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Victorian hardwood plantations engage regional advocate

Liz McKinnon

Western Victoria’s hardwood plantation sector has engaged respected regional advocate and communications specialist Liz McKinnon to act as its shared external affairs manager to coordinate communication with government and community stakeholders. Source: Timberbiz

Global forest companies Australian Bluegum Plantations (ABP), Midway Limited and New Forests, who control about 90% of western Victoria’s hardwood (eucalyptus globulus) estate, have engaged the recognised government figure to manage its aligned external affairs.

The contract role will coordinate strategic communication, government relations and policy development, aimed to enhance and support the work of existing industry advocacy groups.

Ms McKinnon has extensive industry experience as the founding CEO of the Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub prior to taking on the role of South Australia’s first Cross Border Commissioner, acting as an advocate for the state’s border communities.

She joins the hardwood collective with more than two decades experience in media and communications, including senior management experience in government relations and stakeholder management.

With growing interest from investors and government, ABP CEO Russ Hughes said the companies recognised the value of engaging a “communications specialist” to promote the hardwood sectors focus on plantation investment and domestic value-add, including trials to create new hardwood structural timber products and use of hardwood in the creation of biofuel.

Mr Hughes said a key emphasis of the role was building closer partnership with the broader agriculture industry in western Victoria, promoting the value of the carbon market and the sector’s sustainable management practices.

“Liz has worked across jurisdictions dealing with complex policy and challenging stakeholder management environments. She has a strong understanding of the industry’s strategic direction and business operations ensuring she is well positioned to promote the hardwood sector’s future, building trusted relationships, and recognising areas for new partnership,” Mr Hughes said.

Midway Limited managing director Tony McKenna said Ms McKinnon would be responsible for identifying, managing, and facilitating coordination of key issues, with an initial focus on investments in the Geelong, Otway and Heytesbury regions.

“Our relationship with the media, broader industry, government, and community stakeholders is important to growing our business. This collaboration will support a more consistent and transparent voice for the plantation hardwood sector in western Victoria,” Mr McKenna said.

New Forests global head of asset management Matt Crapp said a primary focus of the external affairs role was community education, supporting greater understanding of the sector’s sustainable management practices and focus on new domestic value add.

“Liz will play an important role managing the coordination of messaging for our three companies, reflecting how we can better align our public engagement to enhance the economic, social and environmental understanding of the role our sector plays not only to the local economy but the nation’s economy,” Mr Crapp said.

Ms McKinnon has been employed in the role as a contractor via her business EHM Advisory.