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Geelong region and Otway Environment group’s welcome Victorian state wide logging ban

The recent announcement by the Victorian State government to ban native forest logging on public land in Eastern Victoria has been strongly welcomed by local environment groups including the Otway Ranges Environment Network(OREN) and Geelong Environment Council(GEC). Although the local communities of Eastern Victorian will need to go through a transition, claims of economic doom and gloom are unfounded. The logging phase out process to be completed by 2030 for Eastern Victoria is very similar to the process used to phase out native forest logging the Otway Ranges that successfully transitioned the local community and economy between 2002 and 2008.

“When the Otways logging ban was announced in 2002, wild claims were made that the Otways region would be economically devastated if native forest logging came to an end, that there would be mass unemployment” said Simon Birrell spokesperson for Otway Ranges Environment Network. “Claims were made that in Colac, where a number of hardwood sawmills were located, the town would die and that the Midway woodchip mill would close down. Instead nature based tourism has significantly expanded in the Otway region and this can easily be the case for Eastern Victoria.”

“For example, the Otway town of Forrest was founded on logging and had a sawmill mill that was phased out. It is now a hub for those who go mountain bike riding through the forests. Shops that were derelict when the local sawmill was operating have now been renovated and opened as a café. There are accommodation businesses. In another example, Otways logs once went to the Birregurra sawmill. Now many people who live in Birri work as part of the tourism service industries along the Great Ocean Road.”

“For the Otways there was six year transition between 2002 and 2008, for east of the State it will be a ten year transition to 2030. Claims the towns such as Orbost will die are rubbish. Orbost can easily be developed has a major gateway hub for nature based tourism to see the wonders of the tall forests and magnificent scenery the region of far East Gippsland has to offer. What needs to happen is investment in making the place more accessible for visitors and a marketing campaign to promote the wonders of the area so more visitors go.”

“It is concerning that Federal Government ministers were so quick to condemn the Eastern Victorian logging phase out. The Federal coalition government should note that the Victorian Liberal Party supported the Otway logging ban in 2005 and voted to support passage of legislation to ban logging and create the Great Otway National Park. Rather than irresponsibly talk up the negative, it is hoped both the State and Federal Liberal and National Parties will work in a bi-partisan way with the State Government to ensure a just and fair transition for the communities impacted by this decisions and jointly explore nature conservation tourism employment opportunities.”

“Finally, both OREN and GEC have recently been lobbying the State and Federal Governments to cancel the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) that covers the Otways, given logging has already ended. We suspect that the requirement to renew the RFAs, by March next year, has prompted the State Government to announce this latest logging ban decision given there are also four RFAs that cover the East of the State and, if renewed, they would have guaranteed logging to the year 2040. This would have been irresponsible. All the RFAs need to be cancelled as they now all come into conflict with this new State Government policy to phase out native forest logging across Victoria by 2030.”

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