Media Releases - 17 August 2017

Logging industry’s problems caused by lack of wood, not lack of Leadbeater’s Possums and threatened species

  • Overlogging and Black Saturday bushfires have cut the wood supply
  • Logging excluded from less than 3000 hectares of Leadbeater’s Possum habitat
  • Heyfield mill demands $40 million, much more than the $28 million owners paid for mill

Years of overlogging Victoria’s forests combined with the disastrous impacts of the 2009 bushfires have created a genuine challenge for the people and workers of Heyfield, and for the Andrews Government.

“It’s no good pretending that somewhere in the Central Highlands there is a yet undiscovered treasure trove of wood to keep business as usual for another generation,” said Wilderness Society Victorian Campaigns Manager Amelia Young.

“Solutions that protect the forest and put the logging industry on a sustainable basis aren’t easy but must be found. Playing the blame game, and looking for short-term, band-aid fixes, is not going to get us there.”

The writing has been on the wall for years and mills should have been making the transition to plantation timber:

In 2009 large stands of timber were burnt out in the Black Saturday bushfires; VicForests’ Resource Outlook from 2013 stated sawlog supply would significantly decrease in 2017-18 (assuming no further bushfires). “VicForests knew of the looming reduction in wood supply,” Ms Young said. “Successive Victorian Governments knew. And the big timber mills, such as Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, knew.”

“It is disingenuous and self-interested for the logging industry to now blame the Leadbeater's possum for the wood resource shortage it is facing.”

Leadbeater’s Possum logging exclusion zones have reduced industry access to a mere 2,983 hectares of Ash forest. This is just 1.2 per cent of the 241,000 hectares Ash forest allocated to VicForests for logging, or just 0.16 per cent of the 1.82 million hectares of state forest allocated to VicForests for logging across eastern Victoria.

In the Victorian Forest Industry Taskforce’s Statement of Intent, all taskforce members - including industry - agreed that new parks and reserves are required, and that threatened species must be provided for. Now industry is arguing for threatened species protections to be watered down or removed, and for industry to continue business as usual regardless of other forest values.

Meanwhile ASH threatens to close, imperilling 250 regional workers - unless Government finds another $40 million to upgrade equipment and guarantee it will receive logs that don’t exist.

“The Heyfield sawmills’ demand for $40million is substantially more than reported purchase price of the mill, which was $28million,” Ms Young said. “And on top of the $40million government assistance, ASH still wants subsidised native forest logs – just smaller, younger ones. This is not the kind of industry reform that’s needed. In fact, it’s just paying out $40million of public money to hold at bay the inevitable.

“Industry blames the supply cliff it is encountering on forest being reserved for the Leadbeater’s Possum; this is not accurate, VicForests has stated at least 40 per cent of the ‘engine room’ of the state’s supply of Mountain Ash forest was burned on Black Saturday.

“There is hope. A new report confirms a Great Forest National Park would create 750 full-time jobs.

“Victorians need a solution that protects the forest, opens up new employment opportunities and puts the industry on a firm and sustainable footing. This will take good will and innovative thinking, but this the only alternative we all have.”

More information

For further comment, please contact Wilderness Society Victoria Campaign Manager Amelia Young on 0404 074 577. For more information, please contact Wilderness Society Media Adviser Alex Tibbitts on 0416 420 168.