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Transition plan out of native logging

Victoria must develop a transition plan to help its timber industry move from native logging to plantation timber, a group of state MPs has recommended. Source: The Weekly Times

The Inquiry into VicForests by a group of cross party MPs made seven recommendations to the State Government, including the call for it to establish an industry transition plan and work with VicForests, and the Forest Industry Taskforce to consider “supporting innovative industry players (and) …. how current forestry-dependent communities can be actively supported through any transition plans”.

Nationals MP Luke O’Sullivan was the only MP on the committee to vote against the recommendation for a transition plan.

The report also recommended calling on the Government to explain the Forest Industry Taskforce and deliver tighter oversight of VicForests, and the way it manages the resource.

The taskforce was a Labor Party election commitment, which brought together leaders from the forestry, conservation and union sectors. Formed in 2015, it went into recess earlier this year before it made any formal proposals to the Government.

“We have heard very little from this taskforce, which has yet to provide any recommendations to Government,” the VicForests Inquiry chair, Liberal MP Bernie Finn, said.
“My view is that the funding may be better spent elsewhere on assisting those working in the industry, or supporting measures to enhance the industry’s competitiveness within the global market for fibre and wood products.”

Mr Finn also called said there was an “immediate need” to ensure that jobs in the forestry sector were secure.

“We also need ongoing transparency and accuracy around supply of timber so that the industry has a clear understanding about what they can achieve in any given period,” he said.

Greens MP Samantha Dunn, a committee member, filed a minority report calling for the establishment of the Great Forest National Park, east of Melbourne, and the end of native logging in the state.

The VicForests inquiry was called for by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party earlier this year when a Gippsland timber mill, which employed more than 230 workers, faced closure.

The Hermal Group, which owned the Australian Sustainable Hardwoods timber mill at Heyfield, said it would close because the Government had reduced the amount of timber it had access too.

VicForests, owned by the Government, manages the native timber and reduced the available log supply because of bushfire and conservation of the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum.

In September, the Government completed the purchase of the timber mill for an undisclosed sum — rumoured to be $50 million — although it is not clear how many jobs it will retain, given the reduced timber supply.

The Government has six months to consider the VicForests Inquiry.

VicForests said it would work with the Government on any recommendations it accepted.