The closure of Australia’s last white paper mill could end deforestation of native forests in Victoria
Court rulings have barred the agency from felling native coupes without adequate wildlife viewing, which VicForests said has effectively blocked supplies of native hardwoods.
In a landmark case in November, the Victorian Supreme Court found the agency had failed to conduct adequate pre-logging screening for endangered larger glider possums because its logging operations in East Gippsland and the Central Highlands posed a risk to “serious or irreversible damage” represent gliders. VicForests is appealing the decision.
For the past fiscal year, VicForests reported an unprecedented $52.4 million in financial losses that it attributed to costs of litigation. The figure is well above last year’s loss of $4.7 million.
Maryvale, which opened in 1937, is Australia’s last producer of white paper – including stationery, exercise books and envelopes – and one of VicForests’ few remaining major customers for its native timber. It is the largest private employer in the Latrobe Valley.
When white paper production ends, about 200 jobs would be lost out of a total of 1,000 Maryvale employees.
The state government is covering the cost of the wages of workers terminated by Opal and will continue to pay them until mid-February. The contract with Opal is in addition to the state’s $200 million 11-year Victorian Forestry Plan and $120 million Gippsland plantation investment program.
“We recognize that this is a challenging time,” said a government spokeswoman. “We are working closely with Opal on options to support the long-term operation of the plant.”
On Friday, the company re-released a January media statement stating, “No operational decisions have been made at this time.”
Jeremy Holt started working in Maryvale last November and hoped to have secured a job for life.
But after just three shifts, he was laid off along with about 40 other workers as part of the gradual shutdown of the white paper plant in December. Some had worked there for 30 years.
Holt said Opal appears to have given up trying to secure timber supplies. “If they wanted to keep making white paper in Australia or in the valley, you’d think they’d make sure they had logs somewhere,” he said.
Kinglake Friends of the Forest spokeswoman Sue McKinnon said her volunteer group took VicForests to court over concerns about a sharp decline in the larger glider population. The critically endangered possum lost a third of its habitat in the summer’s black bushfires.
She said community environmental groups were not responsible for the job losses in Maryvale.
“Unfortunately, we have to face climate change and the urgent need to keep carbon in the soil and increase biodiversity. If not, the alternative is far worse than the really unfortunate situation of 200 people having to change jobs.”
The Construction, Forestry, Shipping, Mining and Energy Union is pushing for greater state support for Maryvale members and says Opal appears to have stopped producing white papers.
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https://www.smh.com.au/national/victoria/the-closure-of-australia-s-last-white-paper-mill-could-end-native-forest-logging-in-victoria-20230202-p5chec.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national The closure of Australia’s last white paper mill could end deforestation of native forests in Victoria