Possums in the High Court

A lowland Leadbeater's Possum in captivity at Healesville Sanctuary. 141100 Picture: JESSE GRAHAM

By Jed Lanyon

The logging battle to protect Victoria’s state emblem, the Leadbeater’s Possum, could soon reach the High Court as conservation group Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum (FLP) have filed for special leave to appeal.

VicForests successfully appealed to The Full Court of the Federal Court, which found that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act does not apply to VicForests’ operations.

The court’s original decision set a legal precedent applying the federal threatened species protection law to the logging industry, which had operated under a special exemption from federal environment law for more than 20 years.

The Full Federal Court recently handed down its costs judgment from VicForests’ appeal and ordered the state logging agency to pay FLP’s full costs for the original trial along with 50 per cent of the appeal costs.

VicForests released a statement saying they are considering their position on the matter after being forced to foot the bill for their legal win.

“VicForests is surprised and disappointed by the Full Federal Court’s decision on costs, as costs are not ordinarily ordered against the successful party.”

Environmental Justice Australia said the costs decision in the possums case was made in light of findings that the state logging agency breached Victorian law and its operations posed a major threat to two native possum species at high risk of extinction.

The costs judgment stated: “FLP was overwhelmingly successful at trial in establishing, as matters of fact, that VicForests contravened state legislative instruments with respect to the endangered Greater Glider and Leadbeater’s Possum species. Those factual findings were not disturbed on appeal.”