Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has devastated the futures of over 650 timber workers throughout Wellington Shire.
I write today in response to the Premier’s budget announcement, marking the final nail in the coffin for the state’s native timber industry, one that feeds the families of hundreds of local timber workers.
Devastation was felt instantly yesterday, after months living in fear of the worst possible outcome. An outcome that has turned into a nightmare for timber workers local to Wellington Shire.
The Premier’s announcement to end native timber harvesting in Victoria in 2024 is a kick in the guts for timber communities, putting on full display the Premier’s disregard for local people and a preference for policy and voters in inner Melbourne.
The announcement follows years of endless advocacy from Council, including three years of formal Freedom of Information requests for the state government to produce the scientific evidence they claimed underpinned their decision to shut down the timber industry. After three long years of being ignored and refused any proof or explanation, this announcement comes as complete shock and heartbreak to so many in our community.
As I write to you today, I am still yet to receive any evidence that the Premier based his decision to phase out native timber harvesting by 2030 on any facts, even after Council made its first request for this information in 2020. While we never supported the state government’s decision to phase out timber harvesting by 2030, at least this timeframe allowed our industries time to adjust. Breaking this promise and ending it now shows a complete lack of transparency and honesty.
Council, our major timber industries, and stakeholders all learned of this decision yesterday following media reports. Victoria’s government simply has a strong aversion to any sort of consultation with regional communities. I share in our community’s disappointment. Those whose lives will be so profoundly impacted by this decision to not be included in any conversation or consultation, and to find out by watching the news or listening to the radio shows an utter lack of integrity or respect. And to the Premier who hid this announcement in the overall budget blitz, it is a very telling sign.
In three years, we haven’t seen any evidence or sign that the Premier ever had plans to deliver on his promises to support the native timber industry with new pine plantations or any form of alternative supply. Now the livelihoods of hundreds of locals are shattered in an instant without a single word from the Premier or his government.
I implore the Premier to consider the future of our communities. Local workers can’t be expected to survive this blow following extensive drought, bushfires, and a global pandemic. The Premier continues to tout transition assistance, but to this point not a single ongoing job has been created in Wellington.
Today is a dark day for our community.
Cr Ian Bye
Wellington Shire Council Mayor