Victorian Forestry Plan

The Victorian Government has developed the Victorian Forestry Plan to assist the industry as it manages its gradual transition away from native forest harvesting to a plantation-based timber supply.

Over the last ten years, the availability of native timber for harvesting has decreased by around half, due to bushfires and wildlife protection measures.

At the same time, consumers and retailer demand has grown for plantation timber products.

Under the long-term plan, a $120 million package will help make sure workers, businesses and communities have the support they need during the transition.

By providing a long-term plan, we’re giving workers and businesses time to plan for their future and the industry as a whole time to transition to one based on a plantation-based timber supply.

Workers

In order to assist with the industry’s transition away from native forest timber harvesting, the Victorian Government has developed the Victorian Forestry Plan.

Under the plan, and to ensure security of supply, VicForests will meet existing contractual obligations and negotiate new sawlog supply contracts for all mills to mid-2024.

A competitive process will be used to allocate timber from mid-2024 to 2030, after which commercial native timber harvesting in State forests will cease.

Over this period, our $120 million transition package will help make sure workers and their families have the support they need. This includes:

  • training and re-training programs
  • case management and employment assistance
  • additional support through the Back to Work program
  • top-ups to redundancy payments

This support will be made available to mill workers and harvest and haulage businesses.

In recognition of their role as one of Gippsland’s largest employers, Australian Paper will be supported to transition to a full plantation-based supply, ensuring it operates until at least 2050 – supporting its almost 1,000-strong workforce and providing stability to its customers.

Businesses

The Victorian Forestry Plan has been developed to assist the industry as it manages its gradual transition away from native forest timber harvesting.

Under the plan, and to ensure security of supply, VicForests will meet existing contractual obligations and negotiate new sawlog supply contracts for all mills to mid-2024.

A competitive process will be used to allocate timber from mid-2024 to 2030, after which commercial native timber harvesting in State forests will cease.

Over this period, a $120 million transition package will help make sure local businesses and their workforces have the support they need.

For local businesses that includes financial assistance to prepare and plan their response to the transition, with assistance to re-tool in order to switch to plantation timber as well as financial compensation.

The Victorian Forestry Business Transition Support Voucher Program commenced in June 2020 and offers 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.

Funding of up to $25,000 per business is available to engage appropriate professional services to undertake a Business Diagnostic and / or develop a Business Transition Plan.

The program is administered by Regional Development Victoria. Applications close on 31 March 2021.

Communities

As the industry transitions, the Victorian Forestry Plan includes dedicated support to ensure the continued strength of local communities.

The $120 million package will help communities adapt with the transition of the industry, including developing new opportunities to support local economies.

This will includes grants to grow and create local businesses and jobs, financial support for community projects and funding for local infrastructure.

Local businesses will be supported, with immediate financial assistance to prepare and plan their response to the transition. This includes assistance to retool in order to switch to plantation timber as well as financial compensation.

Environment

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

That includes the phasing out of all native forest harvesting by 2030, while at the same time supporting workers, businesses and communities.

Under the plan, 90,000 hectares of Victoria’s remaining old growth forest will be protected immediately.

The announcement also includes the release of the Greater Glider Action Statement, an important roadmap to protect this iconic species, which was first listed as threatened in 2017.

To protect the future of the Greater Glider – alongside the Leadbeater’s Possum and more than 35 other threatened species – a further 96,000 hectares of forest across Victoria will be made exempt from timber harvesting.

This habitat has been identified by experts as being critical to the survival of the Greater Glider and a range of other precious flora and fauna – many of which are not found anywhere else on earth.

Victorian Forestry Plan worker, business and community support

Mills and Harvest and Haulage

Details including amount directly paid to the operator

Business Transition Support Vouchers

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

Available from 2019

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

Available from 2024

Victorian Timber Innovation Fund

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

Available from 2020

Mills only

  

Mill Site Rehabilitation

  • Up to $75,000 for the safe retirement and repurposing of mill sites

Available from 2024

Workers (Mill and Harvest and Haulage

Details including amount directly paid to worker

Top up of redundancy for worker

  • The government will provide a top up ensuring that workers receive three weeks of   pay for every year of service, capped at 80 weeks of pay (including employer   contribution) and payment for unused sick leave, capped at 60 hours. The   government’s total top-up is capped at $23,000.

