East Gippsland has some of the most environmentally rich and productive forests on the planet. But, since the rise of the woodchipping industry in the late 1970s, East Gippsland’s forests have been subject to industrial clearfell logging practices. Logging over this period has dramatically altered the landscape and hastened the decline of threatened species and biodiversity.
Export woodchipping led to over logging of valuable timber resources. The industry was centred around a high-volume and low-value product—woodchips exported to the Asian market. From the late 1990s into the mid-2000s, up to 90% of the timber coming out of East Gippsland logging coupes was woodchipped and exported.
As woodchip exports skyrocketed, sawmilling has declined. In the mid 1990s, 23 sawmills were operating in East Gippsland, and by 1997-98 there were 17.33 Today, just seven sawmills remain in operation. Between 1996 and 2006 employment in East Gippsland’s logging industry declined by 23% percent. Some logs are exported to China, whole and unprocessed.
The lack of a viable market for wood logged from East Gippsland, coupled with overharvesting of a valuable resource and inability to obtain reputable certification labels for its products, has resulted in the East Gippsland logging industry becoming heavily reliant on government subsidies to keep it afloat.
This Vegetation Connectivity and Logging map displays logging that has occurred since the 1980’s in pink, and logging that is proposed from 2016-19 in yellow. The map contrasts this logging with the quality of intact vegetation that forms connective corridors of habitat, shown in shades of green. A high score – in darker green – indicates good connectivity of vegetation across the landscape (this vegetation score data is sourced from the Victorian government). Historic logging, and planned logging, is concentrated in the areas of highest vegetation connectivity, meaning logging is destroying intact areas of forest, many proposed for protection in the Emerald Link.Protecting Australia’s native forests would reduce emissions by tens of millions of tonnes of carbon per year. The Climate Commission’s 2011 report The Critical Decade recognises the need to protect native forests immediately as a key climate change mitigation strategy.
Logging East Gippsland’s world-class forests doesn’t make economic or environmental sense. We have the opportunity to create a conservation tourism hotspot that is based on the incredible natural values of the area.