Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, today met with Australian Sustainable Hardwoods and Australian Paper to re-affirm the Turnbull Government's strong support for jobs and Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs).
"The overwhelming community response to concerns about the future of Australian Sustainable Hardwoods in Heyfield underscores just how important the extension to the East Gippsland RFA is to the Gippsland economy," said Minister Ruston.
"Through the RFA, the Federal Government is doing its bit to provide business certainty and wood supply.
"Without the RFA, job prospects in the Gippsland region would be very different.
"Businesses such as Australian Sustainable Hardwoods or Australian Paper would struggle to survive.
"The RFA framework strikes the right balance between the competing economic, environmental and social uses of our native forests.
"The RFA means we have jobs in towns like Cowwarr, Heyfield, Bairnsdale and Orbost; which means these towns prosper and keep their local shops, schools and hospitals."
In Victoria alone, the forest industry directly employs more than 21,000 people, with a further estimated 48,000 in-direct jobs across the value chain.
"Australian Sustainable Hardwoods' world-class Heyfield mill employs 250 workers and supports an estimated 7,000 down-stream jobs.
"The Heyfield mill, the largest in Australia, underpins the Gippsland timber manufacturing industry and is also a supplier of wood-chips to the Australian Paper mill in Maryvale.
"Australian Paper's Maryvale mill makes a substantial economic contribution to the Gippsland region, with approximately 4,200 full time equivalent, direct and indirect jobs.
"What's more, today's forestry sector is fully integrated and dependent on the sustainable use of both our native forests and plantation resources. They go hand-in-hand!" said Minister Ruston.
"The timber industry is far more than just sawlogs and wood chips; there's a raft of new opportunities at play – carbon farming, bio-energy and bio-products. Put simply, it's the future economy!"
Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester said the Minister's visit to the electorate was welcomed.
"The Federal Government is committed to a sustainable, native timber harvesting industry," Mr Chester said.
"ASH is Australia's most important hardwood sawmill, supplying markets here and overseas.
"If the State Government doesn't supply ASH with the timber it needs, then we will be replacing locally-made products with imported timber, sourced from countries that don't have the same environmental protocols."