Risk of job losses outweighs park push
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”.