Councils should focus on what they’re there for, and not be deciding the fate of the hardwood timber industry, according to Victorian Forest Products Association (VFPA) CEO Deb Kerr. Ms Kerr was commenting on inner-city Melbourne suburb Maribyrnong pushing through a resolution at the Municipal Association of Victoria’s conference calling for native hardwood timber harvesting to be phased out well before 2030. Source: Timberbiz
Maribyrnong Greens councillor Simon Crawford initiated the motion, which was overturned but then passed after a close division.
Given the motion has been passed, the MAV is now obliged to lobby the Victorian government for an early phase out of the industry.
“We’ve declared a climate emergency, so we need as much native forest around the world as possible,” Cr Crawford was reported as saying.
Cr Crawford’s motion warned native timber forestry was “a practice which has severe environmental impacts, including threatening endangered species”.
But Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA) general manager Carlie Porteous said that Cr Crawford’s statements appeared contradictory to the recommendations of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which supports the active management of our forests for carbon sequestration and timber supply.
“Many Victorians do not support the end of native forestry in Victoria. Particularly as demand for products has not diminished and there is no identified resources to fill the gap besides importing from overseas,” Ms Porteous said.
“This shortened timeframe is also a concern from a bushfire management perspective.
“Should we assume the councillor and those supporting the motion have a plan to protect Victorians from the next catastrophic bushfire?”
Ms Kerr said Maribyrnong council should stick to overseeing their local issues.
“We don’t ask the Victoria Premier to sort out waste management – neither should Melbourne-based councils dabble in regional affairs,” Ms Kerr said.
“Yet, they have taken it upon themselves to seek an end to native forestry even before the agreed deadline. Perversely, the votes of Melbourne based councils count twice as much as regional votes at the conference – meaning that city councils outvote the regional councils by a ‘country mile’.”
Under the MAV’s rules Melbourne councils get two votes each at the conference, compared with just one for per country council.
“So here we have an inner-city Greens councillor wanting to decide the future of an industry that is the backbone of regional Victoria, supporting jobs and communities, defending Victoria from bush fires, and supporting well over 100,000 businesses across the supply chain – many of which are based in Melbourne,” said Ms Kerr.
She said that Melbournians loved their native hardwood, showing that Melbourne based city councils are out of step with their own constituents.
A recent VFPA poll in the state district of Keysborough showed broad support for Victoria’s sustainable native hardwood industry with 68% of voters, including 57% of Greens voters, supporting the sector and 61% support access to Victoria’s native forests to supply this timber through to and beyond 2030.
“It looks like sourcing our timber from other countries is ok for the Greens, as long as it’s not from our backyards,” Ms Kerr said.
“Instead, Councils should focus on what they’re there for, and not decide the fate of an industry producing essential products from a renewable resource – trees.”
Ms Porteous said the voting system was a clear imbalance of power providing inner-city councils with decision making over regional areas that actually provide essential commodities such as produce, meat, fibre and energy.
“I would encourage all councillors, considering voting yes, to meet and speak with the men and women who saved communities during all of the historic and catastrophic fires in Victoria’s history and who continue to manage the forest for generations to come,” Ms Porteous said.
In Victoria during the 2019-20 bushfire season, 34 forest contracting businesses provided over 137 days of critical aid to the Victorian Government and threatened communities. This required the skill and experience of 284 full time employees with using 190 pieces of specialised equipment.