Victorian Forestry Plan

The Victorian Forestry Plan supports the transition of the native timber industry to a future based on plantation supply while protecting as many jobs as possible.

Since the 1980s the amount of native timber available for harvest has more than halved and is increasingly vulnerable due to the impact of bushfires and environmental protections.

The Victorian Forestry Plan provides more than $200 million to support workers, businesses and communities through their transition away from the native timber industry ahead of commercial timber harvesting ending in 2030.

Already there has been a strong response to the support available under the plan. With considerable take up of opportunities by businesses and communities to start their transition from native forestry and diversify into different industries and ways of working.

However, transition won’t be for all and a solid safety net has been put in place to protect workers and businesses.

To support industry, transition the Victorian Government is undertaking long-term investment in plantations and farmed timber.

The Victorian Forestry Plan includes an additional $110 million investment in plantation development that will add to Victoria’s substantial plantation estate and provide fibre supply to support existing and new industries from 2050 and beyond.

Workers

To support workers, the transition package includes:

  • Training and re-training programs
  • Case management, specialist employment and career assistance
  • Additional support through the Back to Work program
  • Relocation support
  • Top-ups to worker redundancy payments
  • Tailored mental health and wellbeing support.

The support will be available to affected mill workers and harvest and haulage businesses.

The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions has undertaken work to collect updated demographic information on workers in the Victorian native timber industry to help with the detailed design of the support package so that it is targeted most effectively. A summary report of the survey data will be made available later this year.

In recognition of their role as one of Gippsland’s largest employers, the Victorian Government and Opal are supporting the Maryvale mill's continued operation until at least 2050 as part of a broader industry transition from native forest timber harvesting. This supports Opal’s almost 1,000-strong workforce and provides stability to its customers.

Support package

Details

Date available

Top up of redundancy for workers

Workers will receive a redundancy payment of up to $120,000 which includes:

  • four weeks of pay for every year of service
  • up to 152 hours of unused sick leave
  • statutory entitlements

From 2023

Worker Transition Services and Coordination including Workers in Transition Scheme

  • Dedicated case management and other worker transition services so that support is easily accessible to those impacted
  • Support includes training or retraining and employment services that link the worker to future employment opportunities
  • Information packs and seminars on available support and employment preparation that will be provided to affected workers in easily accessible locations

From 2023

Specialist career transition assistance (workshops and one on one sessions)

  • Provision of career coaches and customised career transition plan

From 2023

Dealing with change (workshops and one-on-one sessions for family members of impacted workers)

  • Provision of support and tools to assist worker’s  families to adjust to the change

From 2023

Training / Retraining

  • Access to a suite of potential training programs or courses that will be identified for each worker including work-site skills assessment (for Recognised Prior Learning), pre-employment foundation courses, skill sets modules / micro-credentials, full VET qualification courses and pre-apprenticeship foundation training

From 2023

Mental Health and Wellbeing Support

  • Tailored mental health support including education and awareness workshops, individual case management and access to clinical support services.
From 2022

Mental Health and Wellbeing Support

  • If you require crisis support you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 any time of the day or night or call 000 emergency services.
  • If you or your family need non-emergency support you can call the Forestry Information Support Line on 1800 318 182, Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm. A case manager will help connect you with the most appropriate service in your local area. These services can provide treatment, information, tools and advice on how to deal with a range of mental health concerns.

Available now

Relocation support

  • Off-setting costs of relocation to take up an ongoing job
  • Covers costs including rent, rental bond, connecting utilities, and removalist and travel costs

From 2023

Expansion of Jobs Victoria services

  • Intensive employment support for disadvantaged jobseekers, including employment brokerage with potential employers and post-placement support

From 2023

Support packageDetailsDate available
Back to Work
  • payment to employers for employing workers from the native timber industry.
  • $7,000 per person for the employer $4,000 where an employer provides accredited training to the ex-forestry employee
From 2023

Businesses

The Victorian Forestry Plan is supporting timber businesses to transition out of native timber, explore opportunities and diversify into different ways of working.

