CLAIMS the ending of the native timber industry in Victoria will have a massive effect on local employment and the local economy, has renewed calls for the government to overturn its decision.
A specialist economic impact consultatant engaged by the Wellington and East Gippsland shire councils estimated 1110 job losses (527 direct jobs, plus 325 supply chain and 268 consumption jobs), and more than $300 million in annual economic output could be lost in the region when native timber harvesting ended in 2030.
Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull said the figures released last week were "staggering".
"And does not include the flow-on effects that will simply destroy communities like Orbost and Heyfield and impact heavily on many others," Mr Bull said.
"I commend the two councils for taking this action and getting this work done.
"I now look forward to them challenging the state to overturn its decision to end the industry, which is the policy of the Liberal Nationals."
Mr Bull said the release of this report came on the back of the Labor minister admitting there were no hardwood plantations in Victoria for the industry to transition to. He described the term 'transition' as"a falsity".
"The reality is hardwood takes around 30 to 60 years to mature depending on species and conditions, so if there was to be a 'transition', coupes would need to be at least 20 years old now," Mr Bull said.
"They aren't - and worse still - they don't exist.
"The demand for hardwood is increasing, and in fact Planet Ark is telling us to use it as wood is a renewable environmentally friendly resource - but here we are closing it down with no replacement.
"It will only drive up imports from jurisdictions with less oversight.
"This is about closing down an entire sector with massive job losses in our community at a time when it needs help and support.
"The industry in Victoria cuts down four trees in every 10,000 per year."
Wellington Shire Council has requested the state government share the data and scientific basis on which the native timber phase-out decision was made.
The council's Native Timber Taskforce has lodged two freedom of information requests to the Agriculture, Resources and Regional Development Minister and the Premier requesting information about the scientific basis for its decision. The request has twice been refused.
Council has also sought greater detail from state government officials about the transition from the harvesting of native hardwood forests to hardwood plantations.
The taskforce wants the government to ensure more hardwood plantations are established with suitable species, to ensure long-term wood supply needs are met and jobs are maintained.
It also wants adequate government support for communities affected by the decision to end native timber harvesting, and wants the government to work with communities to identify and implement job creation schemes in new and existing industries.
The taskforce has added it "does not support the import of hardwood from non-certified overseas sources that generally have lower compliance standards".
The state government plans to end timber harvesting in native forests in Victoria by 2030, and has announced a $120 million package which it says will support workers, businesses and communities during the transition.
For workers, it will include training and re-training programs; case management and employment help; additional support through the Back to Work program; and top-ups to redundancy payments.