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Great Forest National Park Plan will help secure jobs and drive economic growth


Great Forest National Park Plan will help secure jobs and drive economic growth

Saturday 22 November
Small native forest industry continues to decline and lose money.
Future lies in plantations, with more than enough feedstock for Maryvale mill.

Yarra Ranges draws millions of tourists a year, with more heading to forests than wineries. The Great Forest National Park Plan will help secure jobs at Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill for the long term and generate new jobs in the region, contrary to claims made by unions.

“The Great Forest National Park is a visionary proposal that will save Mountain Ash forests and the endangered Leadbeater’s possum as well as delivering jobs and economic growth to regions still recovering from the tragic 2009 Black Saturday bushfires,” said Wilderness Society Victorian Campaigns Manager Amelia Young.

“The current forestry model is clearly not working, with job numbers in the Victorian forestry industry dropping 10 per cent in three years because of international competition, the collapse of native wood stock, and consumers’ increasing demands for sustainable wood products.” Australian Paper has racked up losses of more than $100 million over the past three years, losing $30 million in 2013, $26 million in 2012 and $46 million in 2011, according to ASIC reports.

“Industry change is inevitable, but unmanaged change will fail regional areas. We have a plan to arrest the slide, to create more jobs and boost the regional economy.

An unreleased report commissioned by the state government’s Department of Environment and Primary Industries shows the number of jobs in Victoria’s forestry industries dropped by 10.9 per cent from 2009 to 2012. It also found that fewer than 20 per cent of wood primary-processing jobs in Victoria are dependent on native forest logging, with the majority already using plantation wood.

Across the Central Highlands and Gippsland, just 2.2 per cent of households are now dependent on logging and wood transport and processing, including the manufacture of paper products, according to ABARES statistics.

“There is a better way for the Victorian paper industry. There is more than enough plantation wood available to meet the needs of Australian Paper's Maryvale mill, which is owned by Japanese paper giant, Nippon Paper.”

“Nippon Paper’s mill can absolutely use plantation wood and recycled fibre. Modernising the industry by shifting it into the existing plantation estate would help secure its long-term future and improve prospects of FSC certification, which is very attractive in today’s marketplace,” saidMichael Spencer, former founding CEO of the Forest Stewardship Council in Australia (2006-11).

Tourism, on the other hand, is a boon for the local economy, with Yarra Ranges Tourism saying the region attracted 4.67 million visitors in 2012. The Yarra Valley’s wineries are well known as popular destinations yet twice as many people visit the region for its forests. Twelve per cent of visitors head to the Yarra Valley for the wineries, while 24 per cent visit for bushwalking or rainforest walks, according to Tourism Victoria.

“Clearly there is demand for nature-based tourism experiences. The Great Forest National Park proposal will boost tourism in the region as well as jobs and the regional economy,” said Ms Young. “Tourists do not want to visit the stark landscape of clear-felled forests.”

Already the Great Forest National Park plan has attracted many tourism proposals, including a tree-canopy zip-line tour in Toolangi, an elevated tree-top walkway near Lake Mountain to encourage summer tourism, and a world-class five-day overland walking track from Healesville to Marysville to Eildon.

“The ultimate success of these credible proposals hinge on the creation of the Great Forest National Park because national parks boost the numbers of visitors to regional Victoria.

“Local business knows that native forest logging harms the regional economy. That’s why more than 100 regional businesses representing hundreds of employees in the area proposed for the Great Forest National Park have already publicly supported the creation of it.”

“We recommend the government declare the Great Forest National Park to boost new jobs in the region, and at the same time, establish an Industry Taskforce to help secure existing jobs at the Maryvale paper mill.”

For further comment contact:
Wilderness Society Victorian Campaigns Manager Amelia Young on 0404 074 577
Founding CEO Forest Stewardship Council Australia Michael Spencer on 0439 381 144
For more information, contact Wilderness Society media adviser Alex Tibbitts on 0416 420 168

comms team