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Gary Blackwood MP reviews forestry with VAFI

Gary Blackwood

In a recent newsletter of the Victorian Association of Forest Industries (VAFI) its chief Executive Officer Tim Johnston said that since the state election in late November, the association had continued in its attempts to engage with the Victorian Government. In this latest edition VAFI was able to obtain an opinion piece from State Member for Narracan, Gary Blackwood MP. The following is his unedited contribution. Source: Timberbiz

The Liberal/National Coalition is committed to the long-term future of our Native Forest Industry and our 2018 pre-election policy detailed our plan for the industry.

We are very concerned about the current lack of action by the Andrews Government in particular their refusal to sign the TRP and Allocation Order that will ensure VicForests can meet its contractual obligations to customers and contractors this season.

We will continue to work with VAFI, AFCA and industry participants as we hold the Government to account for the appalling manner in which it is treating hard working timber families and seek to restore the harvesting and haulage of forest produce to levels required to fulfil 2018/19 supply contracts.

The Public Native Forest Estate has reserves and parks that cover 94% of its land base and only 6% is available for sustainable timber production.

The Andrews Government continues to manage threatened species found in that area set aside for timber production on an individual species basis and this has caused the loss of enormous areas of production forest to industry.

We must return to a landscape-based management regime for threatened species that is endorsed by the Australian Institute of Foresters and has a long history of being very effective.

Timber products produced from our native forests are in high demand and that demand currently outstrips supply. The alternative to utilising our own home-grown resource is to import those same products from third world countries that do not have sustainable forest management practices.

To take this option would be irresponsible and completely hypocritical and cause the loss of thousands of jobs across Victoria, devastate the economy of country communities and the hopes and dreams of timber families.

Our Premier claims to be all about jobs, jobs and more jobs and yet he continues to preside over a Government that has plunged the Native Forest Industry into uncertainty and enormous stress.

This is no way to treat the harvesting contractors that the Andrews Government is depending on to help save lives, property and townships from devastation during the current bushfire season. It begs the question— “So you want us to fight your fires this year, but you don’t want us around next year?” Gary Blackwood, MP.