Court ruling sees Bunnings halt sales on timber logged by VicForests

by | Jul 14, 2020

Bunnings will no longer sell timber logged by VicForests after it was found the state government-owned forestry agency breached conservation laws.

“Bunnings has a zero-tolerance approach to illegally logged timber that dates back two decades and our commitment is to only source timber products from legal and well managed forest operations,” Bunnings’ Director of Merchandise, Phil Bishop said in a recent report by The Guardian.

Bunnings decided to cease stocking product that used VicForests timber after a federal court ruling found VicForests breached the code of practice in its regional forestry agreement for the central highlands.

The that because VicForests had breached the code of practice, its exemption from national environment laws did not apply. The court ruled the agency had breached laws protecting threatened species including the greater glider and the Leadbeater’s possum.

“We will be discontinuing all sourcing of timber from VicForests and will no longer be accepting raw material input into our supply chain from VicForests as of June 30,” Mr Bishop said in the report.

“Ultimately, we believe that customers and team members have the right to expect that the timber they purchase is sourced from responsible and lawful forestry operations,” he said.

Bunnings said it sold only a small portion of VicForests’ harvest but it would work with affected suppliers on a transition plan.

That would include buying any timber already processed by the affected suppliers and discussing whether those suppliers could obtain timber from alternative sources.

A VicForests spokesman responded to Bunnings’ decision by saying ,“We are deeply concerned by Bunnings’ decision to no longer source native timber products from Victoria. VicForests has already advised our customers that we will be appealing the Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum court decision, once final orders are made by the court.”

“We regrow all harvested coupes with their original species, all timber harvesting and regeneration operations are conducted to conform with Victoria’s strict environmental regulations,” the spokesperson said in the report.

The decision comes as the Nature Conservation Council of NSW prepares to launch a campaign calling on the chain to cease selling timber sourced from native forests in New South Wales, according to The Guardian.

The council’s Chief Executive, Chris Gambian, said the chain’s decision in Victoria showed leadership from one of the country’s “largest resellers of native timber products”.

While the specifics of the Victorian federal court case did not apply to NSW, there were ecological and moral reasons for the company to remove NSW native timber from its supply chains,” Mr Gambian said.

“Native forest logging is destroying ecosystems and driving the koala and other species to extinction. We have a moral responsibility to ensure the survival of this iconic species and the only way we can do that is by stopping the logging of native forests in this state.”

Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum President, Steve Meacher said he welcomed Bunnings’ announcement.

“Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum is glad to hear they will no longer be distributing unlawfully obtained products. It will benefit our forests and wildlife and all Victorians. It means people will be able to buy their timber from Bunnings with confidence,” Mr Meacher said in the report.

Wilderness Society National Campaigns Director, Amelia Young, said the case made clear VicForests had consistently failed to follow the law and its operations had contributed to the decline of the greater glider and Leadbeater’s possum.

“VicForests’ inability to deal with rampant illegality across its logging operations has led to this clear response from one of Australia’s leading hardware stores that illegally logged wood is unacceptable. We expect other retailers of wood and paper products sourced through VicForests’ illegal logging will follow suit,” Ms Young said.

Conservationists have urged a review of Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to reconsider the exemption granted to the forestry industry via regional forestry agreements, in response to the landmark judgement.

Despite conservationists encouraging the decision, Wellington Shire Council has condemned Bunnings’ rejection of local timber, with Wellington Shire Council Mayor Alan Hall announcing that Wellington had already suffered many hits to its local communities and industries.

“The people of Wellington, and in particular Heyfield, have been kicked in the guts time and time again with the announcement of the cessation of native timber harvesting, drought, bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic and now this,” he said in a recent Mirage News report.

“Council and the Heyfield community won’t take this lying down. We will do everything we can to ensure the future of our timber communities. This is an ill-thought, irrational decision that will leave many wondering what alternative timber source Bunnings thought they could access? Surely they are not considering imported timber,” he said.

Cr Hall said ASH had world-class sustainability practices and the implications of such a move by Bunnings would reverberate throughout the whole of Gippsland.


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