Despite weeks of ongoing uncertainty, there is still no solid guarantee from the State Government on the future of the native timber industry, and VAFI CEO Tim Johnston has vented his anger. In a News Mill edition this week, he said stories were now appearing in the media about the hardships many are facing due to the government inaction, the stalling of the Timber Release Plan, and issues around biodiversity protection. Source: Timberbiz
“In any situation like this, rumours abound. But the State Government’s inability to provide clarity around these issues is only doing more harm.
“As the peak body for the timber and forest industry in Victoria, we are advocates for all of our members. It’s an industry full of skill, passion and commitment, and regardless of what area of industry our members work in, the aim is the same. We need a sound government policy framework to work in,” Mr Johnston said.
In a recent article in The Weekly Times it was reported that Powelltown’s sawmill is under threat as are its 35 workers and their families due to a lack of timber supply and certainty.
The mill owner said that the failure to release the plan and logging coupes meant that green log supplies were down 10-20% and he was having difficulty meeting customer orders.
In Parliament last Thursday, Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring that supply obligations are met. I have written to the chair of the board of VicForests to state that the government will do everything it can to ensure they continue to have sufficient supply to meet contractual arrangements. For example, this might mean them having to harvest further afield than they normally would. We will continue to work with everyone, we will continue to keep conversations open, and I will have more to say about this in due course.”
Regarding the hardships being faced in the native timber industry, Minister Symes said the following: “When there are challenging times for country employers, we step in. We stepped in when Heyfield timber mill was in trouble. We stepped in when Carter Holt Harvey in Morwell closed, and we supported workers every single step of the way.
“This is a government that has created more country jobs than any government ever has before. Particularly in the Gippsland region we know there are challenges, and we will be there, side by side, with all of those workers, and we are very proud to do so.”
Mr Johnston said he would be meeting Minister Symes shortly.
“The government has had very little to say to this point, notwithstanding sustained pressure and current media interest. I hope for the sake of our members and everyone affected across the industry, many nearing desperation point, that sound policy outcomes and directions are the focus.
“While we need to know the future direction of the native timber industry, we need to have clarity and certainty now. For many on the front line, every week that passes is another week of debts not being paid, coupes not being accessed and families hurting. Politics should play no part in this,” Mr Johnston said.
The Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA) has also discussed the issues faced by its members with the Victorian Government as it is having a significant impact on the supply chain. AFCA has written to the Government on a number of occasions seeking urgent consideration of the Allocation Order and Timber Release Plans. It has outlined the impact and the need for a decision to be made.
If the plan is released there is still some time before things can progress as VicForests must survey, advertise and allocate the coupes, this could take many months.