11 June, 2011

Victoria accused of secretly exporting timber

Australian Broadcasting Commission, 11 June 2011

The Wilderness Society says whole Victorian sawlogs are being secretly exported to China in breach of State Government policy.

The society claims timber is being taken from bushfire-affected areas around Healesville, loaded into shipping containers at Tottenham in Melbourne's west, and then shipped overseas.

Campaign manager Richard Hughes says the Victorian Timber Industry Strategy requires sawlogs to be processed locally.

"For years, governments of all stripes have been saying that these forests needed to be logged for sawn timber and for the jobs that they provided," he said.

"And now we're seeing whole saw logs being exported overseas without any processing in Australia, so there is no value to the Australian timber industry."

Mr Hughes says thousands of tonnes of sawlogs have been shipped to China in recent months.

"This is the first time we're seeing whole logs being exported out of Victoria," he said.

"The agency that was responsible for overseeing that ban on log exports, VicForests, has utterly failed in that duty."

VicForests spokesman David Walsh says it has one contract that allows unprocessed logs to be exported and the practice has economic benefits.

"There are a number of jobs which are associated with the production of this timber, from harvesting jobs, haulage jobs, processing jobs and exporting jobs," he said.

Mr Walsh says nothing secretive is going on but it is being investigated.

"This is basically the only customer VicForests has that is undertaking this kind of operation at the moment," he said.

"This contract is winding down at this stage of the game and there are no other contracts with other customers along these lines."

See also 
Controversial exports of Victorian timber (link to video)

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