Native timber logging to be phased out

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced native timber logging will be phased out by 2030 with the industry required to make the transition to plantation timber.

Mr Andrews revealed the Victorian state government's 30-year plan for the forestry industry during a press conference at Alberton earlier today.

Premier Daniel Andrews.

Premier Daniel Andrews.

As part of the plan, $120 million will be set aside to ensure the industry is fully supported, backing long-term sustainable jobs and giving local workers confidence about their future.

To assist businesses as they prepare for this transition, the Victorian government is set to provide dedicated funding to help local mills invest in new equipment that will allow them to process alternative timbers and support local jobs.

That includes Australian Paper at Maryvale, which will be supported to transition to a full plantation-based supply, ensuring it operates until at least 2050 - providing support to its almost 1000-strong workforce and stability to its customers.

Additional funding will go to ensure industry employees are afforded the certainty and security they deserve, with support for impacted workers to access re-employment and re-training services.

The plan will also help fund community projects that support local businesses and help create local jobs.

The premier said the plan would ensure a long-term and sustainable future for the industry and the workers who rely on it.

"This industry is going through a transition," he said.

"It means it's not good enough for us to merely cross our fingers and hope for the best. We need a plan to support workers and support jobs.

"With a 30-year plan for transition, we're providing much-needed certainty for workers and their families."

The plan also includes the release of the Greater Glider Action Statement, which makes another 96,000 hectares of forest across Victoria immediately exempt from logging in order to protect this iconic marsupial and other threatened species.

Logging in remaining old growth forests will cease immediately, impacting about 90,000 hectares.

VicForests will extend existing timber supply agreements until 2024, after which native timber supply will be stepped down before ending in 2030.

The Victorian government pointed to its record increasing Victoria's supply of plantation timber, with a record $110 million allocated in the Victorian Budget 2017/18 to help ensure ongoing access to affordable, locally-produced paper products.

The first of those plantation trees - 250,000 blue gum seedlings - were planted near Australian Paper's Maryvale Mill earlier this year.

In providing a 30-year forward plan, we're creating a new, more sustainable future for this industry - but just as importantly, we're giving workers the certainty they deserve.

The Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaclyn Symes said the plan would provide some surety.

"Industry and retailers are moving towards more sustainable timber products and the future of the forestry industry relies on a Government with a clear long-term plan," she said.

"By acting now, businesses and workers have the security they need and a clear strategy in place for the transition to plantation timber."

The Coalition slammed the plan.

Victorian Opposition leader Michael O'Brien said the Victoria state government had shown it would sacrifice hardworking people and family businesses to chase Greens preferences.

"Daniel Andrews' ban on Victoria's sustainable forestry industry will gut regional communities and destroy the livelihoods of thousands of families," he said.

"This sustainable industry has been the backbone of regional Victoria for generations and Daniel Andrews is putting an end to the livelihoods of tens of thousands of mums and dads who rely on the industry.

"We will rally against Daniel Andrews and his arrogant decision to rip the heart out of regional Victoria.

"More than 94 per cent of Victoria's forest area is either unsuitable or unavailable for timber harvest. Annually, Victoria's timber industry has access to just 0.04 per cent or less of the forest estate.

"Victorian timber is the ultimate renewable resource."

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh described today as a 'dark day' for regional Victoria, adding the move threatened to 'wipe towns such as Heyfield and Orbost off the map.'

"We should be backing Victoria's sustainable timber industry, not axing it.

"Daniel Andrews should be supporting and promoting Victoria's sustainable forest industry, not shutting it down.

"It's total madness considering our forest industries support tens of thousands direct and indirect jobs, many in regional communities, and pump $7 billion through Victoria's economy.

"Not only that, our forest industries meet and exceed world's best forestry management practices, and forest scientists agree sustainable management can play a positive role in minimising carbon emissions.

"These industries deliver state-wide benefits and, in some areas, sustain small communities where there are no other employment options nearby."

The ABC and The Age also reported the Victorian state government is set to announce a policy that includes reducing the current level of native timber available for logging from 2024-25 and all native timber logging would cease by 2030.