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$120 million package to exit native timber is unravelling

Leader of the Victorian Nationals, Peter Walsh

More information has come out about the funding allocated to cover the cost of exiting from the logging of native forests. After the Andrews Government announced the closure it was discovered that funding of $120 million needs to be spent in order for the industry to be closed down. Source: Timberbiz

Peter Walsh, Leader of the Nationals in Victoria asked Premier Andrews in Parliament if the Government was to buy around 70 dozers and excavators owned by contractors to replace vital fire fighting capacity lost as a result of the decision to ‘take the axe to Victoria’s sustainable native timber industry’?

“On the issue of equipment, there is provision within the $120 million package of support to deal with this very issue,” Premier Andrews said.

Ross Hampton CEO of Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) said that the Government’s commitment to purchase this equipment will run into the tens of millions of dollars and significantly deplete the already inadequate support for businesses and workers.

Premier Andrews couldn’t say how the Government will replace the firefighting capacity that will be lost due to Labor’s ban.

Workers and contractors are vital to firefighting efforts, voluntarily stopping work and taking heavy machinery to fire zones to establish fire breaks and clear access for firetrucks in steep and difficult terrain.

“Questions are also being asked about just where the land for the supposed 50,000 hectares of plantations will come from and now the Premier has revealed that the package allocated for workers and businesses also has to fund bushfire fighting machinery,” Mr Hampton said.

Following the rally, Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath questioned the Agriculture Minister about the inability of plantation timber to replace the type and quality of timber produced from native timber forests. Ms Bath said Minister Symes did not answer the question.

“Native timber takes a minimum 40 – 55 years to mature to saw log grade, but Minister Symes would have us believe it can be achieved within 10 years,” Ms Bath said. “It was insulting to timber workers to hear Minister Symes close her response to my question with, ‘We are on the journey with them’.”

General manager of Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA) Stacey Gardiner said these revelations only increase the uncertainty and concern for contractors who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in machinery.

“This is the reason the Upper House inquiry which is being sought by the Coalition is so important. All of us call on the Upper House members to support this inquiry to uncover the facts” Mr Hampton said.