Victoria moves to phase out native timber

Kaitlyn Offer
Victoria has put an immediate ban on old-growth logging, with native harvesting to end by 2030

Thousands of jobs will come under pressure as Victoria immediately bans old growth logging and moves to phase out native timber over the next 10 years.

After years of speculation over the future of the logging industry, Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday announced the gradual switch to a plantation-based supply.

"The time's come for us to face up to the fact that the native timber industry faces massive challenges," Mr Andrews told reporters in Gippsland.

"We will move to convert to full plantation timber supply, that is the future."

State government-owned VicForests will extend existing supply agreements until 2024, before ending native timber harvests completely by 2030.

Businesses are being told to start making plans now for whether or not they will continue after 2024.

The government will put aside $120 million over 10 years to support the industry through the transition from native trees to plantation logs, including the purchase of new equipment.

Support will provided to Australian Paper so it can continue operating until at least 2050, maintaining about 1000 jobs.

"We think that transition will be painful and require a lot of work and effort by a lot of people," Peter Williams from Australian Paper told reporters.

"But the government I think are giving that support to the industry."

The government says the move will save about 90,000 hectares of old growth forest and support the protection of threatened species, including the leadbeater's possum and greater glider.

Environmental groups say it is a move in the right direction, but the Victorian Greens say it is not going to happen fast enough.

"Under Labor's plan, the Leadbeater's possum habitat and our water catchments will stay open for logging for 10 years - which could wipe them out for good," Greens forests spokeswoman Ellen Sandell said.

But industry groups and the state opposition are accusing the government of putting the marsupials and environmental groups ahead of regional and rural communities.

"It's clear the government has bowed to pressure from vocal environmental groups and turned its back on listening to those within the industry and those impacted by the flow-on of this devastating decision," Victorian Association of Forest Industries chief Tim Johnston said.

"The irony of this decision is the state government has actually chosen Victorian native timber for many of its high-profile building projects, including the award-winning parliament house annexe, at the same time knowing that the plan to shut down the industry was imminent."

Opposition leader Michael O'Brien said the coalition would fight the plan, accusing Labor of trying to chase inner-city Greens votes.

"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," he said in a statement.