The region’s peak industry advocate, the Committee for Gippsland, is calling on the state government to extend the timeline for the phasing out of all logging in native forests in Gippsland.
With the devastation of drought, bushfire, a global pandemic and now a recession, the region has taken compounding hits to its social, economic and environmental foundations.
The Victorian Government’s Forestry Policy Plan sees the exit from native forest harvesting set for 2030 and, while that seems a long time away, Jane Oakley CEO of the Committee for Gippsland said more time is needed for the region to recover from the devastation of these major setbacks.
“Gippsland is facing its fair share of challenges. Business, industry, communities and families will be brought to their knees unless key government decisions affecting economic recovery and grassroots livelihoods are adapted to support the region.”
In May 2020, SGS Economics and Planning stated that, ‘Due to the summer bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic, East Gippsland is likely to see a decline in annual GDP of over 22 per cent – three times the national decline’ and that it could take three to four years before East Gippsland’s economy recovers to 2018-19 levels.
Gippsland’s contribution to the state’s economy is well recognised and, on behalf of its members, the Committee for Gippsland has facilitated regular briefings and meetings with Ministers, local politicians, and the region’s industry and business leaders to work through sector transition plans.
“We welcome the investment and support already provided by both state and federal government in the wake of bushfires, drought and COVID-19,” said Jane Oakley. “But a delay to the implementation of the state government’s plan to halt native forest harvesting in favour of plantations is an important and strategic component of Gippsland’s recovery.”
Jane Oakley added that according to industry representatives, the plantation program for Gippsland outlined by Government is already five years behind its required targets, a situation that will place incredible pressure on the sector to source fibre elsewhere.
“We understand there are people across Victoria who don’t support harvesting in native forests,” Jane Oakley acknowledged. “But the prospect of importing timber from third world countries that may not have sustainable harvesting practices in place is shirking our national responsibility.”
“Gippsland is proud of its industry achievements and its ability to adapt and innovate. What we’re asking for is recognition, compassion and support for those Gippsland families and businesses who need the lifeline of more time to recover, adapt and continue to contribute to this great region.”