Member for Morwell Russell Northe has said the Andrews Labor Government’s failure to renegotiate the renewal of leases of land for Hancock Victoria Plantations’ (HVP) leaves the future of the timber industry in the Latrobe Valley in question.
Mr Northe said he understood that HVP has been seeking to finalise lease negotiations with the State Government for some time on properties in the Latrobe Valley including at Driffield, Maryvale, Churchill and Traralgon South.
“The standing crop of trees on these leased sites has been grown for local industry including Australian Paper’s site at Maryvale and the two Carter Holt Harvey sawmills in Morwell and Yarram,” Mr Northe said.
“Some leases are due to expire shortly, meaning the trees will be harvested by the time the leases expire. Without certainty on lease tenure and renewals this will result in no reinvestment on this land by HVP and severely impacts the supply of fibre to downstream businesses such as Australian Paper and Carter Holt Harvey.”
Mr Northe said this came at a time when the Andrews Labor Government was pushing for the creation of the Great Forest National Park.
“Establishing the Great Forest National Park would immediately threaten the future viability of Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill and the thousands of direct and indirect jobs its operations create,” Mr Northe said.
“This comes on the back of the announcement to close Hazelwood on March 31 and the loss of hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in the Valley.
“Daniel Andrews must stop putting politics ahead of people and protect the jobs of people in Gippsland’s forestry industry.”
President of the National Timber Councils Association Dale Harriman said Australian Sustainable Hardwoods’ recent announcement that it’s considering the closure of the Heyfield Mill, the largest hardwood timber mill in Australia, was extremely concerning.
“A closure would result in the loss of 250 full-time jobs, with contractors and many more indirect jobs also impacted,” Mr Harriman said.
“Forestry and the forest products industry make a significant contribution to the economy and our local community. The Victorian Government must provide sufficient resource to guarantee ASH sawmill and their viability well into the future in addition to securing leases for HVP urgently.”
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