THE state's forestry industry and politicians have strengthened their ties with the launch of a bipartisan group to bring the two together.
The parliamentary support group for the forest and wood products industry, which aims to bring both sides of politics together in a forum with the industry, was announced last week — much to the chagrin of local environmental groups.
The new group was launched by Victorian Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh, who said the forest industries "have been under a sense of siege politically".
Mr Walsh said forestry was not just a rural issue. More than 50,000 downstream jobs existed in the wood industry, such as truss manufacturing.
Labor upper house MP John Lenders, who represents the south-east metropolitan area, told the bipartisan crowd that the industry "is a jobs issue for all of us".
He said he wanted "industry supported in this place on its merits, fairly and transparently".
But local environment groups were angered by the move. Sarah Rees, director of forest conservation group My Environment, said current politicians were strongly aligned with the logging industry.
"Since Peter Walsh and [parliamentary secretary for forestry and fisheries] Gary Blackwood took office the support for the logging industry has blossomed," she said. "[They] are out of touch with regional needs."
Ms Rees said local priorities had shifted and the government had to move with it.
"The priorities for the Yarra Ranges are not the continued tax-propped assault on our forests but funding to be directed at improved medical services, broadband, TAFEs and eco-tourism."
Victorian Association of Forest Industries spokesman Shaun Ratcliff said "we're keen to invite relevant stakeholders who would play a constructive role".
Asked if the group would host anti-forestry groups, he said they "tend not to invite us to their events".
"It certainly is a pro-forestry group," he said.