Timber talk at Council

File photograph



THE end of native timber logging was on the agenda again at the latest Latrobe City Council meeting.

On Monday, June 3, council moved two separate Notices of Motion (NOM) focused on native timber harvesting and job losses in the paper industry.

Councillor Graeme Middlemiss put forward a Notice of Motion to seek support from Gippsland’s peak advocacy group, One Gippsland, to create a joint Gippsland position document on the cessation of native timber harvesting.

Entitled ‘One Gippsland and Native Timber Harvesting’, the motion outlines an option of allowing harvesting to continue to the original 2030 date and mentions compensation for contractors affected by the decision.

Cr Middlemiss said, “At the last meeting a month ago, I spoke against a motion which was condemning the state government for the abrupt cessation of native forest logging.”

“The reason I did that is I believe the time for condemning and shouting hasn’t produced the results. Certainly, most Gippsland MP’s have tried their hardest with condemning and yelling … but I think we’ve reached a point where the only way through this is with negotiation.”

One Gippsland, a collaborative network comprising of local government and industry body representatives, offers a valuable platform to unite efforts and advocate for the timber industry.

Through this partnership, the council will work alongside other Gippsland stakeholders, including relevant unions and representatives of timber industry groups, to raise awareness, engage with decision-makers, and seek support and solutions for timber workers.

“I believe the six of us (Gippsland councils) combining together could make a very strong case for what the government needs to do to solve all the issues around the cessation of native logging,” said Cr Middlemiss when moving the NOM.

“The way to commence the negotiation with the government is to produce a factual case based around the facts of the situation, not the emotion, not the hatred, not the temper but just the facts,” he added.

Councillor Melissa Ferguson abstained from the vote as she stated, “I believe that the creation of a position document should ideally involve input from various stakeholders.”

Councillor Dan Clancey said, “The idea of having a position document is really important, and I think it shouldn’t take very long because I think we know what the position is, I think that we know what our community wants, we’ve certainly heard that in the last eight weeks since the state budget.”

Councillor Sharon Gibson also chose to abstain from the vote while the rest of the council passed the motion.

Cr Gibson said, “I note the intent of this motion, but I don’t agree with all of it,” going on to speak in opposition of Cr Middlemisses’ motion as inadequate in comparison to her own motion.

Cr Gibson also put forth a motion that would go “straight to the top” in a meeting with the Prime Minister and Victorian Premier.

Cr Gibson’s motion was to call for a summit with Latrobe City representatives, the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, and the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews.

In Cr Gibson’s moving statement, she criticised the local transition body, the Latrobe Valley Authority, saying the region is “drowning” in issues, and that is why her motion calls for an “urgent meeting with the Prime Minister and Premier”.

All Notices of Motions sparked a heated debate between councillors, but none more so than Cr Gibson’s.

Councillor Darren Howe said, “We all agree that as a council, our role is advocating for the community. What we do disagree on is what road we need to take. I don’t think we have much hope of our Premier of Victoria and our Prime Minister attending a summit in Latrobe City.”

Cr Middlemiss made reservations about Cr Gibson’s motion based on its unrealistic ask and uncertainty that this motion would achieve any meaningful change.

Only Cr Ferguson, Councillor Dale Harriman and Cr Gibson voted for the motion, which was ultimately tossed out.

A second Notice of Motion, introduced by Cr Middlemiss and unanimously endorsed by Council, called on making a representation to the Victorian and Federal Governments concerning the job losses linked directly and indirectly to the paper manufacturing industry, including supply chain businesses and related industries that rely on the paper industry for employment.

Mayor of Latrobe City Council, Councillor Kellie O’Callaghan said, “Council reinforced it remained resolute in its commitment to continue to engage with all levels of government to address the socio-economic impacts faced by the paper industry workforce.”

“The representation, as it has done up until this point, will emphasise the importance of implementing tailored support programs, retraining opportunities, and alternative job creation initiatives to ensure a just and sustainable transition for affected workers and the community.

“The passing of these Notices of Motion reinforces Council’s ongoing commitment to the timber industry, and supply chain businesses and related industries that rely on the timber industry for employment.

“Council will continue to advocate for government assistance, funding, and investment in the region to facilitate the transition and mitigate the socio-economic impacts on timber workers, their families and our communities.”