Wielangta Forest Trial (2005)

Senator Bob Brown v Forestry Tasmania

Wielangta Forest on the east coast of Tasmania is home to numerous federally listed threatened species, in particular the endangered Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle, migratory Swift Parrot and Wielangta Stag Beetle.

Bob Brown sought an injunction in the Federal Court in May 2005 to stop Forestry Tasmania from logging Wielangta. The battle was waged through the courts for three years. Justice Marshall found that logging has a significant impact on the eagle, beetle and parrot, that forestry operations have not been carried out in accordance with clause 68 of the Tasmania RFA (Regional Forest Agreement) and further that Forestry Tasmania ‘manipulated’ evidence (judgment). He granted an injunction to halt logging.

Then Prime Minister Howard and Tasmanian Premier altered the RFA to say that it protected threatened species irrespective of whether that accorded with the facts or not. On that basis the full federal court on appeal over-turned the original decision finding that Forestry Tasmania was exempt from the requirement that it take no action likely to have a significant impact on threatened species (judgment). Leave to appeal to the High Court was refused, two against one.

Wielangta forest so far remains unlogged but is unprotected.  Swift Parrots in particular are heading for extinction as a result of logging in both their Tasmanian breeding habitat and mainland over-wintering forests.  In Tasmania predation by Sugar Gliders in forests opened up by logging has become a huge new threat. Swift Parrots were listed as ‘critically endangered’ in May 2016.

The Possums Case is the first since the Wielangta trial to challenge the exemption of native forest logging from federal environment laws.