Harvest area cut

By Country News

Victoria will slash its timber harvest area by 5000ha, but is promising the cuts will not impact on contracts and is opening additional areas for new-growth native logging.

Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes announced the move on Wednesday ahead of VicForests’ Timber Release Plan.

‘‘The new allocation order provides certainty for the timber industry this year, as we continue our work towards a long-term solution that balances job protection with conservation — and a boost in the use of plantation timber,’’ Ms Symes said.

The plan will identify the areas available for harvest.

‘‘The release of the allocation order and timber release plan amendments are vital components to VicForests’ planning and operations processes,’’ VicForests chief executive Nathan Trushell said.

An additional 550ha of Crown land near Maryvale and Yallourn North in the Latrobe Valley would be planted with native blue gum for future timber needs, Ms Symes said.

The sites would be planted this winter, and additional plantations were planned for 2020, she said.

The move to re-plant sites has been labelled a ‘‘sham’’ by Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh.

‘‘After two years of delays, we find out Labor’s plan for ‘new’ plantation forest is to re-plant existing plantation estate and reduce high-value ash timber available for industry to harvest,’’ Mr Walsh said.

It was a ‘‘tricky sham’’ to cover up a city-centric agenda that devastated jobs and business confidence in the state’s timber communities, he said.

The Greens also criticised the plan and want a shift to 100 per cent plantation timber in order to protect native forests.

‘‘Labor should get out of native forest logging, not extend the destruction,’’ Greens MP Janet Rice said.

VicForests is the state-owned business responsible for harvesting, selling and re-growing timber from state forests.