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Rationality did not prevail so Andrews put a quick end to native forestry

Dan Andrews

The timber industry has universally condemned yesterday’s announcement that the Victorian native timber industry is to be shut down by the end of this year.

The decision has been described as flawed, disgraceful, gut-wrenching and devastating. Source: Timberbiz

“This Government’s decision is disgraceful. It pre-empts court decisions, future court cases and prioritises budget interests over people’s livelihoods. We find this decision, made as part of today’s budget announcement, appalling,” Victorian Forest Products Association CEO Deb Kerr said.

The Victorian State Government yesterday announced an additional $200 million in support for workers and their families to transition away from native timber logging six years earlier than planned – by 1 January 2024.

Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews says the State Government is seeking to give the forestry workers certainty.

“It’s not good enough for us to just cross our fingers and hope for the best. We need a plan to support workers, their families and support local jobs,” Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews said today.

“That’s why we’re stepping up to give these workers and their communities, businesses, and partners along the supply chain – the certainty they deserve.”

Meetings are scheduled for the end of the week with Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action to clearly establish the process for forest contracting businesses so that owners can make informed decisions and effectively support their employees.

Deputy Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Emma Kealy, said the Government’s decision was based on politics, not science or fact.

“Daniel Andrews and Labor are punishing regional Victorian communities to advance a radical green agenda that panders to inner-city Greens voters,” she said.

“So many communities rely on the timber industry for their survival and will be shattered by this decision.

“Without the timber industry’s manpower and heavy machinery, our capacity to fight bushfires will be significantly reduced, putting our forests and regional communities in harm’s way.

“This decision will kill our timber industry and cause untold damage to our regional communities.”

Ms Kerr said native forestry in Victoria had been subject to extensive regulations and international certification by PEFC/Responsible Wood.

“Despite our relentless efforts to oppose this decision, unfortunately, rationality did not prevail,” she said.

“The Andrews Government has squandered a rare opportunity to enhance Victoria’s global standing and support its workforce by rejecting the utilisation of the most sustainable material readily available within our own borders. Consequently, we will now have to depend on imports, whether sourced from interstate or overseas, to produce the hardwood products loved by Victorians,” Ms Kerr said.

Chris Stafford, a third-generation business owner and Board Director for Australian Forest Contractors Association said it was tough to sit across the table and be told that the decision has been made.

“However, commitments were made … assuring us that forest contracting businesses will be provided the same options to determine whether to opt out or transition their businesses.”

AFCA general manager Carlie Porteous said the decision has far reaching impacts for businesses, families and communities.

“We are now focusing on supporting them through the transition,” she said.

Forest & Wood Communities Australia director Mick Harrington described the decision as a devastating blow for thousands of regional Victorian families.

“We have people already on the edge thanks to the 2019 announcement and the relentless assault on sustainable native forestry since then,” he said.

“These are people who have been caring for our forests and ensuring they continue to provide a renewable resource but are now wondering how to feed their families and keep their homes.”

The Australian Forest Products Association said that today’s decision would result in even more hardwood being imported into Victoria from Tasmania and NSW.

It would also add to current imports – already worth $5.5 billion – much of which came from the tropical forests of developing nations with lesser environmental standards than Australia.

“That’s no way to protect and conserve Australia’s native forest estate or to halt global deforestation practices. Sustainable forestry management practices play no role in deforestation in Australia and decision makers need to understand the ramifications of their decisions,” the AFPA said.