Australasia's home for timber news and information

Victoria’s Liberals say transition to plantations is a false promise for workers

Gary Blackwood

An expression of interest released by the Victorian State Government has shown the plan to transition native timber to plantation by 2030 is a false promise for those in the industry, according to Assistant Shadow Minister for Forestry Gary Blackwood. Source: Timberbiz

Mr Blackwood said the announcement of the Gippsland Plantations Investment Program was meant to give the native timber industry certainty, but instead it had reinforced that jobs will be lost, and the industry closed by starving it of supply.

The Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes’ announcement showed a clear lack of understanding about how long it takes to grow a tree for fibre or sawlog.

“Minister Symes should be embarrassed to put her name to this program, pretending it will deliver a reliable and secure future for thousands in the native timber industry who stand to lose their jobs and livelihoods” Mr Blackwood said.

“The Minister states that new plantation will create jobs in the supply chain and secure investment in the sector for the longer term. Given these plantations will take until 2050 and beyond to mature I’m not sure who she expects will be around to harvest them.

“Sadly, the Minister may have caught the same disease as her leader. Spin and false promises when they don’t have the guts to stand up to the Greens and do the right thing.”

Mr Blackwood said the Victorian Liberal Nationals asked the Minister when this program was announced how much plantation timber would be available for use in 2030 when this transition was due to be completed.

He said Ms Symes was “unable or unwilling” to answer.

“The plantation scheme may produce fibre for Australian Paper within 10 to 12 years and pine timber for house framing within 30 years,” Mr Blackwood said.

“It will not replace high-quality native forest timber.

“It will not be available for the native forest industry to transition to by 2030.

“By 2030 Victoria will have lost another 20,000 jobs and be importing hardwood timber from countries that do not replant after harvesting,” he said.

“This places at risk not only broad industry employment with harvesting and haulage contractors but also major producers of hardwood such as Australian Paper and at least 12 sawmills here in Gippsland.

“The time has come for the Andrews Labor Government to admit this transition is impossible to deliver by 2030 and come back to the table and meet with the sector to develop a transition plan that has a credible timeline and based on honesty and reality,” Mr Blackwood said.