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Your chance to demand Victoria’s native forestry policy is overturned
The review of the Victorian RFAs following the 2019-20 bushfires is an opportunity to call for a commonsense approach to native forestry.
An independent panel is conducting the Victorian Regional Forest Agreements Major Event Review of the 2019-20 Bushfires with submissions and community consultation part of the process.
FWCA Managing Director Justin Law said it was an opportunity to call on the Andrews Government to reverse its decision to phase out native forestry and point out the significant role foresters play in helping reduce the risk of fire.
“Credible science supported by 1000 experts in fire and forestry has shown that timber harvesting does not increase fire risk and the workers in the bush play a crucial role in fighting fires,” he said.
“It’s time these forest scientists, researchers and professional forest land managers are given due recognition as the true experts focused on the whole picture of forestry and the global need to embrace it.
“We hope this review gives their views and the views of the people who actually work in the forests the weight that they deserve and does not bow to the whims of activists who have monetised outrage.”
Mr Law said it was interesting that a Major Event Review mechanism had only been put in place on the RFAs which govern Victorian timber production.
“It is hard to not be cynical about a review designed to examine the effectiveness of the RFAs after the bushfire, which occurred just weeks after the Victorian Government announced it would end native timber harvesting by 2030,” he said.
“Since the announcement, we have seen failed court challenges, academic criticism and sustained pressure by corporate activists to abandon the RFA process before the 2030 deadline.
“This would have a massive impact on regional communities and the timber workers who put their lives and machinery on the line to fight the 2019-20 fires.”
In a survey attached to the Review, people directly affected by the fires are invited to have their say.
“It is a great opportunity for our members and everyone who supports our sustainable timber industry to speak up,” Mr Law said.
“You can bet your bottom dollar that activists will be using the Review as an opportunity to attack our livelihoods.
“It’s only when we come together and speak up as a united voice that we can demonstrate the real impact the sustained attacks are having on the people who work in our world-certified timber industry and the communities which rely on it.
“We implore you to add to our voice by at least participating in the survey.”
Here are some guidelines and suggestions to help complete the survey questions:
- Identify your key interest areas relating to Victoria’s Regional Forest Agreements
- Tick COMMUNITY
- How well does the Summary Report describe the key impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires on Victoria’s Regional Forest Agreement regions?
- We think it’s “not well described” because it glosses over the impacts of timber production.
- What do you consider to be the most significant impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires on the operation of the Victorian Regional Forest Agreements?
- Suspiciously, the review includes ALL RFA regions in Victoria when two RFAs were largely unaffected by the fires (Western and Central Highlands) and a large amount of the Gippsland RFA was not affected. We think these should be removed from the Review as there has been no “major event” in these RFA regions.
- East Gippsland, North East and part of the Gippsland RFAs have been affected, with social and economic impacts (loss of income due to 75% reduction in available timber supply). This impact was reduced by the ability to salvage and recovery of 350,000 tonnes of timber from burnt/dead trees.
- The expertise, knowledge, skills and resources of the forestry sector (plantation, native timber and contracting/haulage) is a significant and cost-effective resource for bushfire preparation, response and recovery. This should not be underestimated. For the native timber, contractors/haulage, the decision to phase out native timber harvesting will mean a huge loss in terms of not just the resource mentioned, but funding to manage roads and other access points to respond to fire events.
- How could forest values, that are important to you, be better managed post bushfire? – Values might be general, such as environmental, cultural or economic values, or specific values important to you.
- For the forest, it is significant that hundreds of inquiries and investigations strongly support the active management of the forest and timber harvesting as a legitimate tool to manage forest fuels loads and thus bushfire severity. The government must continue to actively manage all our forests.
- The 2009 Royal Commission recommended that 5% of the forest is control burnt or mechanical works each year to manage forest fuel loads. Currently less than 2% is burnt and this is mostly around roads, towns, railways and other important infrastructure. Very little of the proposed works underway to 2023 will actually reduce forest fuel loads.
- What are your views on potential remedial actions that could be undertaken?
- Reverse the disastrous decision to end native forestry and instead promote it as a solution to managing fuel loads and providing fire-fighting expertise. People who work in the forests should be celebrated for supplying natural, renewable timber products under the internationally recognised RFAs which ensure positive environmental outcomes.
- Please provide any additional information, reports or evidence about the impacts of the bushfires on forests, that you think is important for the Major Event Review and Panel to consider.
- If you have any, feel free to provide these.