First we had the Bracks government, via the DSE/VicForests, doing a trial to see if they can log old growth more slowly (the Old Growth Project), then in late February, the Minister for forests, John Thwaites, announced a new six month consultation process with the logging industry in East Gippsland to work out how many logs are still out there for them and what they want.
There are six licensees left in EG, three or four are about to go bust. How long does it take to consult with them about going into liquidation?
The two bods in charge will be Graham Gooding from VAFI. He’s a well know supporter of woodchipping and clearfelling. The other is Pete Steedman who did up the Our Forest Our Future document (a tame yes-man?).
The plan is to look at log availability for East Gippsland, but that’s way off the mark if Bracks is interested in fixing the forest debate. Any new industry plan or restructure has to involve 1) all players not just loggers, and 2) all eastern Victorian forests, not just one small area. Any industry plan that doesn’t look at forest protection won’t solve the ongoing conflict.
The forest debate effects more than just loggers – the wider community needs to be involved. Despite DSE and VicForests’ misconception, it’s not just loggers that have exclusive ownership of forests.
Instead of looking at how to squeeze every last stick of wood out of forests, Bracks and Thwaites need to look at biodiversity, water, the thousands of tonnes of wood in plantations that can be used instead of native forests and other ways to employ people from the logging industry.
This is not a good start to negotiations in the lead up to the State election in November.