A Gippsland managing director of a sawmill company has joined the growing calls on the state government to provide scientific reasoning behind a policy to phase out native logging by 2030.
Joint owner of Yarram based timber mill Radial Timber Chris McEvoy said plantations could replace a lot of native forest harvesting, but a much longer-term plan that is scientifically proven is needed to allow that to happen.
Mr McEvoy claims the decision to ban native logging is simplistic solution to a complicated issue and phasing out logging will impact the safety, resilience, biodiversity and health of the state's forests.
"To say that the solution is to lock these forests up and have no plan or no budget for the ongoing management from pests and weeds and fire is a huge concern," Mr McEvoy said.
"The commercial production in our forest is 0.004 per cent, and the real problem is that no money has been spent on our forests now with no Indigenous burning, and little management theory to protect them," he said.
Radial Timbers opened in 2017 and processes timber for decks and cladding on houses.
It also has a VicForests contract to process native logged timber up to 2027.
But Mr McEvoy, who is a former wood scientist with the CSIRO, said for the timber industry to evolve beyond those year, a guaranteed supply for its future is needed that works within a wider scope of science.
"No one's going to invest any new technology or new equipment for our industry if we see a three year plan or a five year plan or an eight year plan - you need longer term commitments than that," he said.
"With the evolving climate change emergency that we've got... we should be looking at what we need to do to our forests to make them more resilient.
"So talk to the best scientists working within the general expanse of science about protecting forests... both here and overseas, and surely not just one or two people that might be working at environmental groups."
Mr McEvoy said forests could be effectively managed utilising newer technology that allows for small piece sizes that turns manufactured timber into highly valued products for construction .
He also said community-led solutions would "de-politicise our forests", and bring more scientific-based solutions to manage the industry effectively.
"The timber industry and our forests are a real political football and it just gets chucked around and our really rich biodiversity suffers, our communities suffer, and our forests suffer," he said.
Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said mill workers were increasingly becoming sceptical over the reasoning to cease native timber logging by 2030.
"Without any scientific evidence to support it, Labor's native timber ban is nothing more than a cruel, politically-motivated vendetta against hard-working Victorians," Mr Walsh said.
"Mill workers and small communities that rely on the timber industry for their survival are rightly questioning why state Labor is targeting them - is this science?
"Or a desperate attempt to secure greens preferences in inner-city Melbourne?"
Last month, Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes wrote to the parliament saying they would not comply with a parliamentary request to produce all documents relating to the 2030 ban.
Ms Symes claimed the request would be time-consuming and take two and a half years to "collate, consider and obtain advice" at the cost of $500,000.
Since then, she has asked the parliament's upper house to revise the order that restricts the documents requested to be from January 2018 to November 2019, which would take around seven months to collate at a lower cost for the government.
Not long after the state government announced the plan to phase out native logging by 2030, the Wellington and East Gippsland shires had also lodged a freedom of information request requesting data, but the state government had rejected those requests.
A state government representative said they will continue to implement the Victorian Forestry Plan.
"A key to the plan has always been about transitioning the native forest industry to a range of new opportunities by 2030, and setting up a strong plantation-based sector for decades to come," the spokesperson said.
"As part of the transition, an independent eminent panel for community engagement has consulted with Traditional Owners and will soon consult with Victorian communities on the future use of state forests now protected from timber harvesting and set aside for conservation and recreation through the introduction of the Immediate Protection Areas."
A reduction in the current level of native timber available for logging is set to begin from 2024-25.
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