Victorian Forestry Plan News

Bolstering the Victorian Forestry Plan

17 December 2021

The Victorian Government is strengthening the Victorian Forestry Plan , with new support for the timber industry and enhanced environmental protections as the state transitions away from native timber harvesting.

The plan ensures critical supply chains that rely on native timber will have enough time to adjust ahead of the phase out in 2030, while supporting workers and communities through the 2024 step-down and beyond.

More than $100 million will be added to the plan for workers, communities and businesses impacted by the 2024 step-down from native timber harvesting, which will include opt-out packages and increased redundancy payments.

The new commitment to timber communities and families boosts the Government’s total investment for transition support to more than $200 million.

Recent legal challenges to timber harvesting have highlighted the need for new mechanisms to ensure the timber industry can meet the requirements of the Code of Practice for Timber Production.

Legislation to be introduced early next year will include standards that set out how the industry can meet its obligations to a section of the Code called the precautionary principle.

The changes will provide the industry with greater certainty about how the precautionary principle should be implemented.

The enhanced Victorian Forestry Plan supports include the expansion of the Victorian Timber Innovation Fund and the Forestry Business Transition Voucher program by $20 million.

In addition, $14 million will be provided to implement new environmental measures. This includes a new coupe regeneration plan, which will increase confidence that regeneration requirements are met before coupes are taken off the Timber Release Plan.

The Victorian Government is strengthening the Conservation Regulator  with new infringement powers for anyone breaching the Code of Practice – bringing its disciplinary powers in line with other regulators in Victoria.

This builds on the additional powers provided to the regulator in the new Forests Legislation Amendment (Compliance and Enforcement) Act 2021.

VicForests will continue to deliver on the Government’s timber commitments under the Plan, concentrating on contracting, harvesting and regeneration.

2021 Victorian Forestry Plan update Frequently Asked Questions

What new funding support is available?

More than $90 million in new funding will be available through the Victorian Forestry Plan to continue supporting the native timber industries strong uptake of transition assistance.

The new funding includes:

  • Expanding the successful Victorian Timber Innovation Fund and the Forestry Business Transition Voucher program by a further $20 million to support the native timber industry to transition and retain jobs beyond 2030.
  • Increasing the available funding from $360,000 per community to $500,000 per community for the Local Development Strategy grants program.
  • Establishing a $22 million Community Transition and Development fund to support the opportunities identified.
  • Introducing a new opt-out package for mills to provide a safety net to protect workers and support timber mills to exit the industry with dignity.
  • Increasing the support on offer for workers aligned with previous opt out packages.

Expanding mental health and wellbeing support to provide a more tailored service for business owners, workers and their families.

For mills who close, do not wish to participate in, or are unsuccessful in the 2024-2030 timber allocation process, support has increased for both business owners and workers, this includes:

  • An early opt-out package for mills owners who choose not to bid for new contract in the timber allocation process by 2023, along with transition support for their workers.
  • Redundancy payments for workers so that a worker may receive up to $120,000 in line with the 2002 Our Forests, Our Future package.
  • Relocation support increased from $20,000 to $45,000.
  • Doubling mill site rehabilitation funding from $75,000 to $150,000.
  • Establishing dedicated outreach worker transition services so those impacted can get support in their own communities.

To secure supply to get the native timber industry through to 2030, the Victorian Government is putting regulatory measures in place to keep coupes open and our timber supply chain moving.

Why is there more funding support?

Victoria still relies heavily on native timber. It is a critical but often forgotten element of the supply chain and stopping the supply of native timber without a plan and transition period in place would cause significant disruption to the availability of essential products and have a significant economic impact.

The Victorian Forestry Plan ensures these supply chains will have enough time to adjust ahead of the phase out in 2030, while supporting workers and communities through the 2024 step-down and beyond.

We are investing more in the native timber industry to innovate and pivot to new ways of working, while locking in supply to see the plan through to 2030.

The new support responds to feedback from the native timber industry, their workers and local communities about their needs under the Victorian Forestry Plan. The additional support will meet those needs and continue the positive take up from those keen to explore new opportunities and the next chapter of Victoria’s timber transition.

When will the new support be available?

The additional support will come online from March 2022, beginning with the release of the opt-out package for timber businesses who may wish not to participate in the 2024-2030 timber allocation process. The rest of the package will be available as businesses progress their innovation plans, communities set their local plans and the outcome 2024-2030 timber allocation process is known.

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 so a safety net will be in place to protect workers and timber mills and assist them to exit the industry with dignity. 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 2024-2030 timber allocation process.

