Hard sell: MP brands timber transition ‘bogus’

Kate Withers

Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath has branded the state’s timber transition plan “bogus and insulting”, pointing to new plantations at Maryvale as evidence the government has “walked away” from hardwood altogether.

Speaking from the former HVP plantation on Derham’s Lane, Ms Bath said the government’s move to plant 250 hectares of blue gum in 2020 for use as a transition timber was “shambolic” and not fit for use in the hardwood industry.

“What we’re seeing is Daniel Andrews’ native timber transition is just a sham,” she said.

“The government has acknowledged that there is only 250 hectares this year being planted and it’s being planted in blue gum – a pulp species.

“Blue gum is not a transition timber. There are no new species in the ground and there is no transition happening.”

In November, Daniel Andrews announced native forest logging would be phased out by 2030 and the industry transitioned exclusively to plantation-based supply. According to the VicForests website, plantation blue gums – such as those planted at Maryvale – are predominantly harvested for “paper-based products such as high quality paper, packaging … and firewood”.

“Since Labor’s $110 million announcement in 2017 to establish plantations, not one new hectare of land has been planted or an additional hardwood tree put in the ground,” Ms Bath said.

“Daniel Andrews is walking away from his commitment in relation to changing and transitioning to plantation native timber.

“(The government) is telling whoppers in terms of transitioning to native timber, it isn’t transitioning to native timber and it’s just all show and no commitment.

“Our native timber industry is sustainable, it has longevity, and it is highly needed in these very stressful times when every job is critical.

“What we’re calling for is for the government to reverse it’s decision to commit to a long-term, sustainable timber industry where jobs and quality hardwood timber is available ongoing.”

Victorian Hardwood Sawmillers Association spokesman Leonard Fenning, who also owns Fenning Timber Bairnsdale, said under the current transition plan the industry would be “deprived of resources”.

“How can they deliver when they haven’t got the tress in the ground?” Mr Fenning said.

“The timber industry is delivering some beautiful products to our nation … but that type of wood you’re not going to get out of certain plantations, and certainly not the plantations (blue gum) we’re talking about.

“Why don’t we reverse the decision, keep on with the job, look after our forest and – like a lot of other nations – have a sustainable timber industry that’s ongoing?

“The resource is out there, why aren’t we out there looking after it and promoting it as a nation, and as a government? It’s a sad, sad decision.”