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Testing the water to shut town native timber in Victoria

A market research company is visiting country towns in Victoria to test the water on the public’s reaction to shutting down the native timber industry. The most recent of several events was in Maryborough on Wednesday night. Others are understood to have taken place in Shepparton and Bendigo as well as various centres in Gipplsland. Source: Bruce Mitchell for Timberbiz

Participants were paid $100 and it is understood they were required to sign a confidentially note.

The sessions are being run by Cooper Symons & Associates.

A director of Cooper Symons & Associates, Abigail Cooper, said one of her company’s clients was a market research company.

“I have no idea who they are working for,’’ she said.

“They sent me some profiles and the topic was ‘Community Ideas’ and we ran a number of groups around Victoria and also in Melbourne.’’

It is believed the research company is Quantum Market Research. Daily Timber News was told the company would make contact, but had not been called by deadline.

The Victorian Association of Forest Industries Inc. says it is deeply troubled by the report of alleged market research, believed to be partly funded by the State Government, which sought feedback from Victorians on the hypothetical closure of the Victorian native timber industry.

VAFI CEO, Tim Johnston, said the line of questioning, if found to be accurate, is severely damaging for the future of the industry, and the thousands of hard-working Victorians reliant on it.

“We need to know if this is true or not. The native timber industry directly employs thousands of people across the supply chain and supports many more additional jobs through flow-on economic activity. Our industry significantly contributes to the Victorian economy.

“If such questioning is found to be true, then we demand immediate answers from the State Government regarding why the questions were posed in the first instance, and to seek clarity about its plans for the industry.

“We have been calling on the State Government to release a long-term sustainable plan for the security of the industry so that businesses can make investments and make decisions for their own futures. The State Government owes it to the industry to be open and transparent with its plans.”

Mr Johnston said the ongoing uncertainty is having a detrimental effect on the mental health of many.

“Again, we are faced with distress to many in the industry. We need immediate action and answers from the State Government. Failure to do so will mean it is again turning its back on this vital industry, and more importantly, those working in the industry across rural, regional and metropolitan Victoria.”

An attendee who works in the timber industry who did not wish to be identified confirmed to Daily Timber News that he had signed a confidentially note, and had accepted a $100 prepaid EFTPOS voucher.

He also confirmed that they had been told the survey was part funded by the Victorian State Government.

He said a number of scenarios had been put to the attendees, all based around the concept that all forestry industries should be stopped due to climate change, the risk of bushfires and the threat to endangered native animals.

The year 2022 had been used in one of the scenarios which he said were all “hypothetical’’.

The concept of retraining and compensating people currently in the industry was also put up in various scenarios.

The use of imported timber to replace locally sourced product was also put up as an option.

“It was labelled as community consultation but came more like “this is what we are going, what do you think about it’,’’ the attendee said.

“It was like a testing ground.

“There was not one discussion about how the millers can be more environmentally sustainable, how can they produce better products, how can they look after forests better.

“It was like ‘this is what’s happening, how can we sell it’.’’

The State Government in Victoria has been contacted for comment.