Package includes:

  • 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 opt-out support will be open from March 2022 for some timber mills who chose not to participate in the recontracting process.

How can mills apply for an opt-out package?

Expressions of Interest for opt out support will be open from March 2022.

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

Mills will be able to apply for the package alongside their participation the 2024-2030 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 to take up the opt out package or exit in June 2024 when their current timber supply agreements expire.

If a mill participates in the recontracting process and is unsuccessful, can they still access the opt-out package?

No. The opt-out package will close prior to the finalisation of the 2024-2030 timber allocation process. In this case, VicForests will honour their existing timber supply 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 recontracting process happen?

The timber recontracting process will commence in March 2022. This is more than two years ahead of the first supply step down. Running the recontracting 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 in 2002.

Why are you currently consulting 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 early opt-out scheme or timber allocation processes from 2022. Applications will open 2022 and be finalised for exits from 2023.

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.

Some Local Development Strategies have already been funded; will those communities receive extra funding?

Yes, all existing Local Development Strategy grant recipients will be eligible to apply for additional funds to support their strategy development.

When will the extra funding LDS be available?

The additional Local Development strategy funding will be available from March 2022.

Why are the only 11 ‘priority’ communities receiving increased LDS funding and access to the Community Transition and Development Fund, what about forestry communities that aren’t considered priority?

These are the most vulnerable communities that are affected by the plan that we are targeting additional support for to create new economic opportunities and jobs. Communities who are not eligible for a Local Development Strategy grant or the Community Transition and Development Fund will be able to apply for funding available through the Victorian Forestry Plan Transition Fund when it is made available in 2022.

When will communities be able to access the Community Transition and Development Fund?

It is anticipated that the Community Transition and Development Fund will be available from mid-2022 to support the delivery of early Local Development Strategy outcomes and will be contingent on completion of community plans.

Will a set amount be directly allocated to the communities under the Community Transition and Development Fund or will they have to apply for it and potentially compete with other communities?

Each of the 11 priority communities will be allocated funding. Criteria will be established to ensure that the support is directed to deliver the best value for Victorian communities.

Past News Stories

10th November 2021

The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions is undertaking work to collect updated demographic information on workers in the Victorian native timber industry .

The data collection is being undertaken by ForestWorks, an industry-owned not-for-profit organisation offering services to support the skills and development of the forest, wood, paper, timber and furnishing industries.

ForestWorks will be talking with Victorian native timber businesses and workers in the industry from 15 November 2021 as well as with the CFMEU Manufacturing Division, the Australian Forest Contractors Association and the Victorian Forest Products Association as part of the data gathering process.

The number of employees in the industry has changed since the Victorian Forestry Plan was developed and there have been changes to the industry and the regions they operate in, brought about by bushfires and COVID-19. The data collection will help the government ensure that the worker and business support available through plan is fit for purpose and meets the needs of the businesses, workers and their families who will be eligible for assistance.

All data will remain anonymous, be held by ForestWorks and will be provided to DJPR in an aggregated format.

13th October 2021

Gippsland businesses are leading by example as they look at new ways to transition away from native forest harvesting and become more innovative and sustainable.

The Victorian Government today announced that Spiegel Energy in partnership with Radial Timber and the Yarram Community Energy Group have received $2 million through its Forestry Plan to establish a renewable energy park at the Radial Timber mill.

The energy park is expected to create five full-time roles and turn Radial Timber into a fully closed loop site. It will turn waste from the mill’s operations into energy and heat, creating new revenue streams with excess energy running into the local electricity grid.

The bioenergy cell will utilise the wood chips and shavings from current timber production to provide at least 30 per cent of the electricity and heat needs of the company, as well as generating multiple bioproducts. It is estimated this will save Radial Timbers about $24,000 in energy costs annually.

The renewable energy park is an example of how businesses are embracing innovation to transition towards a plantation-based timber supply and different markets. Two communities in Wellington Shire – Yarram and Heyfield – have now received $2.7 million to look at new ways to transition and support new energy projects.

Yarram and Heyfield are the first recipients of the Victorian Forestry Plan’s Local Development Strategy grants following a successful pilot in East Gippsland. They will each receive $360,000 to be administered by the Wellington Shire Council.

The funding will help to employ two independent project officers to support the communities in shaping future industry and local jobs. They will undertake analysis in each community to identify the town’s strengths, assets, challenges and opportunities for innovation and economic development.

The grant program is designed to be community-led and reflect local ambitions, building on the work of the Latrobe Valley Authority.

