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Gippsland’s Darren Chester pressures Albanese to overturn Vic native timber plan

Darren Chester

With the incoming Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, vowing to unite Australians, Gippsland MHR, Darren Chester, has demanded that he start this process by pressuring the Andrews Government to overturn its ridiculous plan to ban native timber harvesting by 2030. Source: Phillip Hopkins for Timberbiz

“I urge Mr Albanese to keep his promise and ensure the environmentally-sustainable Victorian native forest industry continues to function with some of the best practises in the world,” Mr Chester said, commenting after the federal election.

During the election campaign, Mr Albanese was accused of supporting former Labor leader Mark Latham’s plan in 2004 to close vast swathes of the Tasmanian native forestry industry. Mr Albanese and Labor rejected the claim, The Australian reported.

“Federal Labor has repeatedly committed to the native timber industry,” a party campaign spokesman said.

“We know the industry supports jobs and assists the construction sector to provide high-quality products to Australians. Labor is committed to our native forest industry and to growing our plantation industry, as well as further value-adding of Australia’s fine forest products.”

Mr Chester said the need for the native timber industry had been shown by the COVID pandemic and Ukraine crisis, which had exposed international supply chain fragilities. “These demand Australia becomes more self-sufficient and that must include a long-term commitment to a sustainable Victorian hardwood native timber industry,” he said.

“Our timber industry is a critical part of the regional economy, and it makes no sense to shut down Victorian forests and keep importing timber from countries with poorer environmental records.”

With climate change a key issue in the federal election, Mr Chester said a sustainable Victorian hardwood timber industry was part of the answer to reducing Australia’s carbon emissions.

“Timber products sequester carbon in our floorboards, furniture and other timber products. Re-growing trees can increase and maintain the role of forests as carbon sinks and is the ultimate renewable resource,” he said.

In Victoria, the most environmentally important forest areas were already protected with 3.367 million hectares of conservation areas.

“Every tree that is harvested by the timber industry is regrown, by law. VicForests harvests and regenerates approximately 3000 hectares each year from multiple-use public forests,” he said.

The native forest industry supported 21,000 jobs, from country towns across Victoria to the furniture industry in Melbourne.

“The skills and equipment of Gippsland timber industry workers help to keep us safe during bushfires and if the industry is shutdown, they will be lost forever,” he said.

“All of the Black Summer bushfires started on public land that had incredibly high fuel loads after decades of mismanagement due to a chronic lack of staff, resources, and commitment to protecting our communities.

“We need active forest management in Victoria which allows for multiple uses such as camping, hiking, prospecting, bee-keeping, fishing and a sustainable timber industry.”

Mr Chester said the skills of the timber industry workers should be utilised further to maintain forest access roads and strategic fire breaks around critical assets, like water catchments, towns and highways, with the timber harvested for the benefit of everyone.

“We need more boots and fewer suits. That’s more boots on the ground doing fuel reduction and other practical environmental work, and fewer suits in Melbourne making excuses… and stupid politically motivated decisions which endanger the lives of locals and visitors,” he said.