Some relief for Victoria’s timber industry

By Jamieson Salter

Peak associations representing Victoria’s native timber industries have welcomed the extension of Regional Forest Agreements until 2030, but remain uncertain of their future.

The Victorian Association of Forest Industries, the Australian Forest Products Association and the Australian Forest Contractors Association said the extension provided some relief for the industry, which has been hit by the recent bushfires and the decision to phase out native forest harvesting from 2024, with a full shut down by 2030.

AFCA general manager Stacey Gardiner said the RFA extensions enabled harvesting to continue across the state.

“Many forestry contractors who were on the front-line of Victoria’s bushfire response this summer, and then worked tirelessly on the clean-up operation to make roads safe again, are working at reduced capacity and are almost out of work,” Ms Gardiner said.

“The situation for many has become untenable at a time we should be doing everything to retain businesses who can operate safely.”

VAFI chief executive officer Tim Johnston said the RFA extensions were welcome but would not stop the industry from shutting down.

“These extensions may provide some medium-term security for our industry, but they must be accompanied by guaranteed timber volumes from the Victorian Government over the corresponding period to meet one of the key objectives of the RFAs,” Mr Johnston said.

“We will study the detail of the agreements closely to ensure they deliver on their objectives.”

AFPA chief executive officer Ross Hampton said the RFAs nationally had delivered on all the environmental objectives.

“It is disappointing that as a result of the Victorian Government’s plan, the Victorian RFAs are now out of sync with the rest of the country, with Tasmania, NSW and Western Australia all signing 20-year extensions with rolling five-year extensions upon successful completion of the statutory five-yearly reviews,” Mr Hampton said.

“We will continue to oppose the Andrews Government’s plan to end native timber harvesting right up to the next Victorian election to have it overturned.”