The Local Development Strategy grants are a key part of the Victorian Forestry Plan, ensuring communities are well supported through the transition.

23 March 2021

Targeted support for communities impacted by changes to native timber harvesting is now available through the Victorian Forestry Plan.

Local Development Strategy grants of up to $400,000 will assist communities to plan for their future economic make-up.

The grants will be available to 11 key communities where native timber harvesting and processing is an important source of jobs and economic activity.

Placing the power in the communities’ hands, the grants will be available to local community-led groups who will be supported by the Victorian Forestry Plan Transition Team and their local council.

Through the grants communities will be able to undertake long-term economic diversification planning to support their local economy, adapt to new industries and build capability to increase job opportunities.

The Local Development Strategy grants are a key element of the Victorian Government’s commitment to ensure that impacted communities are well supported through the transition.

Implementation of the communities’ plans will be supported by the $36 million Victorian Forestry Plan Transition Fund release.

7 July 2021

Heyfield’s Australian Sustainable Hardwoods is set to become the first company in Australia to manufacture engineered plantation floorboards.

The Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) mill in Heyfield and four other businesses would share in more than $2.4 million in grants through the Victorian Timber Innovation Fund.

ASH has received $1.6 million to install a new manufacturing line to produce engineered flooring made from plantation shining gum and radiata pine plywood and to expand both its online and retail outlet. This will make ASH the only company in the country to manufacture this kind of high-value plantation product.

A new retail outlet will sell the floorboards as well as some of their existing products, such as staircase and furniture components. It will also create a market and secure the supply chain for ASH’s expanded line of plantation-based products into the future.

This will help to open new markets as ASH prepares to transition from native timber joinery to products manufactured from plantation timber.

In addition to ASH, four other grant recipients are diversifying their businesses by experimenting with new products using different timber sources:

  • $397,000 for Radial Timber in Yarram to introduce a small log line and experiment with processing plantation timber
  • $246,000 for Longwarry Sawmill in Longwarry to use recycled and reclaimed timber to make new timber products
  • $100,000 for Ryan & McNulty Sawmillers in Benalla to research the potential transition to the production of pine beams from plantations
  • $40,000 for Brunt’s Harvesting in Orbost to undertake a feasibility study for transition to plantation harvesting.

The Victorian Government is working to transition the native forest industry to a range of new opportunities by 2030 through the Victorian Forestry Plan, setting up a strong plantation-based sector.


22 June 2021

A Gippsland timber business is on track to create a new freight terminal thanks to funding under the Victorian Forestry Plan.

Bairnsdale-based Fenning Timbers has received a $700,000 grant for the first stage of the Fenning Intermodal Freight Terminal (FIFT) at the end of the Gippsland rail line.

The $865,000 first stage of the project will use land adjacent to their Bairnsdale mill to meet a growing demand for rail freight in the region.

The establishment of the commercial light rail precinct will also provide better linkages to Melbourne and the rest of the state for Gippsland businesses, in addition to upgrades made to the Gippsland line under the Victorian Freight Plan.

The FIFT is a positive step by Fenning Timbers to utilise their existing land and assets to diversify their business away from only processing native hardwood timber.

Stage 1 of the project will see upgrades to the site including to rail siding, existing infrastructure and improving refuelling, parking and access. In the longer-term, Stage 2 of the project would expand the FIFT’s footprint and build additional warehousing and storage facilities.

The $120 million Victorian Forestry Plan is the biggest ever forestry package that will support workers, businesses and communities. There is a planned transition with a stepped-down approach until 2030 that offers opportunities for the industry to move away from native forestry and diversify into different industries and ways of working.

23 March 2021

The Forestry Business Transition Voucher program has been extended with applications open until 30 November 2021.

The Forestry Business Transition Voucher program offers funding of up to $25,000 (exclusive of GST) per business to engage appropriate professional services to undertake a Business Diagnostic and / or develop a Business Transition Plan. 

The voucher program will provide eligible businesses with support to better understand their business capabilities, options and strategies for transition.

The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions has identified the businesses as being directly affected by the Victorian Forestry Plan. To apply for support through the program:

  1. Read the Program Guidelines and confirm your eligibility for the program
  2. Identify and engage with a Registered Service Provider and request from them a ‘scope of services’ including a quote
  3. Submit an online application at www.business.vic.gov.au

Please contact your Business Transition Team (details below), call 1800 318 182 or email victorianforestryplan@djpr.vic.gov.au representative for more information.

