Rob de Fégely Leaves Bendigo Bank over Natural Forest Policy

Exclusive: Australian forester Rob de Fégely has resigned from the Board of his local Community Bank due to its parent Bendigo Banks policy of not supporting harvesting of natural forests.

Sat 16 Dec 23


Despite numerous exchanges with the CEO Marnie Baker and their head of Corporate Affairs and ESG they have not provided any justification for their policy which is contrary to the United Nationals International Panel on Climate Change recommendations for managed forests.

I respect anyone’s right to have an opinion but if it affects others then it must be well researched and reasoned.  

I joined the local Community Bank in Pambula because I felt they had a great model for local banking, and it has supported our local community which I hope they will continue to do.

However, the parent company is trashing their community brand as the forest industry has been operating on the far south coast of New South Wales since the early settlers arrived in the 1830’s and thanks to the efforts of our early foresters the bulk of our forests especially on public land still exist today. 

What is poorly understood is that harvesting contractors provide the skills and equipment to fight bushfires and without them more of our precious flora and fauna will be destroyed.  We all know the Black Summer bushfire killed more wildlife and released more carbon into the atmosphere than any other event in our recent history. 

It astounds me that a Bank whose origins are in rural and regional Victoria could take a policy position without consulting its community bank directors or even formally notifying them or be concerned about the negative impacts on people and rural towns they call home. 

Refusing loans to harvesting contractors while offering support to processors is simply hypocritical.

I have told the CEO that finger pointing or cancel culture is an inappropriate way to resolve the complex challenges of sustainably managing Australia’s natural forests, where timber harvesting not only provides needed wood products but also funds much of the management of our multiple use forests.

I don’t know if the the Bendigo Bank policy had any impact on the Victorian governments decision to end harvesting in its natural forests but I hope their Board and Senior management reflect this Christmas on the future for the estimated 2.5 thousand plus people who have lost their jobs because of the decision. Most have no prospect of finding alternative employment in communities like Heyfield, Swifts Creek and Orbost.

I cannot see how this meets Bendigo’s goal of Sustainable and Resilient communities.

The senior management team of Bendigo seem oblivious to the fact that Australia is the 6th most forested country in world, and we have over 10 times the world average area of forest per person, yet we are not self sufficient with a current import bill of $6 billion per year which could increase to $10 billion within a decade.  Other countries could easily regard us as arrogantly selfish by being indifferent to the harm we cause forests in other countries and not skilfully utilising and protecting our own forest resources.

Disclaimer – Rob de Fégely AM is a Registered Professional Forester and has worked in the Australian forest industry for over 40 years he is Director of Margules Groome Consulting P/L, Chair of Sustainable Timber Tasmania and a Non Executive Director of Forestry Corporation of NSW however the comments in the above are his own personal views and not those of any of the organisations he works for.


  • Wood Central

    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


Related Articles