Forest Industry Taskforce update
After a strong campaign for a Great Forest National Park by conservation groups in the lead up to the 2014 state election, the Andrews Government committed to establish a taskforce for a 'consensus approach' to any new national parks:
It declared that the taskforce will have members from the forestry and forest products industry, unions, environmental groups and scientists, threatened species experts, land owners, timber communities and other relevant stakeholders.
"A Labor Government will consider any reasonable recommendations and proposals reached by consensus of the major stakeholders through the Industry Task Force, but will not impose solutions."
In May 2015, a group of eight conservation, industry and union representatives was convened as the Forest Industry Taskforce, and included our executive director Matt Ruchel. Its first task was to develop its terms of reference and structure, and these were submitted to government in September 2014 and formally accepted in November 2014.
The taskforce was formally convened in February 2016 with the following membership: Jane Calvert (Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union), Tim Johnston (Victorian Association of Forest Industries), Amelia Young (The Wilderness Society Victoria), Alex Millar/Anthony Pavey/Travis Wacey (CFMEU), Vince Hurley (Australian Sustainable Hardwoods), Julian Mathers/Peter Williams (Australian Paper), John McConachy (harvest and haulage contractors), Sarah Rees (MyEnvironment), Matt Ruchel (VNPA), and Jess Abrahams (Australian Conservation Foundation).
It is supported by the Victorian Government through the appointment of an independent Chair, Professor Don Henry (University of Melbourne), a secretariat to fulfil administrative, research and other support and logistical tasks, as well as an independent facilitation team.
The process has involved intensive discussions, with more than 20 meeting days over the past six months, and a mid-year or interim report presented to Premier Daniel Andrews in late July.
In line with its terms of reference, the taskforce further refined the agreed opportunities for change, which included: the establishment of new parks and reserves; threatened species; wood supply security; industry investment and growth; carbon; jobs and regional employment; regulatory revision and reform; the future shape of the industry; and the future shape of conservation and the parks system.
A series of enabling processes, including new investigations by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council, are proposed, as well as the development of both a Future Parks and Reserve Plan and a Future Industry Plan.
There is also a series of discussions about the new Timber Release Plan, ongoing logging of high conservation value areas and new industry contracts.
More from Park Watch
This story first appeared in the September 2016 edition of our magazine Park Watch. You can read more stories in our online version, and if you become a member of the Victorian National Parks Association you will receive your own copy in the mail.