Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:06) — My question is for the Minister for Agriculture. Today VicForests was intending to proceed to log the Princess Cut coupe in the Kuark forest, near Orbost in East Gippsland, until the successful court injunction. This old-growth forest comprises trees that were already mature when Europeans first arrived in Australia. It is a very significant habitat for rare and endangered species and a priceless example of both warm temperate and cool temperate rainforest. More than 6400 Victorians have contacted the Andrews government calling on them to not log the Kuark forest. Why are you permitting VicForests to have coupes like this listed on the timber release plan and to cut roads through these forests despite ongoing legal challenges and the clear evidence that this old-growth forest is of exceptional ecological significance?
Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) (12:06) — I thank Ms Dunn for her question and the 6400 people who have sent an email on this matter to me and to a number of my colleagues. In relation to the Princess Cut coupe to which Ms Dunn refers, VicForests will be applying some additional measures to support the harvesting that is to be undertaken. So I can confirm for Ms Dunn that VicForests will be protecting trees over 2.5 metres in diameter to ensure the protection of the understorey and that VicForests will remove from the harvest plan any areas of assumed old-growth forest, as mapped by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) using canopy analysis. This is in addition to the usual preharvesting surveys that occur. DELWP compliance officers will also be in the coupe to ensure compliance with the standard provisions in the code of practice.
Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:08) — Thank you, Minister, for your answer. VicForests has been readying its business for a December 2017 audit in eastern Victoria against the Forest Stewardship Council-controlled wood standard. Could the minister please advise how she expects VicForests to be compliant with the controlled wood standard, considering VicForests will imminently log Kuark forest, which is some of the most ecologically significant old-growth forest in eastern Victoria?
Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) (12:08) — As I indicated in my substantive answer, areas that are assumed old-growth forest, as mapped by DELWP, will be removed from the harvest plan. So we are certainly conscious of our responsibilities here, as are VicForests and as are their contractors.
Ms Dunn — But you’re cutting roads through it.
Ms PULFORD — Look, I think all members of this place are well aware of Ms Dunn’s views on and interest in this matter. I have outlined the arrangements that have been put in place. Ms Dunn may not personally prefer that course of action, but certainly sufficient measures are in place to ensure the protection of the understorey, and the mapping work that DELWP is doing using canopy analysis is informing areas where harvesting can and cannot occur.