Over 40 Victorian businesses connected to timber write letter to Premier

Philip Hopkins

DAHLSENS is one of over 40 Gippsland and Victorian businesses connected to the forestry sector that wrote a letter to the Premier, Jacinta Allan, urging to rethink the closure of the native forest industry, arguing the decision has direct and perverse consequences.

The businesses represent all aspects of the forestry supply chain, from contractors through to sawmills, processors, retailers and furniture manufacturers, and have 40,000 voting members.

“We believe there are better options and request a meeting to explore this with you,” the business said.

“Our view is that you, personally, understand the importance and value of the Victorian native forest industry due to your strong regional representation and personal connections.

“However, your government must be better informed about the unintended consequences of this decision, and we request this urgent meeting to discuss the options.”

The direct and perverse consequences include:

  • Loss of jobs for regional and city workers, having a negative impact on families;
  • Flow-on impacts to regional communities – the creation of 11 new welfare towns;
  • Loss of skilled firefighters and fire-fighting plant – experience saves lives;
  • Higher imports of hardwood furniture treated with toxic chemicals;
  • Higher imports of tropical rainforest timber flooring, cladding, decking-type products from countries with far less environmental regulation and oversight;
  • Rises in consumer construction costs due to imported replacement materials and manufactured goods, making local construction even less affordable;
  • Loss of local firewood supply (a carbon-neutral fuel) across the community on homes of lower income families and the elderly, and;
  • Loss of critical seed collection for regeneration after wildfire, and more.

Giant retailer Bowens is a key member of the group, and its chief, Jack Bowen, said the businesses maintain these unintended consequences could be prevented by the state government.

“As a collective supply chain, we are offering our experience to work with your government to find agreed solutions that deliver important benefits and wider community needs,” Mr Bowen said.

These included forest health and resilience, reduced wildfire risk, greater biodiversity and wildlife protection outcomes, and sustainable, renewable, local and independently certified Victorian hardwood products.

“These values are not mutually exclusive; they are in fact the cornerstone of scientifically robust active forest management. Victorians can have their forests and biodiversity and productive timber industry too.”

The timber industry supplies a variety of products. These include furniture, flooring, decking, cladding, staircases, architectural joinery, mouldings and high-strength structural beams.

“The industry is the economic, environmental and societal foundation of countless Victorian families, communities and businesses based regionally, and with an extended supply chain that spans Victoria’s regional towns, cities, and the commercial and industrial areas of Greater Melbourne,” Mr Bowen said.

The group is seeking confirmation of a meeting with Ms Allan before November 30.

The signatories include the Australian Furniture Association, the Australasian Timber Flooring Association, Aspect Windows, Pentarch Forestry, Aussie Pallet, Parkside Timber, Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, Radial Timber, Gowling Stairs, Timber Merchants Australia, Britton Timber and O’Connors Transport and Vicbeam, laminated timber specialists.