In late August, Minister in charge of logging, Sherryl Garbutt, announced the intention to offer Victorias 58 sawmill owners money in return for their promised allocation of logs (didnt we hear this same thing six months ago?). However, the offer ignores the woodchip licences. The government is still operating under the illusion that chips are simply a by-product of logging. Even John Brumby needed a drawing done before he understood that this wasn’t the case.
The government hopes there will be enough mill owners wanting to bail out voluntarily, that NRE will be able to reduce sawlog volumes for the remainder without having to be heavy handed (or get sued).
The package includes the buying of the sawlog licences, compo for loss on sale of plant and equipment, mill site rehabilitation, worker entitlements for those laid off, and consultants fees for the mill owners who want advice. They will also offer Worker Assistance and Contractor Assistance Packages (WAPs and CAPs). The industry is being treated much better than car, steel, clothing, white goods, hospital, education, etc workers. The industry has until July 03 to take up the offer.
The fact that woodchip licence volumes remain untouched means that the same level of clearfelling will go on. The lower quality of sawlog trees in the remaining forests, means there will be a higher ratio of chip logs to sawlogs. Hey Presto – Status Quo! Same area clearfelled but less sawlogs to come out of it. The cut-backs are thus a farce. This will not save forests but may save NRE from being sued for breach of contract, being unable to provide the sawlogs that it was legally obliged to supply.