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Portland business group urges government to negotiate with China

The Federal Government has been urged by a Portland business group to negotiate with China to ensure all Victorian timber log exports can resume as soon as possible. The call comes after China suspended the import of Victorian timber logs last week. Source: Timberbiz

Chinese authorities claimed a bark beetle had been found in logs exported in containers. A similar ban has been placed on timber from Queensland.

The Committee for Portland is concerned a ban on Victorian timber log imports into China will have a devastating impact on jobs and the local economy.

The Committee for Portland is an initiative of leading business, local government and Community leaders within Portland.

It is also understood to include members from the Port of Portland, South West Fibre, Australian Bluegum Plantation, A2C International, QUBE and Porthaul.

Committee for Portland Chair Steve Garner said the timber industry in Portland employed up to 1000 people and a protracted investigation would be costly.

“We are asking our state and federal politicians to step in to protect the livelihoods of regional Victorians who are involved in the export of timber logs to China,” Mr Garner said.

“The hit to the local economy alone is enormous if this ban continues any longer than it has to. It will run into hundreds of millions of dollars per annum in our region alone.”

Port of Portland Chief Executive Officer and Committee for Portland member Greg Tremewen said the industry depended on a fast resolution to the problem.

“All of the logs from the Green Triangle region from southeast South Australia to southwest Victoria are shipped from the Port of Portland.

“A lot of people are employed in the industry, from forestry and transport workers to stevedores, shipping agents, and the many people who work for the Port of Portland,” he said.

“The issue centres on biosecurity issues with containerised logs and not bulk loading of logs. The government needs to act swiftly to ensure the loading of bulk logs to China can be immediately restored,” Mr Tremewen said.

The Port of Portland is Victoria’s only naturally deep-water port, strategically located on the southwest coast between Melbourne and Adelaide. It is one of Australia’s busiest regional ports.

Mr Tremewen said he hoped the shipping of timber from Portland, which used bulk shipping rather than containerised logs, was not collateral damage in a dispute that did not apply to its timber.

In a statement, Glenelg Shire mayor Anita Rank said the council was closely monitoring the developments after the announcements and was liaising with relevant agencies.

Cr Rank urged all parties to work cooperatively towards a swift resolution.

“The announcement is of great concern to both the Port of Portland, which exports in excess of 1 million tonnes of logs each year, and to the region’s vital timber industries, which account for $778m gross regional product annually, and underpin some 18,000 direct and indirect jobs across the Green Triangle,” she said.