The Allocation Order – a Licence to Log
The Timber Allocation Order is made by the Minister for Agriculture under Part 3 of the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 (SFTA). On the publication of an Allocation Order in the Victorian Government Gazette, property in the timber allocated by the Order is vested in VicForests. VicForests may only harvest and/or sell vested timber resources in accordance with the Allocation Order.
The Allocation Order describes:
- the forest stands within State forest to which VicForests has access
- the location of those forest stands
- the total extent and available areas of those forest stands
- the maximum area available for timber harvesting in any five-year period
- any additional activities that VicForests is permitted to undertake
- the conditions with which VicForests must comply in carrying out its functions under the Allocation Order.
When VicForests was created in 2004 the Allocation Order specified the available forest stands by Forest Management Area (FMA), but since 2010, following the timber losses in the fires of 2006/07 and 2009, the Order only specifies available forests at a statewide level
Thus, the 2014 Allocation Order (Victorian Government Gazette No S 405) simply specifies the areas of ash and of mixed species in State forests which may be harvested over the next five years. With no FMA specific limits VicForests is free to determine in which FMAs to conduct logging. For the Rubicon State Forest and the Central FMA the impact of this change has been devastating with harvesting rates now double those that were envisaged 13 years ago in the 2004 Allocation Order.
VicForests prepares a Timber Release Plan (TRP) which specifies how timber resources allocated under the Allocation Order are to be harvested and sold. The TRP includes a schedule of coupes selected for timber harvesting and associated access road requirements; details of the location and approximate timing of timber harvesting in the proposed coupes; and details of the location of any associated access roads. The TRP must include provision for regeneration of harvested coupes. The Jan 2017 TRP is here. Regrettably, consultation with local communities on the contents of the TRP and the development of coupe plans is hampered by the difficulty of extracting adequate information from VicForests in a timely manner
RFPG calls for urgent amendment of the provisions of the SFTA which deal with the allocation order so that harvesting limits are set at the FMA level, as well as by ash and mixed species forest types.
RFPG also calls for more detailed and more timely release of information underpinning TRPs so as to enable properly informed community consultation on harvesting proposals.