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Leslie White |  October 14, 2010

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THE logging industry is split over the clear-felling of native forest.

Australia’s biggest logging company says the future lies in plantations, while the nation’s biggest mill will consider an exit from native forest products and Tasmanian workers will vote on a proposal to end native-forest logging next month.

And the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania appears set to sign a deal to end native forest logging by its members.

But state government-owned logging agencies VicForests and NSW Forests continue to clear-fell native forest, and peak Victorian native forest industry body, the Victorian Association of Forest Industries, argues native forest logging should continue.

Tasmanian Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union forestry division members will vote on “a transition out of native forests which is fair for workers” on November 9-10.

CFMEU forestry division national secretary Michael O’Connor said unless there was a “fundamental change in the way the industry operates, it won’t just shrink – it will collapse”.

A spokesman for the owner of Australia’s biggest paper mill, Australian Paper, has confirmed the company is “considering” a move out of native forest.

Australian Paper sources large volumes of native forest from the Marysville region.

Gunns Forestry, which owns mills at Heyfield and Alexandra, has announced it will end native forest logging.

A spokesman for Victorian Government company VicForests would only say VicForests worked “within the rules and regulations we’re given”.

VAFI president Bob Humphreys said a ban on native-forest logging would mean imports from “less sustainable industries from other countries” would replace them.

He said the Victorian industry employed 25,000 people, a figure disputed by environmental groups.

Timber Workers for Forests president Frank Strie said he opposed clear-fell logging, “particularly on sloping terrain”.

“Many places have run out of good timber,” Mr Strie said.

“The industry says, ‘blame the greenies’, but the reality is the good timber is gone. They ran it (the forest resource) into the ground.”