Timber towns mourn loss of industry

TIMBER Towns Victoria has acknowledged a deep sadness and regret for the native timber harvesting communities and their families for the loss of regenerative native mixed species forest harvesting from actively managed forests in Victoria.

In Australia, forested landscapes are likely to have been actively and adaptively managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for more than 60,000 years.

In November 2019, the state government announced a phase out of the native timber harvesting industry in Victoria by 2030.

In May 2023, a new announcement brought the ban forward to commence January 1, 2024.

Timber Towns Victoria President and Mayor of the Glenelg Shire, Councillor Karen Stephens said “Unfortunately, the industry has long been misunderstood by the state government and the broader community and has ultimately been brought to its knees”.

“The loss of active forest management practices will ultimately mean the loss of generational knowledge, loss of carbon capture in regrowth forest areas after harvesting, and the loss of the flow on benefits to communities and the environment,” Cr Stephens said.

Victoria’s forest industries are recognised as significant contributors to the economy and community.

An economic impact report commissioned by the Wellington and East Gippsland Shires in 2021 estimated that the ban on native timber harvesting would result in around 1110 job losses and output to drop by $308 million.

Forestry Australia (the professional body of forest scientists, farm foresters and forestry professionals) advocates to support well managed sustainable forest harvesting as a part of ecologically sustainable forest management practices.

These sustainably regenerative managed forests operate under strict Australian Standards and stringent auditing.

Under ecologically sustainable forest management, active management practices are required to maintain resilient and healthy forests that can withstand the impacts of threats including bushfires, invasive species and climate change.

Forestry Australia recommends continued silvicultural techniques in our native forests can be utilised to support forest health and biodiversity, mitigate risks from fire, pests and diseases and to grow bigger trees quicker, storing more carbon and creating forests that are more resilient.

“In contrast to the ban on native timber harvesting, there are a multitude of benefits from the sustainable management of our forests and as the peak local government body for Victoria on forest policy, we wish to discuss these with the state government and work towards a positive solution for Victoria and our communities,” Cr Stephens said.

“We call on the government to advise Timber Towns Victoria and the community, what strategies do you have in place for the future sustainable management of forest health, bushfire risks, conservation of biodiversity, and maximising carbon outcomes.”