Victoria’s New Timber Amendment Boosts Forestry Worker Safety

The Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022 came into effect on Saturday and aligns Victoria with Tasmania, Queensland and NSW

Sun 21 May 23


Victoria has ushered in stricter laws to protect forestry workers from potentially hazardous protest activities.

The Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022 was enacted over the weekend, marking a significant step in deterring unauthorized entry into work zones and bolstering penalties for violations.

This new law brings the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 in line with similar legislation in other jurisdictions and Victoria, such as the Wildlife Act 1975.

Discussing the bill, which was passed in the Victorian Parliament in August 2022, then Minister for Agriculture, Gayle Tierney, stated, “These reforms reflect the real risks created from dangerous protests, and they will help to protect the safety of anyone who enters a Timber Harvesting Safety Zone.”

The new laws grant officers the power to issue Banning Notices when they suspect an individual is involved or likely to be involved in illegal activities, curbing repeated safety breaches across multiple Timber Harvesting Safety Zones.

“Forestry workers deserve to be safe at work, and that’s why we have strengthened these laws to make it clear that we don’t tolerate people putting workers at risk while they are on the job,”

Then Miniter for Workplace Safety (and current Environmental Minister) Ingrid Stitt said, “No matter what industry they’re in, Victorians deserve to be safe in their workplace – these laws are an important step in strengthening the protections around ensuring their safety.”

Moreover, the new laws empower officers to search for prohibited items in containers, bags, and vehicles.

While these changes target illegal and risky activities within Timber Harvesting Safety Zones, the Victorian Government stated that they do not restrict peaceful demonstrations and standard recreational activities in safe, legally permitted areas.

Protestors respond to the newly enacted laws

In response to the new laws, the ABC reported that 200 environmental activists gathered at five sites in Wombat, Toolangi, and Alberton West state forests, as well as Powelltown and Colquhoun forests.

All were areas that had been harvested in the past or were identified for harvesting in the future — but only the Wombat State Forest is listed as a Timber Harvest Safety Zone, meaning activists there could face potential legal action.

No one was arrested or charged under the new laws on Saturday.

Similar laws have previously been passed in Tasmania, Queensland, and New South Wales.

A Victorian spokesperson said the government was “committed to a managed transition” away from native timber harvesting.

“Victoria’s current focus is on supporting local supply and impacted native timber workers and industry.”

VicForests was also contacted for a comment on the new legislation.


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