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AFCA urges review of ‘poorly considered policy’

Stacey Gardiner

The Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA) is in disbelief following the Victorian State Government’s short-sighted decision to close-down the native forest industry within 10 years. AFCA believes this decision flies in the face of supporting regional jobs and economies, sound policy and a long-term sustainable strategy. Source: Timberbiz

“Members, forestry contracting businesses, were at a loss and devastated by the announcements. Moreover, as a key stakeholder in the supply chain, they haven’t even been acknowledged as a key stakeholder in media statements by the government,’’ AFCA General Manager, Ms Stacey Gardiner said.

“Forestry Contracting Businesses and their employees have been working for over two years with uncertainty around their future and the toll this has taken on their mental health has been evident. I fear what impact the announcement today to end native forestry will have for them.”

The Government has not considered these hard-working regional businesses, their employees and families and the impact this decision will have on these people.

Many Forestry Contracting Businesses are generational family-run businesses that have a significant capital investment that can’t directly transition to the plantation sector. To suggest they can transition is disingenuous. As a starting point, the specialised equipment, which can be up to a 1 million investment per piece, is different and cannot merely be transitioned for use in plantation harvesting.

“A plantation estate hasn’t even been established and won’t be by the time our forestry contracting members are meant to transition. What does the Government expect forestry contracting businesses to do, wait around until the plantation estate is ready to be harvested?” Ms Gardiner said.

“It appears Government has decided to deliver a political policy that reflects a minority view for our industry rather than an evidence-based and balanced approach working with industry and the regions which they contribute to.

“In the past forestry contracting businesses have not hesitated to support firefighting efforts and have done this for decades.”

In 2019, forestry contracting businesses spent over 60 working days using 20 pieces of forestry equipment, much of it specialised, to construct fire breaks, control lines and defending bush fires.

The services to support firefighting will disappear along with our skilled forestry contracting employees who have a spent a lifetime working and committed to managing Victoria’s sustainable native forests.

AFCA urges the Andrews Government to reconsider this poorly considered policy and impact on our hard-working members.