Wellington Shire Council will urgently meet over the next 48 hours to discuss its response to the State Government’s decision to provide only minimal support to the ASH facility and the Heyfield community.
Wellington Shire Council Mayor Carolyn Crossley said that Council was bitterly disappointed the state government was unable to release further timber to support this important national industry, despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence that one of the main reasons for the decline in supply, the protection of the Leadbeaters possum, was based on conflicting and incomplete data.
“The real loser in this stoush is our Heyfield community. They are an amazing and resilient bunch who have been through so much, including fires, but this will rip the heart out of the town. We understand from Vic Forests’ own data that between 40,000 and 50,000 cubic metres of forest per annum have been lost to production because of the government’s policy on protecting the possum”.
“While Council would never advocate destruction of a critically endangered species’ habitat, we also understand that the possum’s numbers are significantly higher than first thought, with detections of habitats in places where experts said they would not be found. It seems to us that this evidence is being ignored and now at least 250 jobs could be extinct as a result!
“We also believe that the Governments view that the Mill can be downsized and then sold to another operator, or even run by the Government themselves, completely misses the point. The fact remains that the Government’s own agency, VicForests, believe the necessary timber volume can be found based on a reasonable and logical response to the Leadbeaters possum.
“Council will call an urgent meeting with the Premier to discuss the future of the mill and how the 250 jobs can be saved,” added the Mayor. “We understand that the company has already written to the government with the sensible suggestion that the 80,000 cubic metres on offer be provided to the mill to cover them for a period of 7 months. This then gives the government ample time to validate and confirm the data and their policies around Leadbeaters Possum protection, which is the real issue here. The government has nothing to lose by this proposal, and can refer this matter to an independent body or even a parliamentary committee to allow proper analysis so their decisions are based on fact and evidence. And not a single job would be lost – what has the government got to lose?”