The other day when I was voicing my opinion on the terrible policy announcement by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, someone asked me why.  They wanted to know what this had to do with the frame and truss industry, so I explained.

My heritage and my passion are key factors but are not the only factor.  I was employed as Executive Officer of FTMA Australia as a direct result of my passion and support for the whole timber supply chain.  My Grandfather (Tubby, pictured right) was a sawmiller and native forest contractor, my Great Uncle was a forester, my family have worked in the industry, Scott and I ran a forest based business regenerating harvested coupes, I live in a timber community, 98% of my entire working life has in some way been involved in the forest industry and finally I grew up with sawdust in my boots and I will always speak out against those wishing to close our industry. 

Poor Policy is another key factor.  As the Victorian Opposition Leader, The Hon. Michael O’Brien said it is simply poor policy.  There is no social, economic or environmental reason to close an industry that has sustainably been operating for generations.  This decision is based purely on attracting green votes and the science is not there to support the policy.  It is a poor policy that signs the death warrant of true environmentalists trying to save the Amazon Rainforest from illegal logging, it will cause more destruction of third world countries who do not have strong forest management.  Even the UN Forestry Committee recognises that Australia has some of the best managed native forests in the world.

Deceitful and wrong information is what has been used to sell this story.  Deceitful Dan claims it will save the Old Growth Forests and said there was 90,000ha in State Forests available for harvesting.  Either the Premier has been misled by his advisers, or he is playing with the truth as this is completely wrong.  It’s not just deceitful and misleading, it is NOT TRUE as this practice had already been announced by VicForests to stop, and in fact on the 1st September 2019 all Old Growth harvesting was STOPPED.

Transition to what plantations.  The Government claims it will transition to plantations, well we all know firsthand that we don’t have enough plantations in Australia and that the softwood industry depends on quality imports to sustain our construction sector, let alone finding quality hardwoods for furniture, stairs and flooring.  The Victorian Government allocated $100 million years ago in the budget to develop plantations in the Latrobe Valley.  They now claim they planted 250,000 trees, but again this is a lie.  They purchased plantations from HVP so did not increase the plantation estate and have not planted one new tree.  These plantations are destined for pulp, we need softwood plantations for construction timbers, not pulp, and we need quality native hardwoods which will not come from plantations.

Who’s going to save our forests from fire now as the timber contractors are the ones that keep tracks open for bush users, who are the first on the front line on their equipment saving Melbourne’s water catchment and saving timber communities.  Water is not the answer to fighting bushfires, dozers and heavy equipment is and this decision will result in hundreds of millions of dollars of firefighting equipment lost.  Furthermore, civil contractors can’t jump behind a machine and go out bush.  It is a whole new ball game and different expertise is required; the kind of experience generations of timber workers have gained.  After the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires it was the harvesting contractors that helped push their way in to devastated communities for police and the coroner to find the bodies.  During this period, I would wait every night with a few beers and an ear so the contractors could come and outpour their emotions before going home to their families.

What’s next, Plantations?  The Greens are against plantations as they apparently use too much water.  In my opinion based on experience, they are against Australian jobs and are the best NIMBY’s in the world; as long as it doesn’t happen in their backyard, they don’t care.   It should be noted that do have plantations in Australia that have ended up in National Parks which is just ludicrous.  We must fight for a right to harvest for plantations and fight for the whole industry to provide security and certainty which will lead to investment.

Support across the Supply Chain is essential and FTMA Sponsor McCormack Hardwood Sales has always supported the frame and truss sector, in fact Phil McCormack was one of FTMA’s Founding Directors and many fabricators still use hardwood.

So, this is why I am fighting for the native timber industry in Victoria.  If this poor government policy, that has no social, economic or environmental benefits can pass here, how long before other mis-informed State Governments follow, all in the pursuit of inner-city green votes.

I encourage the whole supply chain to show their support by standing up against poor government policy and supporting the Victorian native timber industry supply chain.

Kersten Gentle