Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:09) — My question is for the Minister for Agriculture. In its 2016–17 annual report VicForests has disclosed that it received $5.9 million in payments from the Andrews government, including $4.8 million in grants for its role in the Leadbeater’s possum recovery program. Without these payments to shore up the balance sheet VicForests would have recorded a before-tax loss. Minister, do you accept that VicForests would be a loss-making enterprise if it were not for the generosity of the Victorian taxpayer?
Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) (12:10) — I thank Ms Dunn for her question. As Ms Dunn would no doubt be aware the reduction in available ash sawlog, with which members here are very familiar, and operational challenges arising from such a high number of Leadbeater’s possum detections have been impacting VicForests’s operations. The VicForests annual report does outline the work that VicForests has been doing to support the recovery effort of Leadbeater’s possums and the income derived in exchange for that considerable amount of work.
Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:11) — Thank you, Minister. Considering VicForests’s core business is logging the remaining native habitat of the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, could the minister advise why the Andrews government bestowed responsibility and millions of dollars of grants last financial year for protection of the Leadbeater’s possum on this state-owned enterprise?
Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) (12:11) — VicForests continues to play an important and active role in supporting the long-term recovery of the Leadbeater’s possum. I would indicate that between February 2015 and June 2017 VicForests helped detect 420 new Leadbeater’s possum colonies — something I would have thought Ms Dunn would welcome. I would have thought Ms Dunn might also welcome the work that VicForests have done in providing the nesting boxes that have proven to be quite an important and successful part of the government’s activity to recover the Leadbeater’s possum population.