Forest and Wood Communities Australia (FWCA), Media Release, 3 October 2022
The Victorian Labor Government’s promise of jobs with a transition from native forests to plantation forests, announced last week, does not add up, said Forest & Wood Communities Australia (FWCA).
According to the plan, Victorian taxpayers will be required to pay a $120 million as part of a co-investment with Hancock Victorian Plantations to fund 14,000ha worth of plantations and somehow make them grow fast enough to support 2000 jobs.
As it takes at least 15 years for trees to grow to the minimum harvest age, and the government plans to end native forestry in eight years, timber towns face ruin, with Orbost set to lose 37% of its full-time jobs.
“The promise that this transition to plantations will save jobs is as empty as Victorian sawmill timber yards are right now under the timber shortage,” said FWCA National Membership Manager, Felicia Stevenson.
“Where is this 14,000ha coming from? Farmland in the Gippsland area is currently selling for record high average values of around $25,000 per hectare meaning it would cost $350m to purchase this land, provided you could find farmers willing to sell up.
“While HVP is a good operator, it’s hard to see how they can make this work.
“But if they do miraculously get this land all at once and plant it all now, it’ll be at least 15 years before you can start taking wood out of it, and then it would only be a small portion to thin the plantations.
“We invite the government to come to our public meeting in Orbost tomorrow to explain how that supports their promise of 2000 jobs.”
The announcement is also in contrast to the one made in 2017 when the Victorian Government promised to spend $110 million for 50,000ha of plantations through its Victorian Forestry Plan (VFP).
“They just seem to pull figures out of a hat,” Ms Stevenson said.
“The reality the people in native timber have successfully harvested and regrown small areas of the forest many times over in the past 150 years.
“It has kept people in jobs, communities thriving and supplied renewable and natural wood for hundreds of everyday uses.
“It will take decades for this plantation fantasy to not replace the jobs the government is stripping out of timber communities and towns will be devastated.”
Forest & Wood Communities Australia is holding a public meeting at the Orbost Football Club rooms at 5.30pm tomorrow (October 4) to discuss the future of the town under Victorian Labor’s anti-forestry campaign.