Only 4000 of promised 30 million trees have been planted in Victoria

by | Dec 6, 2023

The Victorian Government has planted just 0.01 per cent of the 30 million trees promised to assist timber workers – six years on from the announcement. Just 4,000 of the promised 30 million trees have been planted under the Victorian Government’s Gippsland Plantation Investment Program, which was first announced in 2017 to support timber workers’ transition out of native forest harvesting, reported Timberbiz.

Following repeated delays exacerbated by the constant turnover of agriculture ministers – five in seven years – the contract to plant the trees was only awarded to Hancock Victoria Plantations (HVP) last September.

During the Parliamentary Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings in November, Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action bureaucrats responded to questions from Nationals MP Danny O’Brien on HVP’s efforts, by stating just 4,000 trees had been planted to date.

DEECA Acting Deputy Secretary, Forestry Transition Phoung Tram said, “HVP is continuing to work closely with traditional owners to address cultural heritage matters, so planting can be accelerated in 2024.”

“HVP has responsibility for sourcing land to deliver on the GPIP agreement with the Victorian Government. Typically, timber grows well on land which has less productive farm value, and this is where the focus will be. Freehold land purchase, leasehold arrangements and farm forestry arrangements are all eligible approaches to plantation development under the agreement.”

“The usual due diligence of any site entering the program takes into consideration environmental, cultural heritage, safety, and legal aspects. HVP values opportunities to engage with First Nations Peoples through this process and adheres to all cultural heritage requirements,” Ms Tram said.

In the meantime, most of Victoria’s native forest harvest and haulage crews have been made redundant and headed off to find work in other industries, with timber towns such as Orbost being the hardest hit.

Opposition agriculture spokeswoman Emma Kealy said, “[the] lack of planting is alarming and a snub to the hardworking people of Gippsland.”

“The Allan Labor Government cannot manage money, cannot manage major projects and cannot manage to support the native timber industry through its transition,” Ms Kealy said.

An HVP spokeswoman also confirmed planting had only commenced the past winter and that it would take 10 years to complete the contract to establish 14,000 hectares of softwood forestry plantations.