18 March: Police are investigating a suspected sabotage on logging machinery in Toolangi last week, with the owner saying a serious accident could have been moments away.
On Thursday 13 March, Robin McKinnell and his team started up their machinery in a logging coupe in Toolangi, shortly before one of the machines – a skidder – broke down. After checking all of the machines, the group realised the fuel tank had been opened and filled with water, while attempts had been made to open the fuel tanks of other machines.
The damage from the breakdown, which resulted in four hours of lost work, is estimated to be about $4000. The incident was reported to Kinglake Police and Leading Senior Constable Paul Roberts said this was the latest in a monthly series of incidents, which included oil contamination in another logging coupe.
Mr McKinnell said the fuel tampering could have caused a serious accident if the motor had broken down minutes later, when working on the 30-degree slope at the coupe. He said the brakes for the machine ran from the engine, and not manually. An engine failure would have cut the brakes, potentially causing a serious accident. “When the motor stops, you’ve lost everything,” he said. “If the motor had have stopped going down a 30-degree hill, it would have been serious.”
Mr McKinnell said the machine in question was not locked, due to a long-standing custom of leaving one machine unlocked, in case vandals attempted to break in overnight and steal petrol.
He said the group would lock all machines from now on, and were considering setting up a rotating camp in the logging coupe, to ensure their machinery was not tampered with. A VicForests spokesperson said that current logging coupes were within public safety zones, and were therefore off-limits to people not working in the coupe.
“Unauthorised members of the public are not permitted to enter these zones for their safety and the safety of our staff and contractors,” they said. “The safety of VicForests contractors and staff is the organisation’s number one priority and we aim to operate in an environment that causes zero harm.
“Any damage to equipment can be a serious safety risk.”