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Friday analysis: the nightmare is only just starting for Victoria’s native timber industry

Wellington Shire Council Mayor Ian Bye

Much has been said, much has been written and there is no doubt more to come on the Victorian Government’s native timber decision.

But comments from Wellington Shire Council Mayor Ian Bye and Australian Sustainable Hardwoods general manager Vince Hurley perhaps as much as anyone, set the scene well and they didn’t mince their words.

Cr Bye put it simply. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has devastated the futures of over 650 timber workers throughout Wellington Shire, he said.

He said the decision marked the final nail in the coffin for the state’s native timber industry, one that feeds the families of hundreds of local timber workers.

Cr Bye said the outcome has turned into a nightmare for timber workers local to Wellington Shire.

“The Premier’s announcement to end native timber harvesting in Victoria in 2024 is a kick in the guts for timber communities, putting on full display the Premier’s disregard for local people and a preference for policy and voters in inner Melbourne,” he said.

Mr Hurley went in even harder.

He wrote in the Weekly Times that the government’s campaign had been “driven with military precision by the environment minister, with every aspect aligned to the objective”.

“This includes picking and choosing the science and economics that are used and promoted, the results of surveys and workshops, the media they align with and exploiting the complexity of forest management to broadcast simple, negative messages for media consumption,” he wrote.

“The result is the decimation of a recognised world-class industry that contributes significantly to Victoria’s economy and employment. Soon Victorians will be unable to have high-quality hardwood products available at an affordable price.”

Mr Hurley wrote that every Victorian is hurt by this decision.

He said people will lose their livelihoods in regional Victoria and in joineries, furniture manufacturers and other metropolitan businesses and the flow on-effects are enormous.

“The government’s objective is not environmental, economic, or social.

“The closing of native forestry is fulfilling a political objective and hurting Victorians for no good reason,” Mr Hurley wrote.

And hurt they will. And they will need help in so many ways.

Will that help be provided easily and quickly by the Victorian Government or will those in need just be told to take a number and wait.

Based on what the Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath found out this week – that for example workers will need to self-refer themselves to Victoria’s already overwhelmed mental health system – it’s going to be a case of take a number.