  • Andrew van der Kaap, Business Transition Support Officer, Gippsland on 0417 992 636
  • Daniel Salzmann, Transition Support Officer, Central Highlands on 0436 811 506
  • Kara Hinton, Business Transition Support Officer, North-East Victoria on 0417 483 803

23 March 2021

Targeted support for communities impacted by changes to native timber harvesting is now available through the Victorian Forestry Plan.

Local Development Strategy grants of up to $400,000 will assist communities to plan for their future economic make-up.

The grants will be available to 11 key communities where native timber harvesting and processing is an important source of jobs and economic activity.

Placing the power in the communities’ hands, the grants will be available to local community-led groups who will be supported by the Victorian Forestry Plan Transition Team and their local council.

Through the grants communities will be able to undertake long-term economic diversification planning to support their local economy, adapt to new industries and build capability to increase job opportunities.

The Local Development Strategy grants are a key element of the Victorian Government’s commitment to ensure that impacted communities are well supported through the transition.

Implementation of the communities’ plans will be supported by the $36 million Victorian Forestry Plan Transition Fund release.

19 March 2021

New funding for research and development can play a key role in shaping the future of the timber industry across Victoria, boosting sustainability, jobs and economic benefits.

The Gippsland Centre of the National Institute for Forestry Products Innovation (NIFPI) is now calling for proposals to conduct research and development for projects totalling $4 million.

Through the first round of grants released today, individual research grants from $50,000 to $500,000 are available in areas including timber product development and improvements to existing ones, non-timber forest products, improved supply chain efficiency and other research priorities identified for the Victorian industry.

The NIFPI Gippsland Centre was established in July 2020 and is a joint initiative between the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments. Its committee members were appointed in late 2020 and comprise a diverse range of experience in Victoria’s local timber and forestry industry.

The NIFPI Gippsland Centre is part of the Victorian Forestry Plan’s promotion of research and development opportunities to help diversify the forestry sector.

The initiative compliments the support available through the Victorian Timber Innovation Fund as well as the work being undertaken by the Gippsland Forestry Hub.

Funding proposals for eligible research and development can be made before 14 May 2021.

15 December 2020

On 15 December 2020 VicForests has released the amended Timber Release Plan (TRP) and Timber Utilisation Plan (TUP).

The amendments to the TRP include the addition of 261 new coupes, 33 amended coupes and 6 access requirements. 38 coupes were removed. The approved TUP includes 9 new coupes and 1 amended coupe.

VicForests’ Board approved the amendments to the TRP, in accordance with the requirements of the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004, a notice in relation to the amended TRP was published in the Victoria Government Gazette S 662 on Monday 14 December 2020.

The Board also approved the amendments to the TUP in alignment with the Management Standards and Procedures for timber harvesting operations in Victoria’s State forests (2014).

The approved plans provide industry with certainty and help communities to understand where timber harvesting may take place.

All timber harvesting and regeneration operations have and will continue to be conducted in accordance with Victoria’s strict environmental regulations and the State’s Forest Management Zoning scheme.

VicForests’ operations are regulated and monitored by Victoria’s Office of the Conservation Regulator, including through the Victorian Government Forest Audit Program. VicForests is committed to complying with or exceeding regulatory controls to ensure the sustainable management of forest areas.

A schedule of the approved timber harvesting areas as well as location maps are available on the VicForests website at approved TRP and approved TUP .

2 December 2020

A review to determine what actions are required now and into the future to protect, enjoy and use the state’s forests is underway following an agreement between the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments.

The Major Event Review will assess the significant impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires and what remedial action needs to be taken to ensure our forests continue to be managed appropriately.

The Review is a new feature of the updated Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) which can be conducted jointly by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments when a significant environmental event, including a major bushfire, occurs.

The Review is expected to take six months and will assess the impacts of the fires on forest biodiversity and forestry industries, as well as the wider economic, social and cultural impacts.

An independent panel will lead the Review which will be informed by scientific data and research, Traditional Owner knowledge, forest experts and communities.

The panel membership will include the Victorian Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, a Commonwealth nominated member agreed to by Victoria and a Traditional Owner member nominated by Victoria. The Victorian Government will shortly be seeking expressions of interest for the Traditional Owner candidate.

The Major Event Review will also provide an opportunity for wider public consultation when a summary report is released for public comment.

The 2019-20 fires were exceptional in size and impact burning approximately 1.5 million hectares across Victoria with around 1.3 million hectares or 18 per cent of Victoria’s public native forest impacted.

More information can be found on the Department of Land, Water and Planning’s website.

9 October 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.

8 October 2020

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.

2 October 2020

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.

Page last updated: 19 January 2022