Forest inquiry no ‘witch hunt’

By Country News on May 17, 2017
  • Forest inquiry no ‘witch hunt’

    A parliamentary inquiry into Victoria’s forestry body won’t be a ‘‘witch hunt’’ because it is simply designed to get some answers for the state’s ailing timber mills, Victorian MP Jeff Bourman says.

A parliamentary inquiry into Victoria’s forestry body won’t be a ‘‘witch hunt’’ because it is simply designed to get some answers for the state’s ailing timber mills, Victorian MP Jeff Bourman says.

Mr Bourman, an MP for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in Gippsland, has established a parliamentary inquiry into VicForests, which manages the state’s timber supplies.

The soon-to-be closed Heyfield Mill sits in Mr Bourman’s electorate of Eastern Victoria and he says its dire situation is a direct consequence of not being able to secure log supply from VicForests.

‘‘The inquiry will look into how the management of our forest timber supplies has been permitted to get into such a dire state that it has put the sustainable Victorian timber industry at risk,’’ he said.

‘‘We are seeing timber mills across the state either closed, or in the process of closure, due to lack of wood supply instead of seeing a booming and diverse rural industry.’’

Mr Bourman said the inquiry would explore how wood supply projections could fluctuate so rapidly from healthy ongoing supply to nothing, but it would not be a ‘‘witch hunt’’.

He said they simply wanted to uncover the truth for mill workers and their families ‘‘who are hurting’’.

The inquiry is due to report on July 21.

The Heyfield Mill will close in September 2018 after VicForests cut its timber supply and its owners, Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, rejected a $4.7million, three-year operational subsidy from the Victorian Government.

ASH also rejected the government’s offer of a three-year contract of one year’s timber supply at 80000 cubic metres and two years at 60000 cubic metres.

ASH says it needs at least 130000 cubic metres of saw logs a year to continue operations — a number the government says is not environmentally sustainable.

Premier Daniel Andrews had offered to buy the mill if ASH didn’t want to run it any longer because he said the business had a strong future.

By Country News on May 17, 2017

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