YARRA Ranges councillors voted against an effort to re-boycott Reflex paper at last Tuesday's council meeting.
Councillors voted 5-4 against a motion by councillor Samantha Dunn to reverse the December 11 decision to abandon the Wilderness Society's 'ethical paper' pledge.
All five new councillors were against the motion, out-voting the four long-term councillors who voted to re-sign the pledge.
The issue attracted strong debate, with every councillor speaking on the issue except mayor Jim Child, who moved the original motion in December to remove the pledge.
Cr Dunn urged councillors to "look at the facts" and show leadership.
"It's about saying no to native forest use for copy paper, I don't think that's a good use of our native forests. Why is that so controversial?"
Cr Noel Cliff echoed these comments.
"We're leaders, we have a responsibility into the future," he said.
"We need to end short-term decision-making and plan long-term to protect the environment."
But Cr Fiona McAllister said she was "speechless" the issued had again reared its head.
"I remain astounded that this issue keeps coming back and sucking up valuable council time when we have so many issues in our community to be dealing with," she said.
Cr McAllister said the pledge should be signed by non-government institutions rather than the council.
Cr Child told the Weekly on Friday he, too, was astounded at the attention the issue had received and that last week's result was a "sign of true democracy".
"The pledge had no influence on council operations so why sign it? I don't understand how this issue has generated so much interest other than those with a political agenda."
The controversial issue goes back to May 2011 when the council voted 8-1 in support of the Wilderness Society's online pledge to boycott Reflex paper.
At the time, mayor Terry Avery said this was a reflection of its support for environmental sustainability.
However, Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh told the council a proposal to move VicForests' corporate offices into the area would be "off the table" unless it started using Reflex paper.
It is believed the new offices could bring 80 jobs to the area.
Since then a divide has developed between those who believe the council should maintain its commitment to the pledge and those who fear potential local jobs would be at risk if the pledge is kept.
Supporters of the pledge believe Minister Walsh's comments were merely a threat to dissuade the council from boycotting Reflex.
VicForests director of planning Lachlan Spencer said it welcomed the decision.
"We are happy to hold discussions and consider proposals from councils that have shown their support for Victoria's sustainable timber industry, such as the Shire of Yarra Ranges."
Australian Paper, maker of Reflex, is the largest domestic purchaser of pulp logs from Victoria's native forests.
The Yarra Ranges Council does not use Reflex paper and has not for several years.