeal before Justices Emerton, Macauley, and Kaye, at the same time as a cross-appeal by KFF/EEG.

On 23 May 2023 the Andrews Government announced it was bringing forward the end of native forest logging in Eastern Victoria to 1 January 2024 – attributing prolonged legal action and court decisions as a key factor in its decision.

Bayliss Spur Road, Mt Delusion – Photo Lisa Roberts

On 27 June 2023 the Court of Appeal brought down its judgement upholding Justice Richards judgement in the EEG/KFF case and VicForests lost its appeal.

Read Court of Appeal EEG v VicForests judgement here.

Following their loss in the Court of Appeal VicForests did not apply for special leave to appeal in the High Court.

So, on 31 August 2023 GEG initiated the process to obtain Final Orders in GEG Inc v VicForests, by consent.

On 5th February 2024 Justice Richards issued Final Orders in GEG Inc v VicForests to permanently protect Yellow-bellied Gliders and Greater Gliders in the Gippsland Forest Management Areas.

Read GEG Final Orders 5.2.2024 here.

THANK YOU to our brilliant legal team: Jonathan Korman, Kwabena A Larbi and Dr Kylie Weston-Scheuber.

Due to the extraordinary, unstinting efforts of this legal team, and GEG volunteers, the threatened gliders of Gippsland are now safe, and their ancient forest homes protected.

Escarpment Track, Mt Nugong – Photo Lisa Roberts