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Victorian timber crews stood down maybe until May

Victoria’s native timber industry has been left in limbo with VicForests believed to be standing crews down following a Supreme Court decision just days before Christmas Day. In the Supreme Court on 22 December 2021, Justice Richards granted an order to stop native timber harvesting in the Central Highlands and East Gippsland. Source: Timberbiz

The court order cites that any coupe with one or more greater glider sightings – or a greater glider observed within 240 m of a coupe – will be shut down.

Timber industry representatives say this will mean almost every coupe, as the gliders are so common.

It is understood such sightings do not need to be substantiated in any way.

“Next thing the Minister will have protestors on the steps of parliament because we are importing from countries with far less oversight and killing orang-utans,” Nationals Gippsland East MP Tim Bull said.

Given Victoria’s court system is closed for the holidays no appeal can be heard until well into 2022 with some estimating it may not be heard until the end of May.

Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh condemned the State Government for sitting idle while a recent onslaught of third-party litigations destroyed Victorian jobs and businesses.
“It’s the ultimate act of political bastardry for Daniel Andrews to be sitting back while court action helps him achieve Labor’s senseless ban on a sustainable Victorian industry,” Mr Walsh said.

“Locking the entire industry out for an indefinite period will put even more pressure on existing timber shortages that’s causing delays and price hikes further down the chain.”

Shadow Assistant Minister for Public Land Use and The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath has levelled a scathing rebuke at the State Government for its unwillingness to protect timber workers and their families from the onslaught of third-party litigation.

“Let me be very clear, Daniel Andrews and his Ministers are the architects behind this absolute nightmare outcome for our sustainable native timber industry,” she said.

“The Timber Code of Practice is flawed with loopholes that Labor refuses to fix despite repeated calls from The Nationals.”

“This disgraceful situation will leave our haulage and harvest contractors out of work and our mills starved of logs,” said Ms Bath.

“Make no mistake this latest outcome will cost jobs, restrict timber supply further and inflate the cost of building and renovating homes for Victorian families even more.”

Ms Bath has written to the State Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas demanding the immediate release of windrow timber in the Wombat State Forest for emergency harvesting to keep at least a few crews in work and some supply trickling through.

“Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh has been calling for the release of Windrow timber for some time and following today’s outcome it’s imperative the Andrews Labor Government act immediately and release it for harvesting,” she said.

“This is an unfathomable and appalling situation. The Andrews Labor Government cannot cruelly sit back and allow workers to be starved of income while mental and financial pressures multiply.”

Mr Bull said the timber industry already surveyed coupes and provided buffer zones, but the court decision would leave the industry with no room to move.

“There are flaws in the Timber Code of Practice that should have been fixed,” he said.