State Gov­ern­ment to axe for­est log­ging

■ With no fire­wood or nat­u­ral gas, and coal power on the black list, Mans­field ap­pears to be los­ing its heat­ing op­tions

Mansfield Courier - - News -

THE log­ging of all na­tive trees will be phased out in Vic­to­ria over the next decade un­der a shock new pol­icy that was an­nounced by the State Gov­ern­ment last week.

They also an­nounced an im­me­di­ate ban on log­ging in old growth forests and for all na­tive tim­ber log­ging to cease by 2030 un­der the pol­icy.

The Vic­to­rian As­so­ci­a­tion of Forestry In­dus­tries es­ti­mates more than 21,000 peo­ple work in forestry and the wood prod­ucts sec­tor, and other stud­ies have shown the na­tive tim­ber sec­tor em­ploys around 2200 peo­ple.

“There will be pain and there will be chal­lenges in this, but we will stand with ev­ery sin­gle com­mu­nity to pro­vide the cer­tainty and the sup­port to make it through this tough tran­si­tion,” Premier Daniel An­drews said.

“Es­sen­tially, we are go­ing to re­place those jobs cur­rently em­ployed with na­tive tim­ber, with jobs in plant­ing, cut­ting down and haul­ing, and pro­cess­ing plan­ta­tion tim­ber.

“That's the way this tran­si­tion will be man­aged.”

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Lily D'Am­bro­sio vis­ited the Strath­bo­gie For­est last week with the an­nounce­ment, which was met with much cheer from the Save Our Strath­bo­gie For­est group.

How­ever, with many in the dis­trict em­ployed in forestry, and with­out any nat­u­ral gas for heat­ing, some lo­cals feel the out­look to be a lot direr.

Rob Kir­ley is a third gen­er­a­tion Mans­field forester and sup­plies lo­cals with fire­wood through his busi­ness Wob’s Wood Works.

He buys the low grade wood from log­ging coupes and turns it into fire­wood to sell lo­cally, which won’t be an op­tion soon.

“I grew up do­ing this, both sides of my fam­ily did,” he said.

“But In a few years, there will be no more fire­wood.”

He is al­ready in the process of sourc­ing fire­wood to truck from NSW and Queens­land to Mans­field.

“All the fire­wood will be com­ing from in­ter­state, as we won’t be able to get it lo­cally,” Rob said.

He pre­dicts fire­wood prices will in­crease by about 50 per cent.

And though Rob cur­rently em­ploys five more peo­ple, he said he will have to drop back to just one.

“So, that’s four lo­cals out of work, just in my lit­tle busi­ness and there’s a lot more in the town,” he said.

He es­ti­mates that be­tween him­self and Bar­wite Sawmill, they sup­ply 80 per cent of the dis­trict with fire­wood.

“I don’t know what peo­ple are go­ing to do,” said Rob.

“It’s go­ing to be the pen­sion­ers and lower in­come house­holds that are go­ing to suf­fer – they put money aside all year to get their me­tre of wood.

“We try to look after them, but if it’s dearer for me to buy, I have my hands tied.”

With the in­crease in prices, it will be a lot more ex­pen­sive to heat a house in Mans­field.

“It’s even more puz­zling as it will un­doubt­edly raise power con­sump­tion, as Mans­field has a very high per­cent­age of wood fire heat­ing - so they will be burn­ing more coal for elec­tric­ity if they switch, or us­ing a lot more petrol and diesel for trans­port if they stick with wood,” he said.

Many have also pointed out that it will cause a mass im­por­ta­tion of tim­bers from un­reg­u­lated coun­tries, such as Malaysia, where rain­forests are be­ing com­pletely wiped out.

“We’ll be sit­ting in Mans­field with tim­ber all around us, that will be burn­ing up in bush­fires and rot­ting on the ground while we have to ship it all from NSW or overseas,” Rob said.

“I’ve logged coupes that my fa­ther logged - they do re­gen­er­ate, but you can’t get through to some peo­ple.”

He said the news came as a com­plete shock.

“The forests around Mans­field have been logged and re­gen­er­ated for 150 years, and it’s still there,” he said.

“It’s just to get the Green vote; there is no com­mon sense in it.”

VicForests, which runs sev­eral coupes in the lo­cal area and is propped up by the State Gov­ern­ment, told the Mans­field Courier that to­tal har­vest lev­els will be main­tained at around cur­rent lev­els un­til 2024, then re­duced by around 25 per cent in 2025, and a fur­ther 25 per cent from 2026 to 2030.

VicForests chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Monique Daw­son, said that, while chal­leng­ing, the de­ci­sion pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for VicForests to de­velop and trial new species for plan­ta­tions and new ap­proaches to grow­ing trees to sup­port bet­ter tim­ber prod­ucts and re­spond to the future im­pact of cli­mate change.

“We plan to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in car­bon farm­ing and to con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of new prod­ucts to make the most of our high-qual­ity tim­ber and the unique and valu­able skillset of VicForests’ work­force,” Ms Daw­son said.

Ms Daw­son said VicForests was al­ready con­tribut­ing to this grad­ual shift through the es­tab­lish­ment of new Blue Gum plan­ta­tions.

Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter, and North East na­tive, Brid­get McKen­zie, con­demned the An­drews Gov­ern­ment's plans, ar­gu­ing the in­dus­try is sus­tain­able.

“It's a clean, green, sus­tain­able, well-man­aged re­source,” Sen­a­tor McKen­zie said.

“The de­ci­sion shows that the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment doesn't care about these fam­i­lies in re­gional towns, 4700 peo­ple will be out of work and this will have se­ri­ous flow-on ef­fects for the state's re­gional econ­omy.

“Our beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral hard­wood is in de­mand and for good rea­son.

“It's a sus­tain­able re­source when man­aged well.

“The short-sight­ed­ness of this La­bor Gov­ern­ment is breath­tak­ing.”

Those views were echoed by Vic­to­rian Na­tion­als leader Peter Walsh.

“This will be ab­so­lutely dev­as­tat­ing for many coun­try com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

“Daniel An­drews is sac­ri­fic­ing coun­try jobs just to keep his city vot­ers happy.”

WARM AND FUZZY: En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Lily D’Am­bro­sio be­ing hugged by mem­bers of Save Our Strath­bo­gie For­est group dur­ing her visit to the area last week with the an­nounce­ment of the end to log­ging.

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