Labor concedes forestry plan will fail

The Andrews Labor Government has admitted that its plan to transition away from native forestry to plantations by 2030 will fail and ultimately lead to greater imports of timber products into Victoria.

State Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) has heard that just 500 hectares of new plantations have been planted in the last two years and a new market-led proposal for new plantations has still not been finalised.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien said it was now three and a half years since the Andrews Labor Government committed $110 million for plantation expansion, but there were barely any new trees in the ground.

“It is very concerning that the Government has made a political decision to end the native timber harvesting industry by 2030, but clearly has no plan to replace that timber with plantations and that will cost Gippsland jobs,” Mr O’Brien said.

“In PAEC on Friday I asked the Minister how Victoria will source timber under Labor’s native harvesting ban. It was clear the Government doesn’t really have a solution and that is bad for jobs and industry in Gippsland.”

In response to Mr O’Brien, the Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said,

“It is not a case of tree-by-tree replacement transition. We of course acknowledge that the trees that we plant now will not be ready for harvest by 2024 or 2030. It was never intended to be so.”

Mr O’Brien said Labor had failed the timber industry and workers in Gippsland timber communities.

“The Government has dithered for three years on new plantations and only now is seeking to get the private sector to pick up the pace. Native harvesting is undertaken on around 3000 hectares per year, so 250ha of new plantations in the past two years goes nowhere near to filling the looming void.

“That the Minister can’t explain where our future supplies will come from, given that these plantations are still many decades away, shows that the Government’s supposed transition is a sham.”

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath said Labor has consistently let Gippsland down when it comes to the timber industry.

“In a bid to shore up Green votes in the city, Labor has sacrificed timber jobs and it’s clear it will have no new sawlogs available to replace the native timber when its ban comes into place in 2030.

“That’s why The Nationals and Liberals have committed to overturn that ban if we’re elected in 2022, because our timber industry and the jobs it provides in Gippsland are just too valuable.”

PAEC also heard that the Labor Government has failed to pursue an outstanding $1.2 million debt resulting from court costs awarded against a Victorian environment group.

Mr O’Brien said the Government had so far only recovered $30,000 and gave no indication under questioning that it has any intention of pursuing the costs any further.

 

24 December 2020

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