MELBOURNE, Victoria, Australia, November 18, 2019 (ENS) – Logging in the remaining old-growth forests of the Australian state of Victoria will cease immediately, protecting around 90,000 hectares, with logging in all native forests across the state to stop by 2030, according to a new plan announced by the Labor Government of Premier Daniel Andrews.
The industry is transitioning from cutting native timber to cutting plantation forests planted for this use.
As Australian Paper moves away from using native timber in its paper production and with a reduction in available native timber resources due to fire and wildlife protection, the Labor Government has unveiled a new 30-year plan to support the sector as it transitions.
As part of the plan, A$120 million will be set aside to ensure the industry is fully supported, backing long-term sustainable jobs and giving local workers confidence about their future.
“This industry is going through a transition,” said Premier Andrews. “It means it’s not good enough for us to merely cross our fingers and hope for the best. We need a plan to support workers and support jobs.”
“With a 30-year plan for transition, we’re providing much-needed certainty for workers and their families,” he said.
That includes Australian Paper, which Andrews says will be supported to transition to full plantation-based supply, ensuring it operates until at least 2050 – providing support to its almost 1,000-strong workforce and stability to its customers.
Additional funding will go to ensure industry employees are afforded certainty and security, with support for impacted workers to access re-employment and re-training services. The plan will help fund community projects that support local businesses and help create local jobs.
To assist businesses as they prepare for this transition, the Andrews Government will provide dedicated funding to help local mills invest in new equipment that will allow them to process alternative timbers and support local jobs.
The announcement builds on the government’s existing efforts to increase the state’s supply of plantation timber, with a record A$110 million allocated in the Victorian Budget 2017/18 to help ensure ongoing access to affordable, locally-produced paper products.
The first of the plantation trees, 250,000 blue gum seedlings, were planted near Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill earlier this year.
VicForests, the state-owned business responsible for the harvest, commercial sale and re-growing of timber from Victoria’s State forests, will extend existing timber supply agreements until 2024. After that, the native timber supply will be stepped down before it ends in 2030.
The plan includes the release of the Greater Glider Action Statement, which makes another 96,000 hectares of forest across Victoria immediately exempt from logging in order to protect this iconic marsupial and other threatened species.
The Greater Glider, Petauroides volans subsp. volans, is the largest Australian gliding mammal, with a head and body 35-46 cm long and a furry, non-prehensile tail. Greater Gliders are generally nocturnal, forest-dependent and prefer older tree age classes in moist forest types.
Nationally in 2016, the Greater Glider was listed as Vulnerable to extinction under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. In Victoria State, the species is listed as Threatened. In its 2017 recommendation, the state Flora and Fauna Guarantee Scientific Advisory Committee found that:
• the Greater Glider is in a demonstrable state of decline likely to lead to extinction;
• the Greater Glider is prone to future threats that are likely to lead to extinction; and
• the threats are operating and are expected to continue to operate in the future at a level likely to lead to extinction.
The 96,000 hectares of state forest to be protected for the Greater Glider are found in the Strathbogie Ranges, the Central Highlands, in East Gippsland and near Mirboo North.
Previously, the government had announced the protection of all living large old trees of greater than 2.5 meters diameter in addition to preservation of the ~2,500 hectare Kuark Forest in East Gippsland.
Environmental groups praised the Andrews Government’s action.
The Australian Conservation Foundation, ACF, called the immediate end to old-growth logging “a big win for people and wildlife.”
Jess Abrahams, a nature campaigner at the ACF and a former member of the Forest Industry Taskforce, said, “Victorians love our native forests and wildlife, so this is a major announcement by the Andrews Government, albeit one that is long overdue.”
“An immediate end to old-growth logging will protect some of Victoria’s most spectacular and intact native forests,” Abrahams said. “The protection of a further 96,000 hectares of habitat for the vulnerable Greater glider is very good news.”
“The transition from logging native forests to plantations can’t come soon enough – 10 years is just too slow for the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, which is on the brink of extinction,” she said.
“The transition and any payouts must be fully locked in and bedded down to prevent a future government trying to bring a zombie native forest logging industry back to life,” warned Abrahams.
“Protecting forests is good for all Victorians, helping create clean air, freshwater, beautiful wildlife, sustainable jobs and a safe climate for future generations to enjoy,” she said.
Abrahams warned that some of Australia’s other states plan to keep logging their native forests like it’s still the 18th century.
“Unsustainable logging persists in New South Wales and just last week the Queensland Government let the timber industry into native forests north of Noosa which had been scheduled to become a national park,” Abrahams lamented.
She pointed to Australia’s island state of Tasmania, “where government efforts to unravel a historic peace deal have left ancient forests vulnerable to exploitation, should also set a timetable to end native forest logging.”
To give timber business owners all the facts and help them through the transition, people from VicForests have met face to face with around 50 Victorian timber businesses since the Victorian government announced its plan to transition out of native timber after 2030.
CEO of VicForests, Monique Dawson, said VicForests is meeting with and talking to every part of Victoria’s timber industry to talk through the detail of the Government’s native timber policy.
“This policy delivers more than four years of certainty for Victoria’s native timber industry. Of course, there will need to be a longer-term transition and that’s why I’m meeting with local mills, contractors and other timber businesses to help them adapt to a more sustainable future for the industry from now until 2030 and beyond.”
VicForests is focused on quickly negotiating new supply contracts with timber harvesters, haulage, roading, and forestry contractors to give them medium-term certainty. We are also talking to our customers about our plans to quickly negotiate new timber supply contracts to give mills certainty of supply to June 2024. Within 18 months we will start the sales process for supply beyond 2024.
VicForests also believes there are opportunities for the state’s timber business, customers and contractors beyond 2030, and has started a transformation program to make the most of the 10 year transition period.
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