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VicForest employs the 10 contractors put off last week

VicForests will begin harvesting roadside timber along the Princes Highway in East Gippsland, employing contractors put out of work last week. VicForests was forced to issue force majeure notices to 10 contractors when it became obvious it could not fulfil certain contracts following the fires. Source: Timberbiz

“We have a contractual obligation to issue a force majeure notice when we get to that point where we have reason to believe we are not going to be able to meet our contractual obligations,” VicForests’ CEO Monique Dawson told Daily Timber News.

It became obvious VicForests was not going to be able to make coupes available for harvesting and for now the force majeure notice will stay in place.

“These (new) projects are different work because the contracts are built around us providing harvesting coupes,” Ms Dawson said.

However, in a move applauded by the Nationals Leader in Victoria Peter Walsh, she said those crews would now be engaged in road clearing projects.

“We are starting to collect the timber off the Princes Highway – about 15000 square metres – and some it is good saw logs so we will be to make arrangements for that to be delivered to customers, particularly those who are getting pretty tight on their supplies,’’ she said.

Percentages are not known.

“That’s is the work that’s happening now with our experienced harvesters getting in there and doing some of the prep.

“It will have to be carried out under significant traffic management because the highway is open.

“That is the sort of logistical things that have been worked through over the past week or so.’’

Ms Dawson said he believed “multiple crews will be able to be full-on collecting that over the next few weeks”.

“We have been able to negotiate with the industry some collection points where we will be able to take that timber.

“Then we will sort it.”

The contractors will be paid for the service they are providing by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to the point where the timber is loaded onto the trucks.

“We as VicForests will be paying the haulage rates,” Ms Dawson said.

Mr Walsh said that this commonsense decision was an important start.

“But we need the Government to commit to cleaning up the roadsides the length of these roads, including unburnt sections,” he said.

Ms Dawson said the force majeure clause did not represent a permanent “full stop”.

“This is all to get through in the short term while the impact of the fire is able to analyzed,” she said.

And she stressed that VicForests had no interest in harvesting green areas.

“We are interested in, as soon as possible, being able to recommence harvesting in areas that are already allocated to us.

“What we are talking about is harvesting the normal volumes of timber that we would normally harvest in the areas that are already allocated to us.”

The contracts for road clearance are not open ended; it’s until the highway is clear.

“In the meantime, we are working on the next program of road clearances,” Ms Dawson said.

This will cover secondary roads and forest roads.

“We are seeking to negotiate similar arrangements for those.

“That will be – we hope – a more ongoing kind of work program

“We are conscious that winter is coming on and that could provide some winter work for our contracting crews.

“But in the meantime we are going hard at working with our colleagues in Government to work through a time table for us to be able to recommence harvesting operations in the east.”