THE boss of a timber company responsible for the deaths of koalas across south-west bluegum plantations has promised to act fast after it was stripped of its environmental accreditation.
Australian Bluegum Plantation (ABP) chief executive Tony Price said the company will act “as quickly as possible”, deciding to cease harvesting between Heywood and Port Fairy and around Mount Eccles following an audit by the Rainforest Alliance.
Its environmental accreditation with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has been suspended until the alliance sees proof that harvesting will limit the number of koalas killed by machinery.
ABP is the country’s largest exporter of eucalyptus woodchips. It has regional offices in Hamilton and a sizeable export terminal at the Port of Portland.
The scathing report, which focused exclusively on ABP’s south-west operations, found:
Koala protection, management and monitoring and staff training and supervision had not been provided by ABP;
A staff member responsible for koala counts before and after harvesting “had no specialised training in the identification of koalas in bluegum plantation settings”;
Inconsistencies in the requirements of harvesters working in plantations.
In a statement to The Standard, company chief executive Tony Price said the company hoped to regain accreditation.
“As soon as we became aware of the auditor’s concerns with regard to our existing koala management practices we have been working hard to rectify the issues that they raised,” Mr Price said.
“(We are) undertaking more detailed pre-harvest surveys to identify koala density as well as testing advanced detection methods, including infra-red technology.”
ABP has also promised to increase the number of spotters on the ground.
The company’s troubles come less than a month after the green triangle timber industry adopted a “zero-harm” policy for koalas.
But Koroit-based animal carer, Tracey Wilson, whose information about deaths was included in the audit, said that was unrealistic.
“I do not believe that there’s any way that you can have a zero-harm policy because the people operating the machinery have no way of seeing them, particularly if the sun is behind the trees,” she said.
“We’re not setting out to bring the timber industry to its knees but there’s improvements that can be made.”