East Gippsland Shire Council will consider taking a formal position on native timber harvesting at the Tuesday, August 16, Council meeting.
At the request of and with significant input from Councillors, and following presentations from a range of industry and environmental stakeholders, officers have drafted a position paper that responds to the decision by the Victorian Government to phase out native timber harvesting by 2030. It considers the implications for East Gippsland communities and the supply of forest products. It is intended to form the basis of continuing advocacy on behalf of the community.
The ‘Draft Position Paper – Native Timber Harvesting in East Gippsland’ proposes:
• Council supports a high quality, low volume native timber harvesting industry where communities continue to thrive, forests have multiple uses, biodiversity is protected, and where harvested timber is used for the highest value purposes.
• While recognising there are a wide range of views in relation to native timber harvesting, Council is particularly concerned about the impact of the Victorian Government’s decision to cease native timber harvesting by 2030 on businesses, workers and communities.
• Council advocates that the practice of clear-fell native timber harvesting be replaced as soon as practical with a new approach to silviculture (utilising thinning and select harvest) that maintains or improves forest health and reduces vulnerability to the impacts of bushfire, while also providing sawlogs for timber processing.
• Support for the use of forest resources by a range of other forest users, including tourism and recreation.
Recognising there are a wide range of views in relation to native timber harvesting the draft position paper has been prepared considering:
• The current Victorian Government plan to cease native timber harvesting by 2030 poses a number of significant risks to East Gippsland communities. Similarly, the status quo (continued harvesting) carries a range of risks.
• The native timber industry as an integral part of the history and identity of many East Gippsland communities.
• The Community Vision developed by the community and adopted by Council in 2021, that the environment will be managed and preserved for all generations, and that the economy will support existing and emerging industries by being agile, innovative, and sustainable.
In 2021, Council jointly commissioned a study (Economic Analysis of the Timber Industry) with Wellington Shire Council. Over the last 12 months Councillors and senior officers have visited native timber industry businesses, undertaken a tour of native forests and coupes, and invited presentations from a range of stakeholders including forest managers, academics and environment groups.
The draft position paper also outlines 10 concerns in response to long-term changes in the native timber industry and Victorian Government’s 2019 Victorian Forestry Plan.
Council also recognises the critical role that forest contractors play in the management of the forests and particularly the prevention and response to bushfire. It is critical for the safety of our communities that access to the contractors, their skills and equipment is maintained.
The Council Meeting agenda paper is available on Council’s website. The meeting will be held from 6pm on Tuesday, August 16, at the Corporate Centre, Bairnsdale. The meeting will be livestream on Council’s YouTube channel – “EastGippyTV’.