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East Gippsland crushed under Victorian Government inaction

East Gippsland native timber harvest and haulage operators are in a dire situation with the State Government again unjustifiably halting their work, according to the Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath. Source: Timberbiz

Ms Bath said that two weeks ago, she had written to the Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes, calling for an emergency meeting with harvesters, but she has failed to respond.

East Gippsland native timber harvest and haulage small business operators are in a dire situation, quite unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. Their chief request is for the urgent recommencement of harvesting operations that were approved by the State Government prior to the fires.

It is important to note that the timber coupes that were burnt during the bushfires remain harvestable. The timber industry currently accounts for a significant proportion of all full-time direct jobs in many East Gippsland towns and when indirect employment is added, the figure is key to the recovery of the local economy.

As a result of VicForest and DELWP failing to allocate coupes, and provide resource access, the last remaining native timber contractors will be out of work and forced to place their staff on stand down. In a matter of days, the last harvesters and haulage trucks will sit idle.

Road clearing has stopped with much still to be done, including cleaning of the Princes Highway, and access to burnt timber has been severely restricted.

“The roadside clearing along the Princes Highway corridor to Eden must be completed, access to burnt harvestable timber granted and rehabilitation work undertaken,” Ms Bath said. “It’s time to stop playing politics with the livelihood of regional people and regional industries.”

Ms Bath recently visited Orbost with the Leader of the Nationals, Peter Walsh and the Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.

“We again met with harvesters and listened to the impact of the Andrews Government’s wilful demise of their livelihoods and hence communities.

“They are in a world of pain,” she said.

“This government is pushing these people to the brink.”

The situation is:

  • 100 Gippsland families will be directly affected by job losses;
  • 80 vehicles including harvesters, skidders, feller bunchers and haulage trucks sit idle;
  • $500,000 in machinery repayments per month; and
  • $100,000 in insurance payments per month

“It isn’t going to happen in two years’ time; it’s actually now,” Ms Bath said. “There is no timber for them now.”

Ms Bath said towns in the area would be crushed by the inactivity.