ASH - Vic. Govern­ment stale­mate con­tin­ues

Australian Forests and Timber - - Front Page -

THE AUS­TRALIAN Sus­tain­able Hard­woods/Vic­to­rian Govern­ment stoush over a long term log sup­ply is cur­rently in a state of limbo; the CFMEU con­tin­ues to put pres­sure on politi­cians and the pos­si­bil­ity of more talks re­mains just that ... a pos­si­bil­ity!

The of­fi­cial line from union is that dis­cus­sions are con­tin­u­ing with the govern­ment and the com­pany, how­ever, there may be more de­vel­op­ments soon as the union is sched­uled to meet with all the work­ers on site.

ASH’s Hey­field Mill work­ers still face job cuts from Septem­ber with a planned clo­sure next year.

ASH had been of­fered a 155,000 cu­bic me­tres per an­num con­tract by VicForests from 2014 through to 2034. How­ever, early this year VicForests said it was not au­tho­rised to of­fer any more than 80,000 cu­bic me­tres of log in 2017-18 and less than that in the fol­low­ing two years.

“We have been forced into this po­si­tion by the govern­ment. The only thing that will change this tra­jec­tory is if there is a new sup­ply agree­ment of­fered by the govern­ment that is re­spect­ful of our busi­ness needs,” ASH CEO, Vince Hur­ley had told staff

“VicForests says there aren’t enough logs. If you keep lock­ing up com­mer­cial coupes be­cause of pos­sum sight­ings and don’t un­lock oth­ers in their stead, is it any sur­prise that you will even­tu­ally run out of tim­ber?” said James Lantry (spokesman for ASH own­ers). Mr Lantry said the CFMEU had sought mod­el­ling ad­vice from VicForests, but there has been no ad­vice as yet as to the out­come.

“The govern­ment made an an­nounce­ment they were con­tem­plat­ing buy­ing the mill and they are tak­ing steps now to talk to us about that. We’ve made it clear we are not par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in that op­tion es­pe­cially at the num­bers the pre­mier was sug­gest­ing they pur­chase the mill for,” he added.

“If Vicforests meet its sup­ply plan this year --the agreed tar­get of sup­ply -- we will prob­a­bly have enough to run the mill un­til the lat­ter part - prob­a­bly to the end - of Au­gust. if they fall short (prob­a­bly in the realms of 9-10000 cubes short), we will run out of tim­ber early in Au­gust.”

As­sis­tant Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources, Se­na­tor Anne Rus­ton met with the Vic­to­rian Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture Jaala Pul­ford on 31 March to fur­ther dis­cuss wood sup­ply is­sues. Se­na­tor Rus­ton said the Aus­tralian Govern­ment was work­ing con­struc­tively with the Vic­to­rian Govern­ment to en­sure pro­duc­tion forests con­tinue to be a source of wood sup­ply for in­dus­try, while also be­ing man­aged to pro­tect threat­ened species. These two ob­jec­tives are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.

“While wood sup­ply is a mat­ter for the Vic­to­rian Govern­ment, the Aus­tralian Govern­ment con­tin­ues to en­cour­age

Vic­to­ria to ex­plore all avenues to se­cure a re­li­able wood sup­ply for in­dus­try,” the Se­na­tor said.

“The Aus­tralian Sus­tain­able Hard­wood tim­ber mill is lo­cated in Hey­field, in the Welling­ton Shire. La­trobe City Coun­cil is aware that the mill’s cur­rent own­ers are look­ing to re­lo­cate oper­a­tions away from Hey­field and we un­der­stand the pain this will cause in that small com­mu­nity,” said La­trobe City coun­cil Mayor Kel­lie O’Cal­laghan.

”Ear­lier in the year, La­trobe City Coun­cil also raised con­cerns over de­lays in ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween VicForests and the tim­ber in­dus­try as it im­pacted Aus­tralian Pa­per Mary­vale – one of the La­trobe Val­ley’s big­gest em­ploy­ers.

“Se­cur­ing a long-term fu­ture for the tim­ber in­dus­try in La­trobe Val­ley and the wider Gipp­s­land re­gion means job se­cu­rity and eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity,” she added.. “With the loss of jobs in our re­gion, fol­low­ing the clo­sure of the Hazel­wood Power Sta­tion, this week’s State Govern­ment’s an­nounce­ment ($110m for plan­ta­tion es­tab­lish­ment) is a wel­come source of hope for the in­dus­try and its long-term prospects,” the Mayor said.

Vic­to­rian As­so­ci­a­tion of For­est In­dus­tries Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Tim Johnston said while he noted the govern­ment’s com­ments about their com­mit­ment to the mill re­main­ing op­er­a­tional, this pro­posal does not change the over­ar­ch­ing is­sue of ever con­strict­ing tim­ber sup­ply, due to on­go­ing trans­fer of pro­duc­tion for­est to parks and reserves, and the fu­ture of the whole in­dus­try in Vic­to­ria.

“Of the 8 mil­lion hectares of public na­tive for­est in Vic­to­ria, more than 90% is un­avail­able through re­serve pro­tec­tion, or un­suit­able for tim­ber har­vest­ing,” he said, and called on the govern­ment to ur­gently fi­nalise its re­view of Lead­beater’s Pos­sum pre­scrip­tions, which should take a whole-of-land­scape ap­proach in­clud­ing as­sess­ing num­bers in Na­tional Parks, Reserves and Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Zones [SPZs], as well as tim­ber pro­duc­tion ar­eas.

Nathan Trushell, VicForests Act­ing CEO, said the tim­ber sup­ply of­fered to the Hey­field mill was at a level that could be sus­tain­ably pro­duced from the avail­able for­est also tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the ex­ist­ing con­tracts VicForests has with other cus­tomers.

“Since VicForests ini­tial dis­cus­sions with ASH, de­tailed re­views of our re­source mod­el­ling by ex­ter­nal ex­perts have shown that these vol­umes are in line with the tim­ber re­sources avail­able to us,” he said.

Vic­to­rian Pre­mier Daniel An­drews ear­lier said the of­fer made to ASH was for a three year con­tract con­sist­ing of one year’s tim­ber sup­ply at 80,000m3 and two years at 60,000m3. The of­fer also in­cluded a $5 mil­lion in­dus­try sup­port pack­age in­clud­ing sup­port for a busi­ness case for re­tool­ing.

“The Govern­ment be­lieves that the Hey­field mill can con­tinue to op­er­ate at the pro­posed vol­umes.

Pre­mier An­drews said the Govern­ment did not rule out as­sum­ing op­er­a­tion of the mill at a fair and rea­son­able value in the event that it be­comes nec­es­sary.

“Of the 8 mil­lion hectares of public na­tive for­est in Vic­to­ria, more than 90% is un­avail­able through re­serve pro­tec­tion ..."

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