Three years down the track and the Andrews Labor Government’s sham announcement to expand timber plantations in the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland still has not delivered a single extra tree in the ground.
The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien said the Andrews Government was all sizzle and no sausage with numerous announcements now piling up and absolutely no follow through.
“The people of Gippsland and the Valley want secure jobs in the forestry sector and they are angered by Labor’s decision to phase out the native hardwood industry.
“However back in May 2017, the government pledged $110 million in the state budget to expand plantations in the Latrobe Valley to notionally help our timber sector transition.
“We are now more than three years down the track from that announcement and not a single extra tree has been planted.
“This makes a lie of both that announcement and the Andrews Government’s supposed plan to transition the native hardwood sector into plantations by 2030.
“Not to mention the fact these trees take decades to be harvestable. Not a single tree planted today will be ready to harvest in 2030.
“Latrobe Valley and Gippsland timber workers want certainty, but instead they get spin from the government.”
Mr O’Brien said the government last year claimed to be expanding the plantation estate as it planted blue gums, a pulpwood species, on land that had already been in plantation for years.
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victorian Region, Melina Bath said Labor was letting down timber workers and communities around Gippsland.
“We know that Australian Paper will need additional fibre supplies in coming years, not to mention the need for more hardwood plantations if Labor gets its way and shuts down harvesting in state forests.
“We have had enough of spin and if the government was at all interested in jobs in the Valley and across the region it would have done something, not just put a line in the budget papers and a headline on a press release.”
Mr O’Brien said the government’s announcement of a Gippsland Centre for Forest Product Innovation was a hollow offer.
“Our timber industry, both in the plantation and native sectors is already highly innovative and adaptive, but any future investments will amount to nothing if there is no timber supply coming through.
“I have spoken with timber industry players who have land available and opportunities to develop plantations and they’ve offered these to the government and had no response.
“There is no excuse for this level of inaction from the government. It’s had three years now and it’s continued to show it doesn’t have a plan for the timber industry other than to sacrifice it for green votes in Melbourne.”