Available from 2024

Worker Transition Services and Coordination including Workers in Transition Scheme

  • co-ordinated service delivery and case management of affected worker delivered at both regional and local levels
  • includes registration, assessment and pro-active referral to training / retraining, employment and support services and linking worker to the pipeline of future employment opportunities
  • information packs and seminars on available support and employment preparation – provided to affected worker in the workplace

Available from 2024

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

  • provision of career coaches and customised career transition plan

Available from 2024

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

  • provision of support and tools to assist the family to adjust to the change

Available from 2024

Training / Retraining

  • access   to a suite of potential training (and training providers) aligned with worker  needs and available employment opportunities including work-site skills   assessment (for Recognised Prior Learning), pre-employment foundation courses   (e.g. digital literacy, literacy, numeracy), skill sets modules / micro credentials, full VET qualification courses (which may be eligible for an exemption to fees under Skills First), and pre-apprenticeship foundation training

Available from 2024

Mental Health and Wellbeing Support

  • tailored mental health support
  • 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.
  • Victoria has a range of mental health support services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These services can provide treatment, information, tools and advice on how to deal with a range of mental health concerns.

Available now

Relocation support

  • up to $20,000 per person
  • off-setting costs of relocation to take up an ongoing job with flexibility to cover costs including rent, rental bond, connecting utilities, and removalist and travel costs.

Available from 2024

Expansion of Jobs Victoria services

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

Available from 2024

Ex-forestry worker employer payment

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

Available from 2024

Communities

Details including amount (over 13 years)

Local development strategies

  • $4 million in total
  • economic diversification planning to support affected local economies’ transition to new sustainable industries

Available from 2020

Regional Growth Fund

  • $36 million in total
  • actions from the local development strategies will be supported through the Regional Growth 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)

Available from 2020

Timber Innovation Grants of up to $100,000 are now available to help timber mills, harvest and haulage businesses explore options and the economics for shifting to plantation fibre or other timber manufacturing opportunities. The program is intended to support Victorian forestry businesses:

  • explore opportunities to process or manufacture using plantation timber feedstock
  • develop new products using plantation timber
  • explore processing, harvest and haulage of alternative fibre
  • investigate downstream manufacturing opportunities using alternative fibre.

Further rounds of the Victorian Timber Innovation Fund are planned for release during 2022.

The grants can help timber businesses take an early step towards new lines of business or a different operating model. It is a key part of the Victorian Forestry Plan and the timeline it sets to transition from harvesting native forests and to a plantation-based sector.

To support forestry and manufacturing jobs over the coming decades, new approaches need to be embraced to take advantage of available timber in the future. The Victorian Timber Innovation Fund is also funding the creation of the Gippsland Centre of the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation.

A number of timber mills, harvest and haulage businesses have already taken up transition vouchers to have a diagnostic assessment of their businesses to identify their strengths and opportunities for change. The new innovation grants can provide the impetus to take this further and look at new options for using plantation timber, alternative fibre or new ways of manufacturing.

More information about the Timber Innovation Grants program.

Expressions of Interest are open for experienced and capable plantation investors, developers and managers who are interested in expanding their plantation forestry portfolio in a manner that is sensitive to environmental and community values and creates jobs.

Successful respondents to the Expressions of Interest process will contribute to informing design of the program, ahead of a final competitive program application process.

The Expression of Interest Guidelines can be accessed via the Buying for Victoria portal at https://www.tenders.vic.gov.au/ The Expression of Interest process is open until Friday 6 November 2020.

In addition to the Gippsland Plantations Investment Program, VicForests will deliver a new program focussed on maximising the contribution that farm forestry can make to enhancing the supply of plantation timber. More details about these elements are expected to be announced early next year.

We will also be working with local communities to explore opportunities and to consider the environmental and social impacts of growing plantations over the coming months.

The Gippsland Plantations Investment Program will provide a $2 million grant to VicForests to establish and manage the nursery, on the former P.R. Adams sawmill site at Nowa Nowa in East Gippsland, with planning requirements being worked on ahead of project commencement in the coming months.

The nursery is expected to have a production capacity of up to 5 million seedlings each year, which could support plantings and reforestation of around 5,000 hectares annually.

Production of eucalypt seedlings will support bushfire recovery replanting, forestry coupe regeneration, timber plantations and farm forestry programs in Gippsland as state forest harvesting decreases over the next decade.

The East Gippsland community will benefit from new learning opportunities developed in consultation with the Forestec campus of TAFE Gippsland, along with options to reskill and employ existing timber industry workers. The nursery will also present opportunities for involvement and collaboration with local Aboriginal organisations.

The transition team has been established to support 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:

  • Ruth Fitzclarence, Community Transition Support Officer, Gippsland on 0400 776 040
  • Andrew van der Kaap, Business Transition Support Officer, Gippsland on 0417 992 636
  • Daniel Salzmann, Community Transition Support Officer, Central Highlands on 0436 811 506
  • Jenny Pena, Community Transition Support Officer, North-East Victoria on 0400 447 342
  • Kara Hinton, Business Transition Support Officer, North-East Victoria on 0417 483 803

For more information on the Victorian Forestry Plan you can contact us on 1800 318 182 or email victorianforestryplan@djpr.vic.gov.au.

