Bunnings cuts timber ties

Bunnings cuts timber ties

VicForests, timber industry leaders and local MPs have lashed a Bunnings management decision to discontinue sourcing timber from VicForests, a decision that will have significant impact on local timber towns and hundreds of jobs.

The Federal Court in May found VicForests failed to comply with a regional forest agreement, which breached national environment laws, prompting Bunnings’ decision.

The Victorian Hardwood Sawmillers Association (VHSA) condemned Bunnings’ decision. VHSA spokesman and local timber industry leader, Leonard Fenning, said the decision was premature given VicForests has confirmed it will be appealing last month’s Federal Court decision.

“Bunnings should allow for the due legal process to conclude before making such a drastic and immediate decision that threatens thousands of local jobs that depend on Victoria’s sustainably managed native timber industry,” Mr Fenning said.

“Anti-forestry groups have been aggressively targeting Bunnings for years with misinformation campaigns about Victoria’s hardwood timber industry, and it is disappointing that Bunnings has succumbed to these extreme activist groups.

“This is a lose-lose result for Aussie workers and the environment. Bunnings knows all too well that the sustainably sourced Victorian timber currently on their shelves will be replaced with imported timber from countries with poor environmental records and poor working conditions.”

Mr Fenning said the Victorian and Federal governments must provide certainty to the Victorian timber industry and immediately secure the future of the Victorian Regional Forest Agreements.

“Now is the time to back local manufacturing jobs in a sustainable, renewable industry –we urge all Australians to insist on Aussie grown and Aussie made. It’s good for jobs, the environment and our regional communities,” he said.

“This decision has put up to 170 regional jobs in jeopardy, many of which had already been impacted by this summer’s disastrous bushfires, coronavirus (COVID-19) and illegal protest action.”

“Bunnings claims its decision is based on the initial ruling of the Federal Court on the Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum case. VicForests will appeal this verdict once final orders are issued by the court.

“Bunnings’ claim that it is ‘working closely with affected suppliers on a transition plan’ is disingenuous given their decision is effective immediately.”

Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said it was a “woeful decision” that could not have come at a “worse time”.

“Our communities have been impacted by drought, fire and now COVID-19 and the local economy is really struggling,” Mr Bull said.

“For Bunnings management to come in on the back of that and make this announcement shows no understanding of our plight.

“To discontinue sourcing all timber from VicForests is a massive over-reaction and one that will hurt our local communities. On top of this Bunnings could not tell me where it will source its hardwood from in the future.

“They could only agree it will not come from Victoria as there is no hardwood plantation, so it will likely come from interstate or overseas.”

Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, echoed Mr Bull,’s sentiment, saying “it is extraordinary that Bunnings would make this premature decision without any genuine consultation with its local suppliers and jeopardise the financial futures of dozens of timber workers and their families in Gippsland”.

“At a time when all jobs are at a premium and Gippsland is recovering from the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and the coronavirus, Bunnings management is demonstrating no respect for working class families,” Mr Chester said.

Mr Tim Bull, said Bunnings’ management had “shown its true colours”.

“When our communities are in need, have been decimated by fire and an economic downturn, they come out and make things a whole lot worse,” he said.

“I want to stress this is not about the staff on the ground in local stores. I have several friends who work at Bunnings in Bairnsdale, this is purely a criticism of management.

“I explained the impact this will have on towns like Heyfield, but they just want to trot out lines like ‘we will work with suppliers to achieve the best outcomes for them’. Well that does not help our mill workers and their families,” Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said.

Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, said Victoria boasts a worldclass timber industry where 94 per cent of forest is protected and a small proportion of native forests are harvested each year under VicForests’ control, then are allowed to regenerate in a sustainable cycle over 80 years.

“It’s the ultimate renewable industry with young growing trees absorbing more carbon dioxide, compared to mature forests, and timber harvested according to the strictest standards in the world,” Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, said.

“Gippsland timber mills have invested in new technology to add value to the trees harvested with manufactured products that are in high demand. Wood that used to end up as waste or low value wood chips, is now joined and glued to make high value products that are available for home handymen and the construction sector to purchase.”

In a statement, Bunnings said it has a zero-tolerance approach to illegally logged timber.

“Our commitment is to only source timber products from legal and well managed forest operations,” Bunnings director of merchandise, Phil Bishop, said.

“In light of the recent legal finding that VicForests has breached the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014, we will be discontinuing all sourcing of timber from VicForests and will no longer be accepting raw material input into our supply chain from VicForests as of 30 June.

“While we only sell a small portion of VicForests’ total harvest, we acknowledge this decision may have an impact on the industry and we are working closely with affected suppliers on a transition plan.

“Ultimately, we believe that customers and team members have the right to expect that the timber they purchase is sourced from responsible and lawful forestry operations.”

IMAGE: Victorian Hardwood Sawmillers Association president and local timber industry leader, Leonard Fenning, says Bunnings’ decision to discontinue using Victorian timber is premature. K1423-1306 (2019)