Extra officers deployed to stop logging protesters
Protesters have invaded Victoria's native forests to hold up logging work in the wake of the Andrews Government's decision to shut down the industry by 2030.
Environmental groups are now promising to ramp up their protest activities as they argue the decade-long transition is too slow, infuriating loggers already facing an uncertain future.
The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal the government has moved to provide extra authorised officers to enforce timber harvesting safety zones.
But industry leaders are sceptical the move will make a difference, as activists descended on logging coupes in the Rubicon state forest and in Murrindindi last week.
Malcom Warnock, a hardwood contractor for 22 years, lost almost a day's work when protesters "invaded" his Rubicon coupe.
"The Greens' version is they want to stop logging immediately, not in 10 years' time … I guess they thought they'd go out and make a point of this," he said.
"Many of them will think this isn't good enough, they want it stopped now."
Forest Conservation Victoria hailed protest activities last week and promised they were "going to keep protesting the logging that will continue here".
"Time is running out for our forests and we cannot wait for change. We're calling on people to ramp up efforts because 2030 is way too late," the group said on Facebook.
A government spokesman said they would "provide additional authorised officers to support faster responses to any disruptions to harvesting caused by protest activities".
In a letter to contractors, VicForests chief Monique Dawson said the government had also provided extra funding "for compensation for contractors affected by unreasonable delays" which demonstrated their "commitment to supporting you to operate your business".
But Victorian Association of Forest Industries chief Tim Johnston questioned when the extra officers would be on the ground.
"Unfortunately we keep hearing the same rhetoric from the government but this is of little comfort to contractors, with industry enduring this behaviour for decades," he said.
Mr Johnston said one contractor had been targeted five times already this year, including by a protester who chained himself to equipment the contractor needed to use to fight a nearby fire.
Mr Warnock said existing authorised officers were based in Wangaratta and Lakes Entrance, and could not arrive quickly enough to move on protesters before contractors lost at least a day of work.
"If the government was serious about it, why are they still invading us? It costs the government a lot of money every time they invade our coupe," he said.