Rare wildlife including the greater glider and alpine tree frog are at risk of “irreparable harm” if logging continues in the bushfire-hit parts of Victoria, a court has been told.
Environmental group Wildlife of the Central Highlands is fighting to stop government company VicForests logging areas hit by the recent bushfires.
“VicForests is proceeding as if the fires never happened at all,” WOTCH lawyer Kathleen Foley argued in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
“There is a real risk of irreparable harm to the overall population of these species if logging continues,” she said.
The organisation argues an interlocutory injunction is needed to stop logging while the extent of the damage to flora and fauna remains unclear.
Other species at risk include the smokey mouse, sooty owl and the powerful owl which have habitat in areas where logging is proposed.
“We are dealing with the aftermath of catastrophic bushfires,” Ms Foley told Justice Kate McMillan.
She said there was “no harm in waiting” until the completion of government reviews into the impact of the fires before logging started.
But VicForests argued there was no basis in law for the “unprecedented” order to prevent logging in 15 coupes in the state’s central highlands for up to two years.
The timber scheme was also “nuanced” and jobs in the industry needed to be considered, lawyer Ian Waller QC said.
“The timber industry is not just about dollars. It’s about jobs. Jobs for harvesters… jobs for those who receive the timber products,” he said.
“It’s about the social and communal infrastructure around places like Orbost where timber harvesting is a critical part of their life.”
VicForests could potentially lose more than $100,000 if the injunction was granted, he said.
Current protections were already in place to ensure some trees were protected including old growth and limits on the amounts that could be taken.
“We cannot allow logging to continue the widespread destruction inflicted by these bushfires when the Central Highlands are among the last refuges for these precious species,” WOTCH spokesman and volunteer scientist Philip Marshal said.
An existing injunction was extended and Justice McMillan reserved her decision for a later date.