Timber Industry operators from across Victoria were in Melbourne today (Tuesday 7 August) as a petition signed by more than 2000 supporters was presented in Parliament.
Deputy Leader of The Nationals and Member for Euroa, Steph Ryan MP, presented the petition which calls on the government to honour Timber Supply Agreements (TSAs) signed before June 30, 2017.
The Mail reported in May that a group of six sawmill operators, including three in Central Highlands – Dindi Sawmill in Murrindindi, Kelly’s Timber in Wesburn and Powelltown Sawmills – accused the State Government of shutting down extensions to existing timber supply agreements, ceasing tendering contracts for wood supply beyond 2021 and placing a halt on renewing some harvest and haulage contracts in favour of propping up the Heyfield Sawmill in Gippsland.
The State Government bought Heyfield, which was under threat of closing, in 2017.
Both Sue McKinnell (Dindi Sawmills) and Harold Fox (Powelltown) spoke out at the time demanding security for the industry with long-term licencing.
Richard Pelz, a haulage contractor from Gippsland was at Parliament House.
He said the timber industry and the businesses and people that rely were calling on the government to save the jobs and livelihoods of the communities that surround Victorian timber mills he said were under threat.
“I have been operating our haulage company for 35 years. We have survived droughts, the Global Financial Crisis and the rising cost of fuel but we cannot survive the government’s inaction,” he said.
Mr Pelz employs 30 fulltime workers as well as six other subcontractors hauling all wood products across Victoria.
Ms Ryan was joined by Member for Eildon Cindy McLeish MP and other Coalition MPs from around Victoria.
She said the collapse of Victoria’s $7.3 billion timber industry would be catastrophic for regional Victoria and accused the Labor Government of putting jobs at risk and leaving families, businesses and communities in limbo.
“For over six months sawmill operators have been waiting for the government to provide some certainty, but they have been met with silence,” she said.
Responding in May to the same calls by the timber industry, a spokesperson for Agriculture & Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford, told the Mail that the government supported the industry and was committed to jobs and investment in regional and rural Victoria.
He said the government was investing in the long term future of the industry by diversifying and complementing the supply from native forestry.
“We continue to work extensively with industry, local governments, local communities and relevant stakeholders to develop a plan for increased plantation supply that secures jobs in timber processing and benefits the State as a whole,” he said.