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Harvest and haulage business pathways

Retaining the specialised and valuable skills and machinery of Victoria’s timber harvest and haulage contractors to carry out critical forest and fire management activities is a priority for the Victorian Government.

The Victorian Government is offering secure 5-year Forest and Fire Management Services Agreements for harvest contractors with the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) to use their valuable skills and equipment to continue to manage our forests and prepare for and respond to fires. These contracts will start on 1 July 2024.

A Harvest and Haulage Support Package, including compensation for haulage contracts, is available to support contractors to take up DEECA agreements or exit the industry.

Harvest and haulage contractors have 3 pathways available to them:

  1. Keep doing DEECA forest and fire management works through seasonal packages on current VicForests contracts until 30 June 2024 when the harvest contract is transferred to DEECA.
  2. Apply for compensation through the Harvest and Haulage Support Package for:
    • loss of income for haulage contracts and any harvest contracts not transferred
    • plant and equipment that is no longer needed
    • reimbursement for any statutory employee redundancy payments.
  3. From 1 July 2024 transfer to DEECA to provide forest and fire management harvest services with guaranteed hours and machine hourly rate.

    Businesses with more than 1 harvest contract can:

    • Transfer all harvest contracts to the Forest and Fire Management Services Agreements (providing proof they can service all agreements at the same time. For example, if a contractor currently has 2 VicForests contracts, they will need at least 2 sets of mandatory machines and 6 staff in total).
    • Transfer 1 contract and receive compensation for the other.
    • Transfer 1 contract and keep doing DEECA forest and fire management works or receive stand-down payments on current VicForests contracts until the other contract ends.

  1. Apply for Harvest and Haulage Support Package.
  2. Keep doing DEECA forest and fire management works through seasonal works packages
    or receive stand down payments on current VicForests contracts until an agreed exit date.

  1. Keep doing DEECA forest and fire management works or receive stand down payments on current VicForests contracts until the contract ends on 30 June 2024.
  2. Apply for plant and equipment compensation and reimbursement of employee statutory redundancy entitlements.

Forest and Fire Management Services Agreements

The DEECA Forest and Fire Management Service Agreements provide certainty of work and income for harvest contractors, their families, communities and local businesses from 1 July 2024 to 30 June 2029.

Contractors are being invited to submit an Expression of Interest  to transfer their existing VicForests harvest contract from VicForests to DEECA by 15 December 2023.

The expressions of interest do not lock contractors into any agreements. They will be the starting point of negotiations about transferring contracts.

Contractors who agree to transfer contracts will enter into an agreement with the Secretary to the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action.

As part of the transfer process they will be asked to:

  1. extend the term of their harvest contract to 5 years, and
  2. change the harvest contract terms to deliver forest and fire management services for DEECA.

Key parts of the existing contracts that will be negotiated to change include:

  • payment structure including mandating a minimum number of machine hours.
  • mandatory machines.
  • number of machine operators.
  • how services will be requested and ordered and the compensation that will be paid.
  • add-on payments to reflect working outside of the home area.

DEECA forest and fire management work types

In the 2023–24 financial year, harvest and haulage contractors who continue to undertake forest and fire management work will do so through a series of ‘seasonal works packages’ (spring, summer and autumn) or receive stand down payments via their current VicForests contracts, until the contracts end on 30 June 2024.

This is necessary work to manage bushfire risk on public land in Victoria to make sure our firefighters can operate safely in our forests.

The work will be under the direction of Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) and include building strategic fuel breaks, preparing areas for planned burning, removing roadside storm debris and treating hazardous trees.

Works to manage fire risk from 1 July 2024 are similar to that in the 2023–24 spring, summer and autumn packages and will include:

  • construction of 6000 km of strategic fuel breaks between now and 2030
  • maintenance and upgrading of the Strategic Road Network
  • treatment of hazardous trees, especially in heavily-forested areas of Gippsland, Hume and Port Phillip Regions
  • other fuel management activities, including supporting planned burns
  • tree felling or cutting
  • extraction and preparation for transport (logs and other forest residues)
  • regeneration activities, including mechanical disturbance and site preparation
  • construction, maintenance and improvement of roads and tracks
  • contribute to wildfire response and recovery
  • other services as requested.

