The Victorian Association of Forest Industries Inc. (VAFI) has called for immediate action from the State Government after a protest in a timber harvesting coupe in Kinglake has again stopped forest contractors from making a living. Source: Timberbiz
VAFI CEO, Tim Johnston, said the Government has the regulatory power to remove protesters from operational harvesting coupes and says its time the government sent a stronger message to protesters that such action has serious consequences.
“The contractor, Brad Meyer, and his crew of three, all have to deal with a loss of income despite amendments to the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 (SFTA) in 2014 which gave the industry hope that new regulations would prevent such protests. This is the fifth time in as many months that this contractor has had to endure this unacceptable action,” he said.
“Brad has lost four weeks to protest action over the last five months. To turn up to your place of work and be confronted by people stopping you from your job and making a living is unacceptable. Voicing opinions is one thing, but to do it at the expense of hard-working Victorians is totally inexcusable.”
VAFI member and contractor Chris Stafford, said forest contractors all live with the daily stress and mental anguish of forest protesters.
“We are contracted by the government to do our job and when protests happen, the government turns its back on us. Every day we all turn up wondering if it’s our turn to be targeted, and I constantly stress about the impact this has on my staff and those in the industry just trying to make a living,” he said.
Mr Johnston said having laws in place is one thing, but actioning those laws is another.
“These are the same forest contractors that are regularly asked by the State Government to risk their lives and fight bushfires due to their expertise and equipment. These are the true first responders in times of bushfire emergencies. These are the same contractors that never say no. They simply deserve better,” he said.