Shadow Minister for Regional and Rural Development and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan launched the policy during an address to the Victorian Association of Forest Industries (VAFI) last night.
“The native timber industry contributes $6.5 billion each year to the Victorian economy and directly employs about 19,500 people,” Mr Ryan said.
“A Coalition Government will secure the long-term future of this vital industry, the people it employs and the towns whose economies it underpins.”
A Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Government will:
- Guarantee long-term access to current supplies of native timber;
- Renew Regional Forest Agreements every five years to provide 20-year resource security;
- Place VicForests under the sole direction of the Minister for Agriculture;
- Restructure the board of VicForests to include industry stakeholders; and
- Review harvesting rotations for faster growing native species such as mountain ash.
“The Coalition values Victoria’s forests and we will ensure they are managed in a way that is both responsible and sustainable,” Mr Ryan said.
“We will seek to balance industry and environmental concerns by supporting the expansion and growth of Victoria’s plantation forestry industry and ensuring the sustainable harvesting of wood to help meet increased demand.
“Timber towns such as Cann River, Orbost and Healesville need security in order to attract investment.
“The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition will not support any further reductions in access to native timber.”
Mr Ryan said the commitment would provide security to the industry which had suffered severely under Labor.
“Labor has reduced the amount of available timber by an estimated 40 per cent, bringing about the closure of mills and the loss of hundreds of forestry jobs,” Mr Ryan said.
“John Brumby has refused to rule out further reductions in resource availability, opening the door to a complete end to native timber harvesting under a Labor-Greens Coalition.
“John Brumby’s failure to guarantee resource security is damaging Victoria’s timber towns which are still struggling to regroup after $600 million worth of standing timber was burnt in last year’s bushfires,” Mr Ryan said.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said under the Coalition’s plan, Regional Forest Agreements would be renewed.
“The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition will support 20-year agreements to be revised and renewed every five years,” Mr Walsh said.
“We will restructure the board of VicForests to make sure those in decision-making roles are key industry stakeholders and place the authority under the sole direction of the Minister for Agriculture.
“This will make the Department of Primary Industries responsible for managing areas of public native forest which have been set aside for wood production.”
Mr Walsh said a Coalition Government would also review the current harvesting rotations of at least 80 years to investigate rotations of 50 to 55 years for some faster growing stands of timber such as mountain ash.
“The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition will end Labor’s neglect of the sustainable timber industry, and provide long-term support and security,” Mr Walsh said.