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Gliders V Government

The Gliders Case was one of the final nails in the coffin for the logging industry. Sue McKinnon reports on the details of the final court cases, and what's next for Kinglake Friends of the Forests, as part of Chain Reaction #147: The Forest Win.

Gliders V Government

The amazing win in the recent Glider case (Environment East Gippsland V VicForests S ECI 2021 01527 / Kinglake Friends of the Forest V VicForests S ECI 2021 04204) had far reaching consequences for native forests in Victoria and for the species that rely on them – including us humans.

Greater Gliders and Yellow-Bellied Gliders were the subject of a Supreme Court case against VicForests. The case started in 2021, and the final decision was heard in November 2022. VicForests appeal was thrown out in May 2023.

On the side of the gliders were Environment East Gippsland, Kinglake Friends of the Forest, and Gippsland Environment Group, who all took separate cases against VicForests. The cases were heard together as the evidence was similar, so the cost of expert evidence and the time demands on the legal team were shared.

As a member of Kinglake Friends of the Forest, I was involved in the court case from when it commenced. The case effectively stopped logging in the east and was successful because of the decades-long work of forest campaigners: protestors, researchers, community groups, lawyers, and citizen scientists. For years citizen scientists have been locating Greater Gliders in forest stands slated for logging, only to have the trees they were recorded in, and those surrounding, torn down and sent off to make paper.

This case stopped that cycle of death and despair. It confirmed that the government was lying to us. The government said it was logging legally. It wasn’t. The government said it was logging sustainably. It wasn’t. The government said it was regulating logging. It wasn’t.

In court we claimed that VicForests was flouting two clauses of the Sustainable Forests Timber Act 2004. We won on both of these claims. The court judge, Justice Richards said;(1)

“VicForests’ current approach to detecting greater gliders and yellow-bellied gliders is considerably less than s of the Code requires.”


“VicForests is not applying s of the Code in the Central Highlands.”

So, Vic Forest had been logging illegally. Not in one stand, or in one instance, but in every area they logged over the entire Central Highlands. The Central Highlands is defined as the area from Noojee in the south to Eildon in the north, and from Wallan in the west to Baw Baw in the east.

The Environment East Gippsland case found that VicForests had been logging illegally over the entirety of East Gippsland as well.

This case also tells us that this 100% state government owned company was logging not just illegally but unsustainably.

Clause of the logging code is known as the Precautionary Principle, or ‘PP’. Effectively the clause means that where there is a risk of serious or irreversible environmental damage you don’t need 100% scientific certainty that damage will occur before you must take measures to prevent that damage. The Precautionary Principle was included in many of Australia’s laws after we signed the United Nations Sustainable Development Treaty in Rio in 1992, and is one of the fundamental principles of sustainable development of the Rio Treaty.(2)

Since VicForests was found to be noncompliant with the Precautionary Principle, its operations cannot be regarded as sustainable.

Yet VicForests claims, in its website, marketing, and media releases, that its operations and its products are sustainable.(3) Even after VicForests’ appeal has been heard and rejected, a quick five minute check of VicForests’ website reveals the word sustainable 50 times. Government websites such as these inform, or should I say mislead, purchasers and consumers, and can, if abused like this, provide unfair advantage in the market. They mislead retailers, students, teachers, media, and artificial intelligence systems now and into the future. They rewrite history. It’s very important that we stop the government’s lies from being published and force retraction of these lies. With the force of the Supreme Court decision on our side, we are now holding VicForests’ misleading marketing to account. To this end, we have written a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Greenwashing, and submitted a complaint to the ACCC. We have yet to hear back from either body.

Friends of Leadbeater's Possum inc and VicForests (no. vid 1228 of 2017)

Prior to our Gilder case, the government and the supposed regulator (the Office of the Conservation Regulator within the Department of Energy, Environment, and Climate Action (DEECA)), had ignored the result of an earlier legal case; the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum VicForests case. The Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum case also found that VicForests was not abiding by the Precautionary Principle. But the Federal Court could not compel a state logging business to comply, as due to an agreement between States and the Federal Government, logging is the only industry exempt from Federal environment laws.(4)

VicForests’ data shows that they did not modify their operations after the Leadbeater’s Possum case.(5( At that point, the Office of the Conservation Regulator should have taken VicForests to account. Instead, we and other community groups had to take VicForests to the state court to get the law considered again and applied.

In the Glider case J Richards commented on this, she said that the findings of the Leadbeater’s case “might have been expected to prompt some reflection and adjustment of VicForests’ approach”.(6)

It is significant that instead of just handing down a declaration of how the law should be interpreted, J Richards made specific operational orders so that there was no wriggle room for VicForests. Any flouting of these orders would be contempt of court, and answerable to the court, rather than just the supposed regulator.

So finally, last November VicForests was forced to abide by the law... to survey properly for gliders before they log, and to protect them and their home ranges from destruction. It seems that VicForests isn’t able to do this, as it has stopped logging in the east of the state immediately after the orders were handed down.

