A delegation of forestry contractors from Victoria and NSW held a series of productive meetings with Federal Government and Opposition Ministers, Shadow Minsters and local MPs in Canberra on Thursday to highlight the crisis they are facing as a result of the bushfires.
Forestry contractors estimate the bushfires have cost them over $10 million in work, and at least $25 million dollars’ worth of equipment since November, when bushfires hit the north coast of NSW.
They are urging the Federal and State Governments to work together to provide immediate assistance for forestry contractors, and today that’s the message they delivered to federal MPs.
The fires have meant many of the contractors’ crews have been out of work, and with uncertainty about if and when they’ll get access to forest areas again there is no relief in sight.
For Victorian contractors in East Gippsland the bushfires have exacerbated the uncertainty for their future, with many of their contracts terminated by the state government last week and a lack of clarity Andrews Government around its proposed deadline to end native forest harvesting by 2030.
The delegation included contractors from north and south NSW and East Gippsland in Victoria and are represented by the Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA). The sector represents hundreds of workers in NSW and Victoria who face an uncertain future.
AFCA General Manager Stacey Gardiner thanked the MP’s who made time for them.
“They listened to our concerns and understood that we’re not asking for anything extravagant,” she said.
“While there is assistance for landowners in the fire affected areas, it’s not available for our members. We’d like the Federal Government to look at ways of easing access to assistance and support so contractors can stay in business and support the communities they live and work in.”
Contractor Mick Benton from Casino said: “We just want to get back to work, and get our people working again. That’s the message we gave to MP’s, and they were more than prepared to hear it.”
East Gippsland Haulage Contractor Reece Reynolds said for them the future’s uncertain.
“We’ve already laid off people, and our approaches to the Andrews Government asking to talk to them about closing Victoria’s native forests have been rejected,” he said.
“Thankfully we got a better reception here today at Parliament House, and we appreciated that someone’s prepared to listen.”
The six-member delegation met with:
- Darren Chester, Minister for Veterans Affairs and Member for Gippsland.
- Senator Jonathon Duniam, Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries, Senator for Tasmania.
- Kevin Hogan, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minster and Member for Page.
- Brendan O’Connor, Shadow Minister for Employment and Industry and Member for Gorton.
- Joel Fitzgibbon, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources and Member for Hunter.
- Senator Raff Ciccone, Opposition Deputy Whip and Senator for Victoria.