Senator the Hon. Jonathon Duniam
Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries
Canberra ACT 2600
August 21, 2020
We are writing to request that you urgently follow through on your commitments to support the forestry industry to recover from the 2019-20 bushfires.
We represent the largest forestry companies in North East Victoria. Across our region, our sector employs 340 people in plantations and another 1400 people in processing in towns like Wangaratta, Myrtleford, Benalla, and in the Upper Murray.
Our region was devastated in the fires. Over summer, 6393 hectares of softwood plantation was burned, incurring direct losses of more than $50 million to our industry.
The loss of timber represents an unprecedented blow to the industry and one which, if not addressed, will leave a significant medium-term hole in wood supply.
This is why we wrote to you in February requesting an emergency support package, to allow us to undertake a salvage operation for burned logs, support the increased costs to transport and processing burned logs, and rehabilitate the land.
And it is why we welcomed the support package you announced on June 23 involving:
- $40 million Forestry Recovery Development Fund
- $10m for Salvage Log Storage Fund
This was in addition to the announcement on May 11 of $15 million for Salvage Log Transport Assistance.
Each of these announcements was welcome. But in the months that have since passed, there’s been no action. No funding has been delivered. No applications have opened. No guidelines have been released.
When you announced the $50m package in June, you said:
The impact of the bushfires on Australia’s forestry industry could be felt for decades, which is why the Morrison Government is taking action now.
And yet we are in late August, the next fire season is nearly upon us, and we are still waiting for that action to transpire.
We understand that some of these measures require collaboration with the Victorian Government. We ask that you work closely with the Victorian Government to expedite those measures.
But the $40 million Recovery Fund – the bulk of the support on offer – is directly administered by the Commonwealth. We ask that you immediately release guidelines, open applications and announce a timeframe for delivering this funding.
We recognise that Australia is in crisis and that demands on Government are immense. But this money has already been allocated, and each week it becomes more urgent as our logs rot on the stump. With thousands of regional jobs in the balance, we believe that the Government must act faster to deliver on its promises.
We await your response.
Helen Haines MP
Independent Federal Member for Indi
Chief Operating Officer
Carter Holt Harvey Plywood Pty Ltd