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Friday analysis: Principled people in forestry standing up for our industry

Mick Harrington

It would be too easy to dwell on what the end of 2023 means to the timber industry in this country.

The shutdown at the end of next week of the native timber industry in WA and Victoria has been well recorded.

So have the implications, the costs – financial, environmental and emotional – and the behaviour of various governments, ministers and bureaucrats.

To those who are hurting, the industry as a whole wishes you well.

But there is, of course, some light.

There are a large number of people – people of principal – who are prepared to stand up for the industry.

Rob de Fegely, who has had many senior roles in his 40-year career in forestry, recently resigned from the board of his local Community Bank in Pambula due to its parent Bendigo Bank’s policy of not supporting native forest harvesting.

He said Bendigo Bank had not provided any justification for their policy, which is contrary to the United Nationals International Panel on Climate Change recommendations for managed forests.

“I respect anyone’s right to have an opinion but if it affects others then it must be well researched and reasoned,” he said.

It wasn’t posturing; it was a statement.

The industry is rich with such people.

Forest & Wood Communities Australia’s executive officer Mick Harrington is another example.

“This year has been a horror show for workers in Victorian regional and rural timber communities and a strong warning to timber towns in other states – as hard-working, highly-skilled and productive Victorians and their families have suffered as the continuing alliance between anti-industrial eco-terrorists, The Victorian Greens and the State Labor Government has played directly into the obliteration of the 2030 transition,” he writes.

“As a result, the 1st January 2024 end to Victorian native timber harvesting has precipitated emotional turmoil and uncertainty in our communities including anecdotal surges in relationship breakdown, substance abuse, problem gambling, domestic violence and other anti-social behaviours.

“Salt in the wound quickly came in the form of celebrations of the demise of their livelihoods by extremist environmentalists – which included these fringe groups singing and dancing in the bush – loving the fact that our families would no longer be able to sustain themselves.

“Aside from the obvious flow on effects within our small communities who relied on this base industry to support land management, infrastructure, employment and training – our sector now has a large cohort of Harvest, Haulage and Mill Workers currently in the process of receiving lump-sum redundancy packages through the Victorian Forestry Worker Support Program.

“While this year has been most difficult for many involved in the Victorian industry and in our beloved timber communities the fighting spirit remains, as does the desire to produce much needed timber products that our communities and country needs.”

But Mick does issue a warning.

“This process could be repeated elsewhere in Australia unless we stand ready to bring our sustainable, renewable, carbon-storing brilliance to the world. We must as they say – have both conviction and courage – to stand against the ill-informed activists and inner-city ideologues that seek to destroy that which we hold dear.”

Mick, while highlighting the case in Victoria, does speak of and for the industry as a whole.

He wasn’t posturing; he was speaking from the heart.

The industry is lucky to have such people on its side.

And so, to all, from us at Daily Timber News, may you have a Merry Christmas and hopefully a better New Year.