These works reduce the risk of bushfire to people, property, critical infrastructure flora and fauna. The program will significantly accelerate the state’s bushfire risk reduction works, some of which will be delivered up to two years ahead of schedule.

This will significantly reduce bushfire risk in Victoria and make sure communities and the environment are better protected.

FFMVic prioritises the protection of environmental, biodiversity and cultural values during all recovery and bushfire risk reduction works. A Planning and Approvals Framework ensures works comply with relevant legislation and regulations

Contractors participating in a Forest and Fire Management Services Agreement will be expected to join DEECA’s State-wide External Plant Panel before performing fireground work.

  • Depending on where fires occur and what resources are required, contractors registered on DEECA’s State-wide External Plant Panel may be asked to deploy to a fire event.
  • Contractors can apply to join the Panel through the External Plant Web Portal.
  • It is important you submit your State-wide External Plant Panel application as soon as possible to allow it to be assessed and a Panel contract issued.
  • Personnel will need to complete mandatory online training before they can be deployed to a fire event. Plant will also be inspected to ensure it meets mandatory guarding and equipment standards for fire response.

Harvest and Haulage Support Package

Harvest and haulage contractors have the option to transfer their harvest contracts to DEECA Forest and Fire Management Services Agreements or exit the industry.

A Harvest and Haulage Support Package is available to support the transition to new contracts or support business’ exits.

The package includes:

  • compensation for loss of income
  • plant and equipment compensation
  • a payment to reimburse employee statutory redundancy payments.

Contractors can access different components of the package depending on their circumstances.

Applications are open from 1 December 2023 to 31 July 2024.

Victorian Timber Innovation Fund

Support is available through the Victorian Timber Innovation Grants Program to assist affected forestry businesses to transition from native timber to plantation fibre and transformative industry investment.

Round 2 is currently closed for Expressions of Interest. The Round 3 program will have extended eligibility.

Forestry Transition Fund

The Forestry Transition Fund provides grants up to $1 million for businesses and industry groups – including chambers of commerce and associations, peak bodies and businesses networks - to apply for grants to expand, diversify or start new businesses.

Applicants that directly employ displaced native timber workers will receive a $20,000 wage subsidy per worker in addition to their grant.

Funding is also available to local councils, water corporations and utility providers to make sure there is the right infrastructure in place to support businesses’ applications.

Forest and Fire Management work FAQs

No, you do not have to take up any support.

Yes, if you take up DEECA works you can access a plant and equipment payment through the package.

Yes, if you take up DEECA works you can access a plant and equipment payment through the package.

Yes. You will be able to apply for plant and equipment compensation.

Contractors currently receiving payments will continue to do so for the remainder of their contract. This includes stand down payments from VicForests for any period of inactivity within their contracted period.

  • strategic fuel breaks
  • ongoing recovery works on public land
  • the treatment of hazardous trees in the preparation of planned burns and along critical firefighting roads and tracks.

For the time being, VicForests will manage existing contracts and work closely with DEECA to deliver land management services.

As long as harvest and haulage operators meet their contractual obligations with government, other work can be carried out.

Through additional government investment, contractors will:

  • maintain the strategic fire road network, strategic fuel breaks network and visitor and recreation facilities
  • undertake seed collection, silvicultural works (including regeneration of historic coupes and fire-affected areas) and hazardous tree treatment
  • work on roads, bridges and crossings
  • bushfire risk reduction works, including storm debris removal and planned burning preparation.

Forest and fire management works require a mix of skills, many of which are consistent with timber harvesting and haulage including:

  • operating in steep terrain
  • heavy debris handling
  • landing construction where required
  • hazardous tree removal
  • haulage.

DEECA land management focuses on minimal footprints and uses smaller crews, smaller machines and old snig tracks. It typically needs machine equipment such as harvesters, excavators with log grabs, trucks and floats. Skid steers are also being used in the storm debris operation.

Page last updated: 31/05/24