As the announcement of the Victorian State Government’s decision to end native forestry operations in Victoria as of 1 January 2024 ripples through the sector, responses have ranged from determination to anger.

Representatives of the Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA) were at the media announcement in Morwell. Chris Stafford, a third-generation business owner and AFCA board director, said, “It is tough to sit across the table and be told that the decision has been made. However, commitments were made in the meeting assuring us that forest contracting businesses will be provided the same options to determine whether to opt out or transition their businesses.”

Carlie Porteous, general manager of AFCA, said, “AFCA has been advocating tirelessly for the industry since the 2019 policy decision was announced. Unfortunately, this is an outcome that has far reaching impacts for businesses, families and communities, so after today’s announcement we are now focusing on supporting them through the transition.”

Wellington Shire Mayor Ian Bye was scathing in his response, telling the Gippsland Times: “Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has devastated the futures of over 650 timber workers throughout Wellington Shire… The Premier’s budget announcement mark[s] the final nail in the coffin for the state’s native timber industry, one that feeds the families of hundreds of local timber workers.”

Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, called it “a Dan-made disaster which will devastate Gippsland communities and take us a generation to recover from.”

The Age sent a journalist to Orbost to talk with workers directly affected by the announcement. “I found out on Facebook,” said single mother of two Ang Savage, who works with beams and columns at Australian Sustainable Hardwood in Heyfield. “It’s like we don’t even exist.”

She pointed out the central flaw in the current plan to retrain workers, saying: “If the jobs aren’t there, it doesn’t matter how much training we get.”

A subcontractor hauler told the paper he had received zero government support since logging was paused and has no idea if there would be any coming for his business – click here for these interviews.

The Age also spoke with three federal Labor MPs on the condition of anonymity, who said they disagreed with the decision to bring forward the ban and were furious with the way the news had been delivered to communities.

“This is not the way you do things,” one said.