Bunnings dumps VicForests native timber after ‘illegal’ court ruling

Major hardware chain Bunnings is dumping Victorian native timber products from its shelves after the Federal Court ruled timber was felled illegally, putting dozens of jobs in jeopardy.

In late May, the court ruled the state-owned VicForests had breached laws governing timber harvesting and ordered a stop to logging in several regions.

The Victorian timber industry has been decimated in the past year with the Andrews Government’s policy phasing out native-timber logging by 2030.

The sector has also faced multiple court cases that have halted logging in key areas due to the protection of endangered species.

The bushfires in East Gippsland have put many logging contractors out of work.

While Bunnings is not a major retailer of VicForests products, it is a symbolic blow for the industry due to the company’s high profile.

A large tree among much smaller trees in the Toolangi State Forest
The state’s native timber industry is a controversial political issue in Victoria.(ABC News)

Bunnings said it had a “zero-tolerance” stance on illegally logged timber.

“Our commitment is to only source timber products from legal and well-managed forest operations,” Bunnings merchandising director Phil Bishop said.

“[We] will no longer be accepting raw material input into our supply chain from VicForests as of June 30,” he said.

Mr Bishop said Bunnings knew the decision may have an impact on the industry, and it was working closely with affected suppliers on a transition plan.

Timber already processed by suppliers will still be sold.

VicForests calls Bunnings ‘disingenuous’

VicForests said it would appeal against the court’s decision and that it was disappointed 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 and illegal protest action,” a spokesman said.

“Bunnings’ claim that it is ‘working closely with affected suppliers on a transition plan’ is disingenuous given their decision is effective immediately.”

Piles of giant logs lying next to a forest of Australian native trees.
Victoria is phasing out native timber logging over 10 years.(ABC News: Richard Willingham)

Industry bodies and the Victorian Opposition slammed the decision, with the Australian Forest Products Association (AFA) labelling it a knee-jerk reaction and short-sighted.

“This decision puts at risk tens of thousands of Australian manufacturing jobs at a time when our country can least afford to lose them, especially in regional communities,” AFA chief executive Ross Hampton said.

“Bunnings and its customers should be under no illusion that green groups will stop at Victoria — they are hellbent on ending all native forestry in Australia, which will mean even more imported timber from countries at high risk of deforestation and illegal logging, and it will be manufactured in countries with poor working conditions.”

The Wilderness Society’s Amelia Young said the Federal Court’s decision was clear.

“It’s clear that major Australian retailers can’t afford to be associated with illegally logged native forests, anymore than they could import tools made of ivory or furniture upholstered with tiger skin.”