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Vic Government cancels community consultation on code for timber

Lily D’Ambrosio

The Victorian State Government has cancelled its community consultation process into reforms to the code of practice for timber production. State Environment Minister Lily D’Ambosio took the odd step of announcing the community engagement on the code through a release on Twitter. Source: Timberbiz

“I acknowledge there are legitimate concerns around the draft reforms to the code of practice for timber production and how they fit together,” Ms D’Ambosio wrote on Twitter.

“Listening to the community is important and that’s why I’ve decided to withdraw the current consultation.

“The full package of reforms will be released for consideration at a later date.”

No other public statements were made by the Minister and she could not be contacted for further comment yesterday.

As part of the consultation process 50 Victorians aged between 12 and 25 took part in a “youth forest symposium” in March at the Footscray Community Arts Centre.

However, no similar functions were held in regional Victoria.

It has been suggested to Daily Timber News that the minister may not have liked what was said at the Footscray event.

An email seen by Daily Timber News sent out by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning indicates that through the recent consultation process on the draft changes it had “heard and acknowledges the concerns that were raised, in particular that some environmental protections could be removed”.

“The draft changes were intended to make the Code stronger, clearer and more enforceable, not reduce or remove current environmental protections,” the email said.

“To ensure the community and stakeholders maintain trust in this important work we have decided to withdraw the current consultation on the first stage of the Code review and move to the comprehensive review of the Code.  This will allow us to demonstrate how existing environmental protections will be maintained within the total package of regulatory reform.”

The department email said that the focus in the short term would be to finalise the department’s approach to the review, including the consultation process, and that it would keep the current Engage Victoria webpage open until 29 September to ensure all interested community members and stakeholders are aware of this decision.

Victorian Association of Forest Industries CEO Tim Johnston said he was disappointed the minister withdrew the current consultation period.

“VAFI notes that the current review of the Code of Practice for Timber Production has been withdrawn which is disappointing given the time and effort committed to preparing submissions,” he said.

“VAFI supports improving consistency and clarity in the Code, however, this should not unreasonably restrict forest harvesting operations.”

He said VAFI strongly urged a move away from detection-based prescriptions to landscape-scale forest planning and management.

VAFI had made a submission and looked forward to the review being reinstated.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Peter Walsh said the shelving of the community consultation process indicated the State Government did not respect timber workers and businesses.

“If Daniel Andrews succeeds with his efforts to destroy the timber industry the demand for timber products will still be there,” he said.

“Instead of high quality Victorian timber that’s sourced responsibly and sustainably demand will be filled with imports from countries that don’t have the same high environmental standards we have in Victoria.”