Victoria: Native logging ban costs add up

Wednesday 13 Nov 2019

 
Native forest logging to be banned in Victoria by 2030 - Logging in Victorian native forests is set to be banned within a decade, potentially wiping out up to 2000 jobs across the state. The Andrews government is expected to announce as early as Thursday that it will phase out the industry by 2030 and reveal a detailed transition package costing taxpayers up to $500 million, sources told The Age.

A decades long debate between environmentalists and industry relying on Victoria’s native forests has been largely focused on the state’s critically endangered faunal emblem, the Leadbeater’s possum, with vast sections of forest blocked from timber harvesting.

Several industry sources said taxpayers would likely fork out up to $500 million in compensation for workers and companies, with millions expected to go towards Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill — the Latrobe Valley’s single biggest employer.

The mill has a contract for native timber supply from the state's Central Highlands under a deal passed by the Victorian parliament in the 1990s. But the decision will likely close many small timber mills, some of which have operated in Gippsland for more than a century.

The future of the sector has been subject to fierce debate within the Victorian government. The industry has been under increasing pressure in recent years, with supply of sustainable sawlogs dwindling for many of the state’s small timber mills.

The Andrews government delayed a decision on the industry's future before last November’s election, to avoid tensions within the Labor movement involving the powerful Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union.

The union will fiercely oppose a logging ban. About 500 of the 900-strong workforce at Maryvale mill are union members, as well as most of the 250 employees at Heyfield’s Australian Sustainable Hardwoods mill. The Victorian government paid $40 million to become a major shareholder in that business in 2017.

The move will also cast doubts over the future of VicForests, the state-owned business that harvests, sells and regrows timber from State Forests.

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