Transition has started and already there is a good take up of support and evidence of innovative thinking within Victoria’s native timber industry.

The industry has continued supply of native timber to 2024, then supply levels will step down until ending in 2030.

A competitive process will be used to allocate timber from mid-2024 to 2030, then commercial harvesting in public native forests ends.

For mills that choose to close, or not participate in the 2024-2030 timber allocation process an opt-out scheme will be available.

Expressions of Interest will open from 2022 at the same time as the 2024-30 timber allocation process is released.

Mills who are successful in the early opt-out scheme will need to agree to exit or transition from the native timber industry prior to June 2023. Full details of the program will be provided at the time the scheme is released.

Mills and workers will be able to access the following supports:

  • Redundancy payments for workers, who may receive up to $120,000 in line with the 2002 Our Forests, Our Future support.
  • Relocation support increased from $20,000 to $45,000.
  • Doubling mill site rehabilitation funding from $75,000 to $150,000.
  • Expanding mental health and wellbeing support to provide a more tailored service for business owners, workers and their families.
  • Establishing dedicated outreach worker transition services so workers can get support in their own communities. Support will include case management for training/retraining, employment support services and specialist career assistance.
  • Plant and Equipment Redundancy payment of up to $250,000 per business in for items that have not been fully depreciated and are unable to be sold.

How will the government support early exits?

There has been strong early take up of the Victorian Forestry Plan support, but transition won’t be for all. The opt-out scheme will enable businesses that wish to exit the industry to do so with dignity and a safety net will be in place to protect their workers. Mills successful in this process will need to exit or transition by June 2023.

Expressions of Interest will open from 2022 in line with the 2024-30 timber allocation process.

Mills and workers will be able to access the following supports:

  • Redundancy payments for workers, who may receive up to $120,000 in line with the 2002 Our Forests, Our Future support.
  • Relocation support increased from $20,000 to $45,000.
  • Doubling mill site rehabilitation funding from $75,000 to $150,000.
  • Expanding mental health and wellbeing support to provide a more tailored service for business owners, workers and their families.
  • Establishing dedicated outreach worker transition services so workers can get support in their own communities. Support will include case management for training/retraining, employment support services and specialist career assistance.
  • This is in addition of a Plant and Equipment Redundancy payment of up to $250,000 per business in for items that have not been fully depreciated and are unable to be sold.

Who will get opt-out support?

Expressions of Interest for the opt-out scheme will be open from 2022 for some timber mills that chose not to participate in the timber reallocation process.

How can mills apply for the opt-out scheme?

Expressions of Interest for the opt-out scheme will be open from 2022.

Can mills still participate in the timber allocation process and apply for the opt-out scheme?

Mills will be able to apply for the scheme alongside their participation the 2024-30 timber allocation process run by VicForests. If a business’ application is successful, they will be required to withdraw from the timber allocation process.

What if a mill doesn’t want to participate in the timber allocation process?

Mills may choose to not participate in the timber allocation process at all and apply for the opt-out scheme.

If a mill participates in the timber allocation process and is unsuccessful, can they still access the opt-out scheme?

No. The opt-out package will close prior to the finalisation of the 2024-30 timber allocation process. In this case, VicForests will honour their existing timber sale agreements until June 2024.

However, all businesses and workers will still have access to the following support regardless:

  • Worker redundancy payments
  • Worker relocations support
  • Worker transition and mental health support
  • Mill rehabilitation payments
  • Plant and equipment redundancy payments.

When will the timber allocation process happen?

The timber allocation process will commence in 2022. This is more than two years ahead of the first supply step down. Running the allocation process alongside the new support ensures that Victorian native timber businesses have all available options in front of them and can make informed decisions about their future.

Why has it taken so long to enhance the worker support package?

Worker support will not be available until 2023. The roll-out of the Victorian Forestry Plan has provided the opportunity to get good feedback from the native timber industry, workers, unions and timber communities about their specific needs and the support that will help them.

What we heard was that the workers needed greater support than what was available, and we have met that. The additional support will bring the worker support package in-line with that offered through Our Forests, Our Future program in 2002.

