Victorian timber industry suffers shortage

By Country News

Bushfires have paralysed the timber industry, with industry leaders saying tonnes of wood that could be a lifesaver are being abandoned on roadsides because of Victorian Government inertia and red tape.

Timber the industry needs to keep its saws turning and customers supplied would normally come from central and north-east Victoria, which was ground zero for the fires.

Corryong Sawmill managing director Graham Walker said the industry had taken a massive hit because so many resources were lost to the flames.

This included one of their $35 000 machines, and several staff have still not been able to return to work because of trauma.

Victorian Association of Forest Industries chief executive Tim Johnston has pointed the finger at the Victorian Government for making things even tougher for mills.

He said the government — which has an agenda of banning logging by 2030 — must provide clarity for the industry, now more than ever.

“Large numbers of trees have been felled along roads and firebreaks to control the bushfires and for access, fuel and safety reasons and it is vital the government works with industry and local communities in using this timber,” Mr Johnston said.

“There is only a short window for accessing it, subject to its burn severity status, and it would be irresponsible not to utilise the timber that is removed while making forests safe.”

Australian Forest Contractors Association general manager Stacey Gardiner said she wanted Canberra to make access to assistance easier for everyone affected by the fires.

“While there is plenty of assistance for landowners in the fire-affected areas, that’s not available for our members,” she said.

Mr Walker agreed, saying his mills had only had five loads of logs since the fires.

In a normal year in that time it would be receiving eight to 10 loads per day.

“In February we normally have 2500 cubic metres of logs and we have received about 100 so far,” he said.

A delegation of forestry contractors from Victoria and NSW descended on the national capital on Thursday, February 13 to urge federal and state governments to work together to provide immediate assistance for forestry contractors.

VAFI communications and advocacy consultant Justin Law said about 40 per cent of timber had been affected by the bushfires.

“There’s still supply at the mills but we don’t know how long that will last,” Mr Law said.

“We’re waiting for the Victorian Government to allow us to salvage timber that wasn’t originally for the timber industry; but is better to use.”