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Timber protest

Timber protest

Timber truck protest at Bunnings Traralgon

*Timber industry concerns
*Bunnings and the Wilderness Society respond

Four log trucks are parked at the entrance to Bunnings in Traralgon this morning, in protest at the company's decision to no longer stock native timber from VicForests.

Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union national secretary Michael O’Connor said the move by Bunnings to source plantation-only timber will have a negative impact on Gippsland timber towns like Heyfield and Orbost.

“Timber workers will not sit back and be pushed around by big-end of town fat cats like those in Bunnings and Wesfarmers head offices,” Mr O’Connor said.

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He said the action is "just the beginning" of things to come at Bunnings Warehouses across Australia if they do not agree to reverse their ban on local native timber.

“Regional Victoria is facing a jobs crisis," said Australian Forest Contractors Association General Manager Ms Stacey Gardner.

She said Bunnings’ decision "has added to the continued uncertainty in the industry and contractors are bearing the brunt of this."

"Bunnings must reverse their local timber ban immediately,” Ms Gardner said.

However, Bunnings says they only sources a small portion of VicForests’ harvest and are working with suppliers on transition plans that will minimise any impact to roles. They say that union claims of job losses have no basis in fact.

Director of Merchandise at Bunnings Warehouse, Phil Bishop, said the company is "aware of the gathering this morning in Traralgon and we have worked with Police to ensure the safety of our customers and those involved."

"While we only sell a small portion of VicForests’ total harvest, we acknowledge some in the community are concerned about the industry.

"We are working closely with affected suppliers to establish transition plans that minimise potential impacts and during this time we’re continuing to accept timber from stock that is already harvested," Mr Bishop said.

Bunnings said that as part of a transition plan, they are talking to ASH about several options, including sourcing timber from alternative sources to maintain the sale of their products through Bunnings stores.

The Wilderness Society has also responded to the log truck presence at the Traralgon Bunnings store, saying timber industry uncertainty will continue so long as its hinged to native forest wood.

“Uncertainty in the Victorian timber industry has been years in the making and arises from bad forest management, from overlogging, and the bulk of wood sourced from native forests being sent to pulp for paper, and not to sawmills for timber products,” says Wilderness Society National Campaigns Director, Amelia Young.

“There are hundreds of regional jobs involved in the Victorian native timber sector and these are important. That’s why the state government must support the industry to transition out of native forests and into plantations.

“Especially after the 2019-20 bushfires, which burnt over 1.2 million hectares of Victorian forest, and in the context of COVID-19, Government should urgently bring forward support for timber carters and sawmill workers to move into processing plantations, or risk escalating uncertainty by forcing sawmills and workers to remain hinged to unsustainable—and potentially unlawful—native forest wood supply.

“The future of the Victorian wood and fibre industry is in plantations, and Gippsland sawmills must be supported to invest in the skills and machinery required to process plantation timber," Ms Young said.

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