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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Logging Native Forests in Victoria to end by 1 January 2024, saving 14 million tonnes of carbon by 2030

Cudos to Premier Dan Andrews and the State Labor Government who took the giant step of announcing the end to native forest logging in Victoria by 1st January 2024. The State Government announced an extra $200 million in funding for transition of affected workers and communities in the 2023/24 budget.

In October 2022 the Victorian Forest Alliance and The Tree Projects published a report which found that an immediate end to native forest logging could prevent 14 million tonnes of carbon emission by 2030. 

 Key facts from the report:

  • Native forest logging in Victoria emitted around 3 million tonnes of carbon in 2021.
  • Emissions from native forest logging are equivalent to the annual emissions of 700,000 cars.
  • Regrowing forests on average only ever hold up to 50% of the carbon of the original forests before they are logged again.
  • Close to 90% of Australia’s wood now comes from Australian plantations.
  • Logging plantations produces 60% less carbon dioxide emissions than the logging of native forests.
Transition is always difficult process, but it can bring new opportunities in Land management and conservation of the forests, and for recreational and tourist opportunities. It also helps guarantee the purity of Melbourne's water supply. It opens up roles for indigenous knowledge in land management, conservation and for managing bushfire threat.

We are likely to see the creation of a Great Forests National Park that many conservationists and scientists have called to be established.

The full media release from Victorian Premier Dan Andrews is below:

Media Release: Delivering Certainty For Timber Workers

The Victorian Government is stepping in to deliver certainty for timber workers, sawmill operators and their communities, with an expanded transition support package as part of the Victorian Budget 2023/24.

This package removes the uncertainty that has been caused by ongoing court and litigation process and increasingly severe bushfires, with an additional $200 million in support for workers and their families to transition away from native timber logging earlier than planned – by 1 January 2024.

This brings the Government’s total support for the forestry transition to more than $875 million, including existing worker support services and investments to support the transition to plantation timber.

In 2019, the Government moved to secure a long-term and sustainable future for Victoria’s forestry industry – and for the Victorian workers and communities who rely on it.

We put forward a plan to support the sector as it transitioned, backing long-term, sustainable jobs and giving local workers confidence about their future.

But since then, native forestry has been hit with increasingly severe bushfires, prolonged legal action and court decisions. There are no alternative timber supply sources available domestically or internationally which can offset the current disruptions to supply to Victorian mills and there are no options for regulatory reform which can prevent further legal injunctions continuing to disrupt native timber harvesting operations.

All of that has drastically cut the timber supply we can actually use. And that’s left workers in complete limbo.

Hundreds of workers, across Victoria, haven’t been able to work a day in recent months. They’ve got no certainty over their jobs. They don’t even know when they’ll be able to get back to work.

We have been right there with impacted communities, providing support payments to keep workers in their jobs and paid – but the uncertainty has taken a toll on communities, families and mental health.

It simply cannot continue.

Native timber harvesting in state forests will end in 2024 – with existing supports being brought forward and scaled up – which will mean every single timber worker will be directly supported to find a new job.

Forest contractor workers will be secured with contracts for forest management works, enabling them to continue to work in the forests they know so well and contribute to bushfire risk reduction.

The Government’s Free TAFE program will retrain workers, helping them get jobs in growing regional industries like construction, agriculture, transport, and manufacturing through TAFE Gippsland and other key TAFE campuses in timber communities. This will be supported by up to $8,000 in retraining vouchers for courses inside and outside the TAFE Network.

We’ll continue to back workers and their families with financial and mental health support, by connecting them to specialist mental health service providers in their local area and covering out-of-pocket costs. Industry support payments will also continue as needed until the transition is finalised.

We’re being upfront with the industry – and continuing to deliver a managed transition to support every worker and every business. Because we’ll never leave them to go it alone.

Timber communities have worked with us to identify the jobs and growth sectors that will drive a sustainable future in their local economies. We’ll continue to invest in these opportunities to support and create jobs through the Community Development Fund.

We’ll continue the discussions we’ve been having with Opal to support their transition to plantation supply and recycled products. The dedicated Opal Worker Support Service will support every impacted worker at Maryvale.

All other native timber mills will be eligible for a voluntary transition package, whether they choose to stay in timber processing or switch to other industry sectors. Mills that stay will be able to access investment support through the Timber Innovation Fund.

The Government is also providing support to local businesses reliant on Victorian hardwood supply to manage the transition process. The Supply Chain Resilience package will support business continuity and provide assistance to help manufacturing and other businesses make the transition to future opportunities.

As part of the transition, the Government will be required to deliver a program of land management works to manage the 1.8 million hectares of public land currently subject to the timber harvesting allocation order. This will see us deliver the largest expansion to our public forests in our state’s history.

The Government will establish an advisory panel to consider and make recommendations to Government on the areas of our forests that qualify for protection as National Parks, the areas of our forests that would be suitable for recreation opportunities - including camping, hunting, hiking, mountain biking and four-wheel driving - and opportunities for management of public land by Traditional Owners.



Friends of the Earth Melbourne welcomed the decision, saying "An end to native forest logging a huge win for climate action, clean air, clean water and biodiversity."

“This is a huge moment for everyone who has worked tirelessly to end logging and bring forward this transition date,” said Friends of the Earth forest campaigner Alana Mountain.  It's what we have needed for decades; to protect remaining carbon sinks, biodiversity, water catchments and First Nations culture.  This is a sensible move to wind up the timber industry and transition affected workers. This is justice for climate, forests, and humanity.”

“The community just protected one of the world’s largest carbon sinks in this state, a globally significant area for climate mitigation and biodiversity,” said Alana.

“This is an outcome achieved by various environmental groups and the grassroots community with court cases, relentless citizen science efforts, lobbying of decision makers, forest tours and of course a long blockading legacy,” said Alana. 

“It’s vital that the government continues to support affected communities and we welcome the announcement of an additional $200 million to support workers and their families as they exit the industry.”

“Right now is a sensitive time for affected workers, but with the clarity this announcement provides, people are no longer in limbo. It’s an opportunity for communities to come together, develop a collective vision for their local economy, and create ongoing jobs that are rooted in regenerative land stewardship, climate resilience, and caring for one another.”

“We thank the new environment minister Ingrid Stitt for showing leadership and finally listening to what communities that have been calling for a long time. Transitioning earlier is in line with the ecological and climate realities we’re facing and it also makes it possible for communities to transition with dignity and embrace the opportunity to create a long-term future beyond logging.” 


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