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Friday analysis: Andrews Government silent over timber commitments

Melina Bath at the site of the Nowa Nowa Seedling Nursery

So, the Nationals Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien wants the Victorian State Government to explain why nothing has happened regarding the promised $110 million commitment to new timber plantations in the Latrobe Valley.

He’s not the only one who wants an answer.

In August last year, 10 months after the State Government in Victoria said it would create a ‘state owned’ seedling nursery at Nowa Nowa, East Gippsland, the site was sitting idle.

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, commented at the time that when Labor announced the nursery in November 2020 it spruiked the establishment would create 30 jobs.

And in State Parliament Ms Bath – in April last year – questioned why the nursery was at a standstill almost a year after the announcement was made, and if in fact the Andrews Government was being forced to look for another location.

She said that Labor’s rash announcement was highly unlikely to create 30 jobs for Nowa Nowa let alone save thousands of timber jobs that are being destroyed.

By December that same year Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, went as far as to claim the project had been scrapped.

He claimed that in reality, it never got any further that a media release.

Fast forward to April this year and surprise surprise, the Nowa Nowa project was scrapped with the State Government reportedly finding it difficult to find investment partners to establish new plantations.

Both Tim Bull and Melina Bath saw what was coming, raised the issue loudly, and the State Government said … nothing.

The questions keep getting asked, and asked, and asked again.

Each time the same reply – Silence.

The echoing silence to Mr O’Brien’s question can possibly be easily explained; either the State Government really doesn’t care and hasn’t got a plan, and there’s a State election in around 100 days.

Given that the word on the streets is that Dan Andrew’s government will be returned at the 26 November election but with a reduced majority – a minority Andrews government has been mentioned and is a solid bet according to some – is probably occupying most of the brain-space in Spring Street at present.

The future of the promised $110 million commitment to timber plantations in the Latrobe Valley in that case now probably lies in the hands who might help Mr Andrews form government.

Then, and only then, will Mr O’Brien’s question have a chance of being answered. Maybe