East Gippsland Shire Council has expressed disappointment that a motion calling for native forest timber harvesting to be phased out well before the state government’s 2030 deadline was approved in a narrow vote at the Municipal Association Victoria meeting held Friday 14 October.
A coalition of like-minded and deeply affected country councils, led by East Gippsland Shire, Wellington Shire Council, Baw Baw and Yarra Ranges and supportive city councils strongly opposed the motion, put forward by Maribyrnong City Council, which called on the Victorian Government to bring forward the phase out of the native forest timber industry. East Gippsland Mayor Cr Mark Reeves contacted Maribyrnong Council shortly before the meeting but received no response.
A coalition of country councils and a few city councils lost the vote by the narrowest of margins, with a 51 percent vote in favour. A majority of councils voted to protect the industry, but under MAV rules, “larger” councils get two votes each while small councils only get one.
Council voted against the Maribyrnong motion in line with its position paper that supports ahigh-quality, low-volume native timber harvesting industry, allows its forests to have multiple uses, protects biodiversity and protects communities.
Cr Reeves expressed his disappointment in the outcome of the vote.
“The phase out of the native timber industry puts the future of our timber towns such as Bendoc, Cann Valley, Nowa Nowa, Orbost and Swifts Creek at risk. Right now, we’re working hard to protect our communities through transition programs. An early phase-out date would undermine those programs and increase the potential impact on workers and their families,” Cr Reeves said.
Council’s vision is for a future native forest logging industry in East Gippsland based on high-value, low-volume inputs, almost exclusively sourced from coastal silvertop ash regrowth forest. It advocates a form of silviculture, utilising thinning and select harvests, that maintains or improves forest health and reduces vulnerability to the impacts of bushfire, while also providing sawlogs for timber processing.
“We’re going to work with communities across the region to ensure we get the best possible outcomes no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Our hope now, is that the Victorian Government is not swayed by this MAV vote, which was led by inner-city councils but greatly impacts rural councils,” Cr Reeves said.