CEO of FSC Australia and New Zealand Damian Paull said the koalas were a national icon.

“The FSC community is shocked and appalled at the tragic deaths of these koalas,” Mr Paull said.

“We join with industry and the community by calling on the Victorian Government to ensure its investigation is comprehensive, and that it takes decisive action against those responsible.”

It appears there were two operations carried out at the property. The first occurred in October 2019, which was a hardwood plantation harvesting operation, carried out according to FSC’s Controlled Wood (CW) standard by South West Fibres (SWF is an FSC CW certificate holder). SWF followed the relevant requirements and the FSC CW standard for harvesting in areas where koalas are present.

“I am informed that SWF left an appropriate number of habitat trees for the existing koala population and advised the landowner that the koalas were uninjured and in good health,” Mr Paull said.

“The timber product removed in this first operation met the requirements for FSC CW.”

The second and subsequent operation, which occurred in late January 2020, involved clearing and moving the remaining trees into piles. This was reportedly done by the landowner, who did not carry an FSC certificate, and resulted in the unacceptable death and injury to the koalas. None of the timber from this operation has entered the FSC system.

“We note the sense of dismay felt by SWF foresters and staff after having worked so hard to protect these koalas.” Damian Paull said.

FSC Australia urges the Victorian Government to investigate whether current penalties for illegally destroying wildlife are adequate and properly policed.

FSC Australia will continue to support responsible forest management though our stringent certification standards.