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The Goongerrah Environment Centre said “It’s very welcome to see the Andrews government finally show leadership to protect native forests, especially old growth forests in East Gippsland."

Andrews' forest plan

Andrews' forest plan

The Goongerrah Environment Centre said “It’s very welcome to see the Andrews government finally show leadership to protect native forests, especially old growth forests in East Gippsland."

Logging of Gippsland's native forests to be banned

The Andrews Labor Government has laid out its plan to fully transition the logging industry to plantation timber over the next ten years.

It's a plan that has been welcomed by environment groups but criticised by logging mills and their employees.

Speaking at Alberton in South Gippsland today, Premier Daniel Andrews said that with a reduction in available native timber resources due to fire and wildlife protection, logging in remaining old growth forests will cease immediately, protecting around 90,000 hectares, with all logging in native forests across the state to stop by 2030.

It will be a phased transition, with VicForests able to extend existing timber supply agreements until 2024, after which native timber supply will be stepped down before ending in ten years.

Recognising the impacts of the plan on Gippsland's logging communities, $120 million will be set aside to support the industry. The government says it will back long-term sustainable jobs and give local workers confidence about their future.

Australian Paper has welcomed the announcement, saying the staged transition provides certaintity as it moves to a fully plantation supply at its Maryvale mill in the Latrobe Valley. The plan will ensure it has timber until at least 2050.

Dedicated funding will also be provided to help local mills invest in new equipment that will allow them to process alternative timbers and support local jobs.

Additional funding will help impacted workers to access re-employment and re-training services. The plan will also help fund community projects that support local businesses and help create local jobs.

250,000 blue gum seedlings were planted near Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill earlier this year, as part of a government plan to increase plantation supply.

For and against below

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The plan has been slammed by Gippland's National Party members, including Gippsland East MP Tim Bull, who accused the premier of putting politics first and country people second.

"Instead of supporting and promoting Victoria’s sustainable forest industries, Daniel Andrews has sacrificed them to keep Melbourne’s latte' sippers happy," Mr Bull said.

“His statement that we are going to transition totally to plantation timber by 2030 is flawed.

"We do not have enough plantation timber in the ground to do this, and furthermore, the high quality timber – appearance grade timber for furniture and floors etc. - takes at least 40 years to grow and can’t be matured viably in plantations.

Mr Bull said towns like Orbost and Heyfield will suffer under the plan.

“Let’s take Orbost as an example. Latest figures show that town has just over 110 people directly employed in the industry, making up 25% of all full time jobs in the town. It will decimate Orbost and that is without the flow-on being considered, which is just on 50% of all the town’s employment according to the local Chamber of Commerce.

“Then you have Heyfield, where around 20% of the town is employed at the mill. Native timber supply underpins that business and the plantation is not in the ground to replace it by 2030, so what happens then?

“Building a new town hall or sports facility is not going to save those long term jobs," Mr Bull said.

The Member for Gippsland South, Danny O'Brien, described the plan as "diabolical."

“It seems to have escaped the Premier that this is the same industry he invested $60 million of taxpayers’ dollars in to buy a timber mill that will now not have access to timber in the future.

“This decision has huge ramifications for towns and people in the timber industry in places like Yarram, Sale, Rosedale and Heyfield, not to mention the Latrobe Valley," Mr O'Brien said.

Upper house Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party MP for Eastern Victoria, Jeff Bourman, said that demand in Victoria for hardwood timber products already well exceeds that which can be supplied domestically.

"Much of Australia’s imports of wood products from overseas, totalling over $4 billion, comes from the tropical forests of developing nations.

“The Victorian Native Timber Industry is responsible for producing some of the highest quality, sustainable timber in the world.

"It’s well known that the vast majority of imported timber and wood product lacks the same strict regulations relating to timber harvesting as we have here in Victoria," Mr Bourman said.

Environmentalists however have applauded today's announcement, that included the release of the Greater Glider Action Statement, to protect the iconic species which was first listed as threatened in 2017.

Goongerah Environment Centre and Friends of the Earth spokesperson Ed Hill said “It’s very welcome to see the Andrews government finally show leadership to protect native forests, especially old growth forests in East Gippsland."

"This is a positive first step towards better protection of East Gippsland’s forests, but questions remain over how these promises will be implemented.

“The government needs to clearly articulate a plan for how today’s announcement of 96,000 hectares of protected areas will actually protect forests into the long term.

"The government must move quickly to legislate formal protection in new national parks or secure conservation reserves," Mr Hill said.

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