The Nationals Melina Bath Timber Industry Timber Danny O'Brien Plantations timber plantations Gippsland Timber Industry

Labor’s bureaucratic go-slow threatens timber jobs

The Andrews Labor Government is putting Gippsland timber industry jobs at serious risk with its snail’s pace attempts at establishing new timber plantations.

The announcement that the government is only now releasing an “expression of interest” process for investors and potential timber plantation owners to develop new plantations comes three and a half years after it allocated the money for the plan in the state budget.

Gippsland Nationals MPs said the Labor Government’s supposed “transition” from a native hardwood industry to plantations was already a sham, and the go-slow bureaucratic process would only confirm the failure.

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, said Labor should have had trees in the ground but instead it has been dithering for three and a half years.

“There are thousands of Gippsland families who put food on the table every night thanks to the timber industry, be it the native hardwood or plantation sector, and they are being sold down the river by the Andrews Labor Government.

“The government allocated $110 million to new plantations in the Latrobe Valley in the 2017 budget and it was widely welcomed.  But that money has sat idle since then while the government has since announced it will shut down the native timber sector by 2030.  There will not be a single plantation tree available for sawlog production by that time and this announcement does nothing to change that.”

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, said timber plantations are a critical industry in Gippsland supporting many jobs, but could not replace the native hardwood sector.

“The Labor Government would have you believe timber is timber.  But suggesting plantations of radiata pine or blue gums can replace native grown species like mountain ash or alpine ash is like comparing apples and potatoes.

“It’s extraordinary that Labor thinks we can transition out of native forests to plantations in 10 years.  The only thing that will happen is that Gippsland jobs will be lost and we’ll be importing more hardwood timber from countries with little or no environmental protections in place.”

The Nationals MPs said the Labor Government needs to answer key questions about its plantation program including, where new plantations will be located, will the government be subsidising the purchase of prime agricultural land to be turned over to trees, which species will be planted and what research will be undertaken to ensure hardwood plantations succeed?

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