Victorian Forest Products Association responds to extra timber compo announcement

Philip Hopkins

THE native hardwood industry has welcomed the state government’s extra support for the sector, but maintains that the mill exit package doubly punishes those businesses that have acted in good faith.

The chief executive of the Victorian Forest Products Association, Deb Kerr, acknowledged the help for workers, contractors, communities and new regional businesses.

“As details about the exit package come to light, it’s evident that our mills are being punished twice. They have invested tens of millions of dollars in new manufacturing facilities to see them through to and beyond the originally announced 2030 deadline – a deadline that the government has reiterated numerous times since the original 2019 announcement,” she said.

Minister for Agriculture, Gayle Tierney, said the expansion of the Victorian Forestry Worker Support Program increased worker top-up payments from up to $120,000 to $150,000 and allocated extra payments to workers over 45 years old.

The wider community forestry sector – including firewood sellers, guitar makers, seed collectors and other forest produce licensees – will be eligible for the expanded worker support payments, and redundant equipment compensation, plus payments for undersupplied timber, and a one-off hardship payment.

The first round of the forestry transition fund is now open to create more local jobs in affected timber communities. The fund will provide grants of up to $1 million to expand, diversify or start new businesses, while also allocating wage subsidies to incentivise people to employ timber workers who lose their jobs.

The Sawmill Voluntary Transition Package is also now open to support mill owners to stay in the industry or switch to new sectors. Ms Tierney said these packages would ensure workers’ entitlements were met and will include plant and equipment compensation.

An initial Harvest and Haulage Support Package will be available for forest contractors in September, which will include contract and equipment compensation and worker redundancy payments.

Harvest and haulage sub-contractors, chip truck drivers and other businesses heavily dependent on the native timber industry, will also be eligible for the next round of the Timber Innovation Grants – expected to reopen in late September.

“The Labor Government will continue to consult with forest contractors to ensure their critical skills are retained for ongoing management of the state’s public land with genuine opt-out packages available for those who choose to exit,” Ms Tierney said.

The government had expanded the support program after talks with the timber industry.

“I thank our industry stakeholders for engaging constructively to deliver meaningful support for timber communities.”

Ms Kerr said while welcoming the support, “it is hard to fathom how the government has treated native hardwood mills who had acted in good faith”.

“This is not how a government acts that wants to promote Victoria as a prime location for business. As the main body advocating for wood and wood fibre businesses in Victoria, we will continue to fight for better outcomes for our industry,” Ms Kerr said.

The future of forest produce licences was also still unclear, she said.

Forest produce licences are issued for small native harvesting and firewood west of the Hume Freeway.

For more information on how to get local support, native timber stakeholders should visit or phone the Forestry Transition Hotline on 1800 318 182.

To register for the Victorian Forestry Worker Support Program, workers should visit