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Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Robert Hill
Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, John Anderson
Victorian Minister for Conservation and Land Management, Marie Tehan
The forests of Victoria's Central Highlands could contribute to the creation of hundreds of new jobs under a proposal for a Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) released for comment today.
The Directions Report for the RFA outlines a range of opportunities for growth in forest-based industries, including timber processing and tourism.
It also suggests that the existing forest reserve system in Victoria's Central Highlands could increase by about 115,000 hectares, or 64 per cent.
This would result in about 47 per cent of the public land being managed primarily for conservation purposes, with about 35 per cent of the public land available for sustainably managed timber production.
The release of the report today by the Commonwealth's Minister for the Environment, Senator Hill and Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, John Anderson, and Victoria's Minister for Conservation and Land Management, Marie Tehan, marks the beginning of an eight week consultation period.
The Ministers called on anyone interested in the future of native forests in the Central Highlands to read and comment on the report before governments finalise the RFA, due for completion before the end of the year.
"Opportunities identified for greater value adding in the Central Highlands timber industry include increasing kiln dried and processed timber from around 51 per cent of total production to over 75 per cent by 2005-06." Mr Anderson said. "This will stimulate long term jobs growth in the industry."
Expansion of the Maryvale paper mill, announced in March 1996, is likely to boost the economy by about $240 million a year and generate employment for up to 250 jobs, with another 250 people employed during the construction phase.
Tourism in the region could generate up to $112 million by 2000\2001 in annual gross expenditure, and employment for more than 900 people.
Senator Hill said, "The report describes the extent to which the RFA could meet the criteria for a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) Reserve System, and discusses measures to protect fauna unique to the region, including Leadbeater's Possum, Victoria's State emblem, and the Baw Baw frog, as well as other threatened species like the Powerful, Sooty and Masked Owls, and the Spot-tailed Quoll."
"The Directions Report also took into account the extensive work undertaken for the proposed Forest Management Plan for the Central Highlands region," Mrs Tehan said.
The report builds upon information contained in the Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) report released in July 1997, and the results of extensive community consultation. Further public meetings will be held in the Central Highlands region at Healesville on October 21, Alexandra on October 22 and Warragul on October 23.
The Central Highlands RFA will be the second to be finalised for Victoria. Work is well under way on the third Victorian RFA, the North East region, which will be followed by agreements for the Gippsland and West regions.
OCTOBER 2 1997
Media contacts: Mathew Brown, (Senator Hill's Office) 02 6277 7640
Robert Haynes (Mr Anderson's Office) 02 6277 7520
Jon Richards (Mrs Tehan's Office) 03 9651 5799
The Directions Report is available on the world wide web, at http://www.rfa.gov.au