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Tuckey promises balance in Gippsland RFA.



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TUCKEY PROMISES BALANCE IN GIPPSLAND RFA

The timber mills and communities of Gippsland should ensure that they have their say on the region’s Regional Forest Agreement, the Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Mr Tuckey, urged today.

Mr Tuckey was visiting Victoria for the Noojee High Country Festival, and for meetings tomorrow with timber industry and community representatives to discuss the Gippsland RFA.

"Like all Regional Forest Agreements, the RFA for the Gippsland region will be aiming for a careful balance between environmental protection and sustainable forest-based industries," Mr Tuckey said.

"I am aware that industry is concerned at the implications of a scenario outlined in the RFA consultation paper currently circulating for comment.

"However I must stress that the consultation paper is just that - a focus for public consultation - and does not represent the final position of either the State or Commonwealth governments. I can assure the many families who rely on forest industries for their futures that the Commonwealth remains committed to encouraging a viable and innovative industry in Gippsland."

Mr Tuckey said that in developing the consultation paper, officials had taken into account analysis of the scenario’s potential social impact, and that full information would be available shortly.

"I call on the Labor Federal member for McMillan, Mr Zahra who ducked out of the House of Representatives when Labor voted against the Regional Forest Agreement Bill to stand up for his constituents in regional towns who want resource security and forest jobs," Mr Tuckey said.

The deadline for written submissions on the consultation paper is 25 February. For people who wish to participate in public hearings conducted by an independent panel during the week beginning 28 February, the deadline for submissions is 18 February.

Mr Tuckey noted that the Victorian timber industry has already undergone major change with a significant loss of resource.

"The industry is to be congratulated on the way it has responded to change," he said. "For example, Neville Smith Timber Industries, which I will be visiting tomorrow, has expanded rapidly and is now exporting a third of its production to 16 countries. They have more than doubled their employment since 1987 and now employ 150 people.

Written submissions should be addressed to: Chair, Gippsland RFA Independent Panel, PO Box 501. EAST MELBOURNE VICTORIA 3002.

More information is on the Internet at www.rfa.gov.au

Contact: Graeme Hallett 0419 688 440