Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood has called on the Minister for Environment and Climate Change to urgently undertake a review of the current Leadbeater’s Possum management plan.
Mr Blackwood said the current plan was overdue for review and that given recent survey results including third-party reporting, the time had come to update the management plan.
‘The current Leadbeater’s possum management plan included the agreement to conduct an extensive survey of potential possum habitat to improve or update the information around possum numbers,’ Mr Blackwood said.
‘It was mandated that a timber harvesting exclusion zone of 12.5 hectares would be placed around every colony found and that once colonies reached 200, the areas set aside from timber production would be reviewed.
‘The number of colonies found in survey work and third-party reporting has now reached 423.
‘In 1996 the first Leadbeater’s possum management plan was introduced with the support and agreement of the timber industry. It is very obvious that this plan worked and given the increasing colony numbers the time has come to review resource availability for the industry.
Mr Blackwood said that given this new data, it was urgent that the Andrews Labor Government now review the management plan to see what changes could be made to support timber industry jobs which were under threat including those at the Australian Sustainable Hardwoods business in Heyfield.
‘Over the past two years more than 4,000 hectares of production forest has been removed from timber harvesting plans because of the decision to declare a 200 metre buffer around each colony.
‘This has had a direct and potentially disastrous impact on the Victorian native forest industry, in particular Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) in Heyfield.
‘ASH has no supply contract beyond June this year and due to reduction in available harvesting area because of the current Leadbeater’s possum management plan, ASH is only being offered a supply contract of 80,000 cubic meters, some 70,000 less than a viable volume.
‘The minister must commission a review of the Leadbeater’s possum management plan immediately and return those areas excluded from harvesting back to industry.
‘This could save the Heyfield mill and put the broader industry back on a viable footing,’ Mr Blackwood said.