Why did you consult with businesses and workers on what they need from a package if it’s already been decided?

The package will need to be based on up-to-date specific information and the survey helps finalise the detail. The data collected in the demographic research will inform the detailed design of the worker transition support package guidelines that will be developed during early 2022.

This will enable the package to be available to workers affected by either the opt-out scheme or timber allocation process from 2022. Applications will open 2022 and be finalised for exits from 2023.

Forestry Business Transition Voucher program

The first round of the Forestry Business Transition Voucher program closed on 30 November 2021 and was fully subscribed.

The program offered access to tailored support through business service providers to equip affected forestry businesses with a better understanding of their business capabilities, options and strategies for transition.

Round 2 will be available in 2022.

Victorian Timber Innovation Fund

Support is available through the Victorian Timber Innovation Grants Program to assist affected forestry businesses to transition from native timber to plantation fibre and transformative industry investment.

Applications for Round 1 closed Thursday, 31 March 2022.

Round 2 of the program will commence in 2022 to continue supporting the native timber industry’s transition.

How will the Victorian Government guarantee supply to see out the Victorian Forestry Plan?

The Victorian Government is securing the available supply by resolving errors and inconsistencies to deliver improved regulatory certainty.

New legislation in early 2022 will enable development of Compliance Standards that specifically set out how the timber industry can meet its obligations.

This will establish a legal presumption that operations complying with the guidance outlined in a Compliance Standard will have met the requirements of the Precautionary Principle.

Timber supply was always going to be tight this year due to the impacts of the coronavirus and trade issues, which impacted both native forests and timber plantations in the east of the state.

Unprecedented levels of litigation have compounded this resulting in less areas that can be harvested. These have highlighted the need for new mechanisms to improve regulatory certainty, ensure the timber industry can demonstrate its compliance with the provisions of the Code of Practice for Timber Production, and ensure the law is clear and enforceable.

What are the regulatory measures being put in place to deliver improved regulatory certainty?

New legislation in early 2022 will enable development of Compliance Standards that specifically set out how the timber industry can meet its obligations.

This will establish a legal presumption that operations complying with the guidance outlined in a Compliance Standard will have met the requirements of the Precautionary Principle.

These changes do not change the scope of the Precautionary Principle, nor its environmental protections as it remains a mandatory action under the Code, but Compliance Standards will remove much of the ambiguity about how it is implemented.

How will the Victorian government guarantee supply between now and the amendments being made if they won’t be happen until 2022?

In 2021, changes to the Code of Practice for Timber Production were made to clarify rules for native timber harvesting which has assisted in removing ambiguity of many rules. Further changes to the regulatory framework in 2022 will further assist.

Support package

Details

Date available

Business Transition Support Vouchers

  • Up to $25,000 per business to engage appropriate professional services to develop a business response plan

Round 1 - closed November 2021

Round 2 - 2022

Plant and Equipment Redundancy Payment

  • Up to $250,000 per business for items that have not been fully depreciated and are unable to be sold
  • An independent valuation will be undertaken

From 2023

Victorian Timber Innovation Fund

  • Grants for innovation that supports transition from native timber to plantation fibre and transformative industry investments

Round 1 - from 2020

Round 2 - 2022

Support packageDetails Date available
Mill Site Rehabilitation Up to $150,000 for the safe retirement and repurposing of mill sitesFrom 2023

Gippsland National Institute of Forest Products and Innovation (NIFPI)

The Gippsland National Institute of Forest Products and Innovation (NIFPI) was established in 2020 as a hub of expertise and collaboration across the forest industry.

Eleven projects with a total value of $8.46 million have been successful under the first round of research and development project grants.

The research will investigate the impacts of fire on the performance of timber projects, the smarter use of spatial information for forest management, improving commercialisation of manufactured timber products, feral animal management, and improvements to plantation productivity.

Future support

Further support will come online and be available throughout the transition process to 2030.

Download the flowchart to find out if you are eligible for support and what funding you could receive:

Communities

The Victorian Government is committed to supporting our regional communities to thrive.