In May this year the government announced the January 2024 end date for native forest logging. However, the announcement was not for an end to all native forest logging in Victoria, but an end to logging that is under the allocation order of the Sustainable Forests Timber Act – i.e. the white shapes in this “Current Logging Scheduled” map. The blue shapes indicate logging under the Forest Act 1958, and there has been no announcement about whether logging will end in these sections of forest.

The take home from the findings and result of the case is that the government cannot be relied upon to tell the truth – not just in election promises, but in concerted, continual barrages on glossy websites, and in social and print media.

What does this do for our democracy and for real responses to climate change? Can we believe government claims in regards to the environment, biodiversity, carbon, and fire management?


Kinglake Friends of the Forests is now focussed on the government’s forest fire management.

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest are burnt every year in government planned burns.(7) It claims it is making communities safer, yet wildfire records reveal that planned burns only reduce fire risk for a few years. After that time the flush of shrubs and understory growth which come after a planned burn make the area more of a fire risk than before the planned burn.(8)

The Federal Government Royal Commission into Natural Disasters Arrangements report claims that thinning forests has the potential to reduce fire intensity and rate of spread.(9) Yet research also shows that thinning, in all but one category and age group of forest, either makes wildfires more severe or makes no difference.(10) This research comes from assessing thousands of records of previous planned burns and thinned sites and records of severity of wildfire in these sites.

Right now the government, again through VicForests management, is planning to remove logs from trees that fell in storms in the Wombat State Forest. They claim this is to mitigate fire risk.(11) This claim is obviously absurd. Logs do not burn in the fire front. The government’s own fire hazard rating system specifically excludes logs from what they call ‘fuel’.(12) The absurd claim is also being repeated to justify logging operations in the Dandenong National Park.(13)

The claim is being tested in yet another court case against VicForests initiated this month by Wombat ForestCare.(14) In this case, the judge gave “careful consideration to VicForests’ contention that it is important for the timber harvesting operation in Silver Queen to continue, in order to mitigate fire risk in the Wombat State Forest.” She found that “the evidence currently available to me does not support that contention.”(15)

Is the government making communities safer or putting us more at risk in their planned burns, thinning, log removal and ‘breaks’? Is the government still lying to us about its forest management?

The IPCC repeatedly points to improved sustainable forest management as an effective form of climate mitigation.

We must insist on truth and science in forest management, not political expediency.


  • The Government cannot be relied upon to tell the truth with regard to forest management, including fire management. Please ask forest groups or scientists for evidenced based information – we are happy to share or have you join us!
  • Forest management, including fire management, must be informed by science.
  • Community groups have a roll to keep the bastards honest

Kinglake Friends of the Forest provides a forum for people to learn about, discuss and advocate for the preservation of the native forests in Victoria.

Get involved with Kinglake Friends of the Forest.


  1. Seci 2021 01527 Environment East Gippsland Inc. Plaintiff, V VicForests Defendant and SECI 2021 04204 Kinglake Friends of the Forest Plaintiff V VicForests Defendant Judge Richards,
    J Melbourne 9-13, 16 May 2022, 23 June. query=environment%20east%20gippsland%20v%20 vicforests;mask_path=
  2. Report Of The United Nations Conference On Environment And Development. Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992. Annex I: Rio Declaration On Environment And Development,
  3. VicForests. “VicForests”. 2023.
  4. Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. “Victorian Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreement”. 2023.
  5. VicForests’ Timber Release Plans 2014 – 2018.
  6. Para 374(a) Judgement Environment East Gippsland V VicForests S ECI 2021 01527 / Kinglake Friends of the Forest V VicForests S ECI 2021 04204
  7. Data Vic. “Planned Burns”. 2022.
  8. Zylstra, P., Wardell-Johnson, G., Falster, D., Howe, M., McQuoid, N., Neville, S. “Mechanisms by which growth and succession limit the impact of fire in a south-western Australian forested ecosystem.” Functional Ecology 37 no. 5 (2023): 1350-1365. doi:
  9. 9. recommendation 17.3, Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. Report. 28 October 2020.
  10. Taylor, C., Blanchard, W., Lindenmayer, DB. “Does forest thinning reduce fire severity in Australian eucalypt forests?” Conservation Letters 14 no. 2 (2020). doi:
  11. VicForests. “Storm Timber Recovery - VicForests project plan”. 2024.
  12. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria. Overall fuel hazard assessment guide. 4th edition. July 2010.
  13. VicForests. “Storm Timber Recovery - VicForests project plan”. 2024.
  14. WOMBAT FORESTCARE INC (ABN 94 771 427 351) Plaintiff v VICFORESTS First Defendant and TILEY INDUSTRIES PTY LTD Second Defendant andGARY and COLLEEN KIRBY Third and Fourth Defendants.
  15. para 85. S ECI 2023 04203 WOMBAT FORESTCARE INC (ABN 94 771 427 351) Plaintiff v VICFORESTS First Defendant and TILEY INDUSTRIES PTY LTD Second Defendant and GARY and COLLEEN KIRBY Third and Fourth Defendant.

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