So far, the transition team have assisted with application queries for the Forestry Business Transition Voucher program and have begun consultation with councils and other individuals and organisations interested in the Victorian Forestry Plan.

This $1.1 million program provides eligible businesses with support to better understand their business capabilities, options and strategies for transition.

Each eligible business will be provided support to undertake a business diagnostic and/or develop a business transition plan.

Applications for the voucher program can be received until 31 March 2021.

More information about this program can be found at rdv.vic.gov.au/grants-and-programs/forestry-transition or email victorianforestryplan@djpr.vic.gov.au.

The Victorian Government has developed the Victorian Forestry Plan to assist the hardwood timber industry as it manages its gradual transition away from native forest harvesting to a plantation-based industry.

This update aims to keep you informed on the range of actions the Government is taking to implement the Plan.

Timber supply to 2024 and review of the Code of Practice for Timber Production

One of the key principles of the Victorian Forestry Plan is to ensure log supply is secured at levels consistent with the plan until June 2024, to provide the industry with time to begin the transition process.

For customers who had Timber Supply Agreements expiring on 30 June 2020, VicForests is in the process of executing contracts for supply to 30 June 2024. VicForests has also executed harvest and haul agreements to match the Timber Supply Agreements.

Timber supply this year has been challenging due to the bushfires in East Gippsland and then outcomes of legal actions against VicForests. The Government is working with VicForests to maintain log deliveries and meet supply commitments.

The Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change announced on 27 July a broad-ranging review of the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014. A clear, accurate and enforceable Code is needed, supported by strong enforcement powers for Victoria’s Conservation Regulator.

The code will be reviewed to:

  • minimise the risk to short-term supply obligations arising from third-party litigation
  • ensure it remains fit for purpose and facilitates the implementation of the Victorian Forestry Plan
  • strengthen the regulatory powers available to the Conservation Regulator
  • identify regulatory reforms informed by the 2019-20 bushfires.

Also on 27 July, VicForests released an amended Timber Release Plan. This amendment includes an additional 59 new coupes in the Benalla-Mansfield, North-East and Tambo Forest Management Areas to ensure continuity of operations following the 2019-20 bushfires.

Community and Business transition support

An important component of the Victorian Forestry Plan is a $120 million package that will help make sure workers, businesses and communities have the certainty and support they need.

This package includes ensuring financial assistance, re-employment and re-training support, case management and wellbeing services are made available to any impacted workers.

The first step in the plan’s business transition package was the release of the Forestry Business Transition Voucher (FBTV) program on 9 June. This $1.1 million program provides eligible businesses with support to better understand their business capabilities, options and strategies for transition.

Each eligible business will be provided support to undertake a business diagnostic and/or the development of a business transition plan.

Several businesses have already had their applications assessed and approved. Applications for the FBTV program can be received until 31 March 2021.

The Victorian Forestry Plan also includes $4 million for economic diversification planning to support affected local economies transition to new sustainable industries and $36 million for actions from the local development strategies to grow businesses and create jobs in affected communities.

We are currently preparing the Local Development Strategy and Regional Growth Fund grant programs and are aiming to release them later in 2020.

Innovation

The Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes, announced on 15 July that the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments will provide $4 million to Forest and Wood Products Australia over the next four years to establish the Gippsland Centre of the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI).

Opening later this year, the centre will be created as part of the Victorian Forestry Plan to promote research and development opportunities that will help to diversify the sector.

The initiative will complement future grants to individual businesses under the Victorian Timber Innovation Fund, assisting the industry to explore options to transition from native timber to plantation timber and other transformative business opportunities.

In addition to becoming a hub of expertise and fostering collaboration, the NIFPI will provide grants to forestry initiatives.

Projects funded under the NIFPI are expected to cover areas such as plantation management, timber processing, wood fibre recovery, advanced manufacturing and the bioeconomy.

Plantation development

Planting of blue gum seedlings on 230 hectares of two crown land sites in the Latrobe Valley has been recently completed by VicForests. This in addition to the 250 hectares planted last year. These plantings are complementary to privately owned plantations and other land uses, including agriculture.

To facilitate additional plantation establishment, we are close to finalising the design of the Gippsland Plantations Investment Program. This important element of our program will incentivise and leverage private investment for greenfield plantation development. In addition to this, VicForests will deliver a new program focussed on maximising the contribution that farm forestry can make to increasing the supply of plantation timber.

More details about these programs will be announced later this year.

Worker support

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.

Other elements of the Victorian Forestry Plan’s worker support package will be available from 2024 following the first phase of mill closures.

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

Page last updated: 9 October 2020