On the front line for the tough conversations

Friday 28 Jan 2022

If there is one thing that we have learnt this past two years is that the best conversations are had in person. With only 6 weeks in the role as the new General Manager for Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA), Carlie Porteous is already out visiting members in regional Victoria.

On the road daily, Ms Porteous was meeting with members in Victoria’s Gippsland region from Central Highlands to Orbost. East Gippsland forestry operations have been subject to ‘lawfare’ for many years due to regulatory loopholes. The impact to these businesses and others in the state are now being compounded by the illogical Labour government decision to end native forestry.

“This decision is quite unfathomable.” Ms Porteous explains, “Our native hardwood species are naturally regenerating. Like farming, forestry is renewable and the future success is dependent on responsible practices. Many of these intergenerational businesses are harvesting coupes that their fathers and grandfathers before them sustainably harvested.”

With extensive forestry experience, primarily in softwood, Ms Porteous scheduled an in-depth tour to further her understanding of the highly specialised and asset intensive native forestry operations. “It was an opportunity to really see firsthand the scale of these businesses plus care and attention of each operator when grading to ensure each log finds its best value outcome,” says Ms Porteous.

On the mind of many Australians as several state governments are trying to end native forestry is where will replacement products be sourced. The demand from the public for hardwood products like floors, windows, doors and decks still continues.

“If we are not responsibly sourcing the product from our own backyard, where is it going to come from?” questions Ms Porteous. “Thankfully we have many staunch and proud supporters in Government, such as Melina Bath, MP, Member for Eastern Victoria Region. Ms Bath understands the socio-economic contribution of the industry to regional Victoria and to Australia’s sovereign capability, in addition to forestry’s contribution to carbon targets.”

One of the challenges for many AFCA members and forestry businesses during the pandemic was being able meet collectively with industry colleagues and openly discuss the issues facing industry. “Connecting with our members to understand their needs is a priority for me,” says Ms Porteous. “It may be an old saying, but it’s never been truer in these challenging times, we’re stronger together.”

Dinner in Traralgon provided several of the Gippsland’s native forest businesses an opportunity to provide AFCA with direction on how to best represent their needs moving forward. The members made it clear they were invested in the industry as have been their families and the generations before them.

“We need all of the industry to get on board, we cannot do this alone, we are all in it together, especially when government decisions will have a flow on affect for us all,” says local AFCA member Ricky Leeson, Leesons Logging and Cartage.

Ms Porteous will continue to visit these members during this critical time, especially ahead of the Victorian election. Next on the agenda at the start of February is regional Queensland and New South Wales regions affected by the 2019-2020 bushfires, such as Tumut, Tumbarumba and Bombala.

Photo: Carlie Porteous, Australian Forest Contractors Association & Cory Kennedy, Kennedy Trailers

Source: AFCA

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