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Victorian opposition paper plan will destroy forests, wildlife and long term jobs

Friends of the Earth is calling on the Victorian opposition to support sustainable wood and fibre production by committing to only use recycled paper, not paper made from Victoria’s forests. 

Yesterday, leader of the Victorian opposition Matthew Guy and Nationals leader Peter Walsh announced that Coalition government offices would only use Australian-made paper sourced from logging operations in Victoria’s native forests.

Clearfell logging in Toolangi state forest - Chris Taylor 

Reflex paper is currently produced in the Australian paper mill at Maryvale in the Latrobe valley. Reflex is made from wood fibre sourced from the critically endangered Mountain Ash forests[1] in the Central Highlands. Leading experts warn the Mountain Ash forest ecosystem faces collapse if logging continues[2].  

Victoria’s critically endangered faunal emblem, the Leadbeater’s is found only in the ash forests and faces extinction due to logging of its habitat[3] that was massively reduced by the Black Saturday fires.

“Maryvale mill is wholly owned by giant Japanese company Nippon paper who are turning profits at the expense of our endangered wildlife and water catchments and pulping high quality Australian wood to produce low value paper products,” said Friends of the Earth spokesperson Ed Hill.

“Over 70,000 hectares of Ash forest was lost in the Black Saturday fires, since then logging has increased in un-burnt areas, intensifying the pressure on the ecosystem and endangered species that depend on it.”

“Matthew Guy is in complete denial about the sustainability of the Victorian native forest logging industry. His claims that paper production is sustainable and responsible fly in the face of what Victorian’s would expect from a government in the 21st century. Making paper by logging habitat for critically endangered wildlife has no place in a modern and smart state like Victoria.”  

“If the opposition is genuine in their commitment to support sustainable wood and fibre production, they must commit to only using recycled paper, not paper sourced from high environmental value forests.”  

“The opposition’s claim that Labor has ‘locked up timber’ is absurd. Labor has simply refused to hand over wood to the industry that is simply not there, while maintaining the inadequate protection zoning for Leadbeater’s possum that was created under the previous Liberal government."

“The opposition are giving false hope to workers in the native forestry sector by fancifully guaranteeing investment confidence and supporting of jobs that simply cannot be maintained into the long term. Decisive leadership is required to deal with the native timber industry downturn caused by decades of over logging and bushfires. Pretending the status quo can continue will not help workers or the environment.”

“A parliamentary inquiry into state owned logging agency VicForests recommended the industry transition into plantations as native timber supplies continue to dwindle and forest ecosystems become more threatened. The Opposition is living in a fantasy land where they think they can log Victoria’s forests to the point of collapse and somehow still provide long term sustainable jobs for regional Victoria.”

“Decisive action is needed to protect high environmental value forests while also ensuring the long term sustainability of jobs in regional Victoria by bringing fundamental reform to this unsustainable industry and beginning the transition into plantations and non timber sources of fibre.”

“It’s time all political leaders faced the inevitability of a transition away from logging native forests and rapidly re-structure the industry. As the state election approaches, completing the industry transition away from native forests and protecting high value forests in the Great Forest National Park and East Gippsland’s Emerald Link must be a top priority for all political parties.”

Media contact:

Ed Hill - 0414 199 645  

[1] Burns E. L., Lindenmayer D. B., Stein J., Blanchard W., McBurney L., Blair D. & Banks S. (2015) Ecosystem assessment of mountain ash forest in the Central Highlands of Victoria, south-eastern Australia Austral Ecology 40(4): 386-399.

[2] Ibid 

[3] Taylor, C., Cadenhead, N., Lindenmayer, D.B. and Wintle, B.A., 2017. Improving the design of a conservation reserve for a critically endangered species. PloS one12(1), p.e0169629.

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