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Local MP Darren Chester says the timber industry and visitor economy can co-exist and it will be economic and environmental madness to force more timber job cuts on East Gippsland.

The Federal Member for Gippsland is supporting Orbost and District Community Development Committee (ODCDC) in its efforts to protect jobs in traditional industries and support new initiatives.

“We can have both. We can have jobs in harvesting, haulage and value adding to our timber resource while also growing the visitor economy with new attractions to bring more tourists to our region,” Mr Chester said.

“The funds I secured for a better, safer Princes Highway were all about connecting industry to markets and making it easier for tourists to travel to our beautiful part of the world.

“I support investment in new tourism infrastructure on public land, but not at the expense of other local jobs.”

Mr Chester said he had received a letter from ODCDC expressing concerns the proposed 120 kilometre trail from Bemm River to Mount Ellery, potentially incorporating the MacKenzie River Rainforest Walk, could impact local timber jobs.

“We have a world-class and sustainable timber industry but if more areas are locked up by the State Government, jobs will be lost from our region and the flow-on impacts will be devastating for businesses in our towns,” Mr Chester said.

“The Labor Party pledged funding for the proposed Sea to Summit hiking trail in the final days of the Victorian election campaign in November, but was only thinking of how this would appeal to voters in the city.

“I have always been in favour of further growing Gippsland’s tourist economy and investing in infrastructure on public land to encourage people to get out and enjoy East Gippsland.

“But I don’t support creating an attraction of this kind at the expense of another established industry.

“The skills and equipment associated with the timber industry are important in times of bushfires and a sustainably managed local forest resource is a better environmental outcome than importing products from countries with lower standards.

“The State Government should provide opportunities for genuine local consultation and not force a pre-determined position on the local community. We want jobs in both timber and tourism and it’s time our community was given the respect it deserves from Melbourne Labor Ministers.”

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