Bath calls on Minister to secure new timber agreement

Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath has called out Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford for failing to secure a new timber agreement which would save the jobs of 250 workers at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods’ Heyfield mill.

There’s just a week left of a four-week reprieve agreed to by the mill in late January, but Ms Pulford has not secured an agreement with ASH, despite the hardwood timber resource being available.

“It has been 817 days since Hon Jaala Pulford was elected as Minister for Agriculture,” Ms Bath said.

“During that time Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) directors have made numerous requests to meet with the Minister to secure a new timber agreement, to no avail.”

“With the threat of the loss of 250 jobs at the Heyfield mill due to a lack of security of supply and after 18 months of being repeatedly invited to tour the facility, Minister Pulford visited the mill last week on the quiet.”

“Ms Pulford confirmed to the Gippsland Times and Maffra Spectator the visit was more of a ‘familiarisation’ effort than an announcement. Quoting the Times –

‘I learnt today there are 3000 products that come out of here, which is a slightly bigger number than I expected,’ Ms Pulford said.”

“The Minister may be also surprised to learn that ASH also processes up to 150,000 cubic metres of timber per year, it is the largest hardwood regrowth sustainable timber mill in the southern hemisphere and achieves over $60 million in revenue, exports $7 million in product and creates $40 million in import replacements. It pays $14 million in salaries and wages and $23 million to VicForests.”

“The Minister’s own working group is due to report a resolution to this crisis next week and she has only last week made a familiarisation visit.” “Minister Pulford must guarantee security of supply to ASH and save these jobs and the Heyfield community.”