Major home and hardware chain Bunnings has announced it will stop sourcing timber from VicForests, following a recent ruling that the agency breached environmental laws.
In May, the Federal Court found that state government-owned forestry agency VicForests had failed, and was unlikely in the future, to comply with national environmental laws designed to protect threatened species.
Following the ruling, Bunnings director of merchandise Phil Bishop said the company would ban VicForests timber in its stores from 30 June.
“Bunnings has a zero-tolerance approach to illegally logged timber that dates back two decades and our commitment is to only source timber products from legal and well managed forest operations,” he said.
“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.”
Mr Bishop said Bunnings would work with those affected to ensure the decision did not have a detrimental impact on the logging industry.
“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,” he said.
A VicForests spokesperson said the agency was “disappointed and deeply concerned by Bunnings’ decision.”
“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,” the spokesperson said.
“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.”
Shadow Assistant Minister for Forestry, Gary Blackwood said the decision would cost local jobs and undermine employment in regional Victoria.
“Bunnings has shown they are happy to walk away from Victorian timber jobs based on a court case which I am reliably told is subject to an upcoming appeal,” he said.
“Their discontinuation of all timber supply from VicForests before that process is complete is a knee-jerk reaction that will have significant ramifications for our regional communities, local harvesters, contractors, haulage and machinery operators.
“Victoria has world leading harvesting and management practices and by potentially moving to less regulated markets, Bunnings is telling consumers they would rather cheaper product that helps their bottom line than Victorian product that supports local jobs.
“As Victoria battles with COVID-19, recovers from drought and bushfire, now more than ever Victorian retailers should support Victorian suppliers.”