Forest industry axed

By Jamie Salter

The Victorian Government has announced the phase-out of all logging in the state's native forests by 2030.

Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said this was the largest protection plan in the state's history.

“We’re taking this step to protect our precious natural gifts for generations to come, while striking the right balance between the environment and jobs,” she said.

Immediate protections have been put in place for the threatened greater glider and Leadbeater's possum, native fauna and 90 000 ha of Victoria's remaining old-growth forest.

The additional protections will see 186 000 ha removed from logging, which is equivalent to more than 100 000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds.

It is estimated the changes will cause the loss of 4700 jobs and nearly $300 million from the economy.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the time had come to face up to the fact the native timber industry faced massive challenges.

“We will move to convert to full plantation timber supply, that is the future,” he said.

Victorian Government-owned VicForests will extend existing supply agreements until 2024, before ending native timber harvests completely by 2030.

The government will put aside $120 million over 10 years to support the industry through the transition from native trees to plantation logs, including the purchase of new equipment.

Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the decision demonstrated a lack of respect for regional Victoria and ignorance for the forestry industry.

“The decision today (November 7) shows that the Victorian Government doesn’t care about these families in regional towns,” she said.

“Four thousand seven hundred people will be out of work and this will have serious flow-on effects for the state’s regional economy.”

Victorian Opposition leader Michael O'Brien said the Liberal Nationals would stand with regional communities to fight the plan.

“The Liberal Nationals will pull out all stops to fight for regional Victoria and will rally against Daniel Andrews and his arrogant decision to rip the heart out of regional Victoria,” he said.

“Annually, Victoria’s timber industry has access to just 0.04 per cent or less of the forest estate.”

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said the plan would wipe out towns like Orbost and Heyfield.

“Our forest industries meet and exceed world’s best forestry management practices, and forest scientists agree sustainable management can play a positive role in minimising carbon emissions,” he said.