Timber taskforce seeks scientific basis for native harvest ban

WELLINGTON Shire Council’s Native Timber Taskforce has lodged a Freedom of Information request to the state government for the scientific basis behind its decision to cease native timber harvesting.

Chaired by Wellington Shire mayor Alan Hall, taskforce membership includes East Gippsland Shire Council, Timber Towns Victoria, Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, Radial Timbers and the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union.

Prior to lodging the FoI request, Wellington and East Gippsland councils separately approached the government asking for the information that underpinned their decision.

The government declined to provide that information.

Cr Hall said the taskforce continued to focus on the ongoing viability of the timber industry in Gippsland.

“Given how vital the native timber industry is to Gippsland and the Victorian economy, it is necessary for us to continue our pursuit of the critical information that underpinned the state government’s decision,” he said.

“Given our initial request was refused, we have now lodged FoI requests with both the Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Minister for Agriculture to access this information.

“Once we have that information, the NTT will be better placed to assist the government and industry to develop a sustainable plan to balance both the need to deliver a supply of Victorian hardwood in an environmentally sustainable manner.”

Cr Hall said he had also informed Local Government Minister Shaun Leane of the importance of protecting the sustainable timber industry to protect jobs and create new opportunities for growth in regional Victoria.

“The COVID-19 crisis has also highlighted the need to not only identify new opportunities, but also look after what we already have,” he said.

“Never has it been more important for all of us to put local interests at the forefront.”