As the industry transitions, the Victorian Forestry Plan includes dedicated community support.

Assistance is available for communities to plan for their future and make decisions about how they can diversify into different industries and ways of working

Local Development Strategy grants have been increased to $500,000 and are available for communities who are significantly impacted by the Victorian Forestry Plan to undertake economic diversification planning to support their local economy and transition to new, sustainable industries.

A $22 million Community Transition and Development Fund has been established to support the delivery of early Local Development Strategy outcomes.

The 11 priority communities eligible for Local Development Strategy grants will be allocated funding through the fund. Criteria will be established to ensure that the support is directed to deliver the best value for the affected Victorian communities

The Victorian Forestry Plan Transition Fund will be available from 2022/23 for communities that are not eligible for a Local Development strategy grant.

The Future of Orbost

The ‘Future of Orbost and District’ is a community-led program to prepare Orbost’s Local Development Strategy.

Led by the Orbost Chamber of Commerce through Project Manager Tim Cotter, the program supports the community to shape their own future to turn challenges into opportunities.

It has acted as a pilot for the Victorian Forestry Plan’s Local Development Strategy program and is supported by the Latrobe Valley Authority’s Gippsland Smart Specialisation Strategy.

Grant or fund

Details 

Date available

Local Development Strategy grants

  • $5.5 million in total
  • economic diversification planning to support affected local economies’ transition to new and sustainable industries

From 2021

Community Transition and Development Fund

  • $22 million in total
  • funds will be available for each local development strategy community to implement of early actions from the local development strategies

From 2022

Victorian Forestry Plan Transition Fund

  • $36 million in total
  • actions from the local development strategies will be supported through the Victorian Forestry Plan Transition Fund, including grants to grow businesses and create jobs in affected communities (particularly targeting job creation that is relevant for the location, timing and skills of affected native timber workers)

From 2022

Victorian Forestry Plan worker, business and community support

A transition team is supporting local communities and businesses through the transition and are based in Gippsland, North-East Victoria and the Central Highlands.

For support in your area, please contact:

Business:

  • Gippsland - Andrew van der Kaap, Business Transition Support Officer, 0417 992 636
  • North-East Victoria - Kara Zdrzalka (Hinton), Business Transition Support Officer, 0417 483 803

Community:

  • Gippsland - Ruth Fitzclarence, Community Transition Support Officer, 0400 776 040
  • Central Highlands - Jeff Svigos, 0436 661 065
  • North-East Victoria - Jenny Pena, Community Transition Support Officer, 0400 447 342

Mental health and wellbeing support is available if you are feeling concerned about the forestry transition process and this is affecting your personal health and wellbeing, or people you interact with are experiencing personal impact.

You can call the Forestry Information Support Line 1800 318 182, Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm. A case manager will help connect you with the most appropriate service in your local area.

If you require crisis support you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 any time of the day or night, or call 000 emergency services.

For more information on the Victorian Forestry Plan please call 1800 318 182 or email victorianforestryplan@djpr.vic.gov.au.

Environment

In developing the Victorian Forestry Plan, the Victorian Government has aimed to strike the right balance between the environment and jobs.

In 2019 under the plan the following protections were bought in:

  • Protection of 90,000 hectares of Victoria’s remaining old growth forest.
  • Release of the Greater Glider Action Statement.
  • Exemption of a further 96,000 hectares of forest from timber harvesting across to protect more than 35 threatened species including the Leadbeater’s Possum.

In 2021, an additional $14 million package was introduced that focuses on upholding environmental standards in timber harvesting.

The package includes further regulatory changes to ensure consistency and clarify the obligations on timber harvesting and to protect our environment. For more information please see the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s website.

These additional protections will mean over 186,000 hectares are now protected from logging – equivalent to more than 100,000 MCGs and the biggest addition to Victoria’s reserve system in over 20 years.

Download the Victorian Forestry Plan:

If you would like more information about the Victorian Forestry Plan, phone 1800 318 182 or email victorianforestryplan@djpr.vic.gov.au

Page last updated: 16 June 2022