Public safety

Timber harvesting coupes are very dangerous work sites that must be carefully managed to ensure public and worker safety.

Public safety risks occur when unauthorised people enter timber harvesting areas. These areas are known as timber harvesting safety zones.

The Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 allows for timber harvesting safety zones to be established to protect workers and the public.

What is a timber harvesting safety zone?

Timber harvesting safety zones are small, restricted areas where forestry activities are undertaken.

They include:

  • a coupe
  • any road within that coupe that has been closed because of timber harvesting
  • any area of State Forest that is within 150 metres from the boundary of that coupe.

For safety purposes, only authorised persons can enter a timber harvesting safety zone.

How will people know an area is a timber harvesting safety zone?

A timber harvesting safety zone starts when the coupe becomes active.

Before timber harvesting starts, a notice will be clearly displayed on or near the zone, including near roads that are entry points to the zone. A notice will also be published on the VicForests website.

The notice will state the location of the zone, the start date and the offences and penalties that apply in that zone.

Enforcing timber harvesting safety zones

There are offences and penalties which apply in and around timber harvesting safety zones under the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004.

There is a range of offences and penalties for people who disrupt legal timber harvesting operations and put themselves and others at risk.

Offences include:

  • entering or remaining in a timber harvesting safety zone if you are not an authorised person
  • removing or destroying a barrier or fence erected to prohibit or restrict access to a timber harvesting safety zone
  • allowing a dog to enter a timber harvesting safety zone
  • hindering, interfering with or obstructing timber harvesting operations
  • possessing a ‘prohibited thing’ in a timber harvesting safety zone. ‘Prohibited things’ are defined as:
    • a bolt cutter
    • cement or mortar mix
    • a constructed metal or timber frame
    • a linked, or a heavy steel chain
    • a shackle or joining clip.
  • intentionally using a ‘prohibited thing’ to hinder, obstruct or interfere with timber harvesting.

Non-compliance penalties can include:

  • an Infringement Notice
  • police charges being laid and an appearance in the Magistrates Court where a conviction can be recorded.

On reasonable grounds, Authorised Officers may seize items where they believe an offence has been, or is being, committed. They may also seize any item where they believe that an offence is about to be committed.

Under the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 the court can make an order to exclude an offender from a timber harvesting safety zone or an area of State forest for up to 12 months.

It is a serious offence to breach an exclusion order. Strong penalties apply to all offences and the courts can hand down penalties which reflect an offence’s seriousness.

Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022

Legislation has been updated to make timber harvesting safety zones safer for workers and protestors.

In August 2022 legislation passed to update the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004. The legislation aims to deter dangerous and illegal protest activities and prevent harm.

The changes will contemporise penalties for existing offences and introduce some new offences.

From May 2023 the following changes will come onto effect:

  • The maximum penalties for most offences related to timber harvesting safety zones will increase. Maximum penalties for some offences increased to 120 penalty units ($21,000+) or 12 months imprisonment.
  • PVC and metal pipes added to the ‘prohibited things’ list. Regulations can be established to add further items if required without legislative change.
  • Banning Notices can be issued to protesters engaging in dangerous activities. Banning them immediately from one or more timber harvesting safety zones.
  • Authorised offices will have increased Powers of Search in timber harvesting safety zones. Authorised Officers will be able to search personal items, bags and vehicles for ‘prohibited things’ or items that have been used or are about to be used in an offence.
  • Legal clarification that individuals who interfere with timber harvesting operators or their machinery in timber harvesting safety zones may be found guilty of an offence.

Page last updated: 23 December 2022