Risk of job losses out­weighs park push

Australian Forests and Timber - - FRONT PAGE -

AL­MOST TWO-thirds of Vic­to­ri­ans don’t be­lieve that the pro­posed Great For­est Na­tional Park (GFNP) will gen­er­ate enough jobs to cover those lost in the for­est, fi­bre, and wood prod­ucts in­dus­try if the park were to be es­tab­lished.

Polling un­der­taken by JWS Re­search on be­half of the Vic­to­rian As­so­ci­a­tion of For­est In­dus­tries (VAFI) clearly showed the park push is flawed.

Tim John­ston, VAFI’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, said that in ad­di­tion to doubts that any sig­nif­i­cant jobs would be cre­ated by the pro­posed park, the polling also showed that more than half of Vic­to­ri­ans don’t be­lieve that it will gen­er­ate any sig­nif­i­cant new tourism and ac­com­mo­da­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties at all.

“These num­bers show that op­po­si­tion to the pro­posed park out­weighs sup­port in all in­stances where jobs are con­cerned. They are in di­rect con­trast to the re­cent re­port into the pro­posed GFNP that claimed that for an in­vest­ment of $45 mil­lion from gov­ern­ment and pri­vate en­ter­prise, it could cre­ate 760 full-time jobs,” he said.

“Things come at a cost. The es­tab­lish­ment of the pro­posed GFNP will cost thou­sands of jobs in the for­est, fi­bre and wood prod­ucts in­dus­try in Vic­to­ria. It will have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for the in­dus­try, which in turn will have a di­rect im­pact so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally for all of Vic­to­ria. We have real jobs on the ground now, and the im­pact would be im­me­di­ate.”

“A re­cent Deloitte Ac­cess Eco­nomic Re­port Eco­nomic as­sess­ment of the na­tive tim­ber in­dus­try in the Cen­tral High­lands showed that $573 mil­lion in rev­enue was gen­er­ated an­nu­ally by in­dus­try in the re­gion, re­sult­ing in the di­rect em­ploy­ment of 2,117 full time equiv­a­lent work­ers.

“Peo­ple need to be aware that es­tab­lish­ing a new na­tional park has real con­se­quences, and this will im­pact on the lives of thou­sands of Vic­to­ri­ans. It will see re­gional com­mu­ni­ties that rely on the for­est, fi­bre and wood prod­ucts in­dus­try re­ally strug­gling to sur­vive. This polling showed that the im­pact would be es­pe­cially felt in Gipp­s­land, al­ready un­der pres­sure from job losses, where 75% of res­i­dents do not be­lieve new tourism jobs will be enough to off­set any job loss from the clo­sure of the lo­cal mill,”.

Mr John­ston re­it­er­ated that in­dus­try is, and will con­tinue to be, com­mit­ted to work­ing con­struc­tively with all stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing eNGOs and Gov­ern­ments to main­tain the bal­ance be­tween en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions and the sus­tain­able for­est, fi­bre and wood prod­ucts in­dus­try in Vic­to­ria.

“How­ever, what we need to re­mem­ber is that over­all, the tim­ber in­dus­try in Vic­to­ria is a $7 bil­lion in­dus­try that em­ploys 21,000 Vic­to­ri­ans and sup­ports an­other 40,000 to 50,000 lo­cal jobs, many of these in re­gional Vic­to­ria.”

The re­port into the pro­posed GFNP claimed that it could de­liver around $70 mil­lion an­nu­ally and cre­ate 760 full-time jobs. This is not ad­e­quate to cover the loss the State would see from the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect the park would have on the for­est, fi­bre and wood prod­ucts in­dus­try.

“The num­bers sim­ply don’t add up,” said Mr John­ston.

“This is backed up by a sep­a­rate re­port com­mis­sioned by the Yarra Ranges Coun­cil, one of the main Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment ar­eas in the pro­posed park area, which shows that the re­sult­ing loss of em­ploy­ment from the end­ing of tim­ber har­vest­ing would have a par­tic­u­larly neg­a­tive eco­nomic and so­cial im­pact on the smaller towns within the LGA.

“I stress that rush­ing to es­tab­lish the pro­posed GFNP is not a good idea. This is some­thing we need to have an in­formed de­bate about, and you can’t have that de­bate with­out ac­knowl­edg­ing jobs losses. We need forestry, tourism, and any other small in­dus­tries to en­sure a re­silient and vi­brant fu­ture for these com­mu­ni­ties and all Vic­to­ri­ans,” Mr John­ston said.

It’s also worth not­ing that 94% of the State for­est is al­ready un­avail­able or un­suit­able for ex­cluded tim­ber har­vest­ing. Cur­rently tim­ber har­vest­ing oc­curs in just 0.04% of the for­est an­nu­ally and har­vested tim­ber is re­planted the fol­low­ing year.

“We need forestry, tourism, and any other small in­dus­tries to en­sure a re­silient and vi­brant fu­ture for these com­mu­ni­ties and all Vic­to­ri­ans,” Mr John­ston said.

VAFI’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Tim John­ston ... “park plan will have will have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences”.

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