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Victorian forest & fire services agreement signed

Tim Lester

After an extensive and complex negotiation, the Australian Forest Contractors Association has welcomed the finalisation and signing of new Forest and Fire Services Agreements between contracting businesses and the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action. Source: Timberbiz

AFCA General Manager Tim Lester said the new agreements provided certainty for timber harvest contracting business and workers who had been impacted by the government’s decision to accelerate closure of the state’s forests to timber harvesting.

“An unmanaged forest is a disaster waiting to happen,” Mr Lester said.

“With these new Forest and Fire Services Agreements we can maintain the skills and equipment needed for protect forest assets over the long term and particular for times of bushfire or other emergencies.

“VicForests managed 1.8 million hectares on behalf of the people of Victoria, and that task now falls to DEECA. We welcome the recognition from the Victorian Government that forest harvesting contracting businesses have the knowledge and workforce that is essential for the practical management of the state’s forests.

“The businesspeople and workers who have spent their lives in and around the bush know the areas, geographies, seasons and species. This is a rich and deep source of knowledge available to the planners in the department and which is ready and able to assist in delivering the best, most efficient and most functional results for the state.

“We also acknowledge that there is another group of contractors who are already providing services to DEECA for similar works, and who have not been afforded an equivalent opportunity. There needs to be equity in arrangements.

“There is also a need to ensure all contractors get paid when on standby to join a fire response. At the moment contracting businesses are only paid when they are called into service but being on standby can mean turning down other work,” Mr Lester said.