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The Victorian Government's controversial plan to end native forest logging has the potential to devastate rallying in the state. The Government plans to phase out the logging of native trees under a $120 million plan, reducing the current level of timber available for logging by 2024-2025. It also announced the imposition of an immediate ban on logging in old growth forest, which is about 90,000 hectares in size. With dwindling supply already restricting the industry, all native timber logging will cease by 2030 under the policy. Former Victorian forester, and Australian Rally Hall of Fame member, Ross Runnalls, said the logging ban would be devastating for the sport in Victoria.
"Much of the rallying in Victoria is run on roads that are maintained solely because of logging. If the ban comes into place, it's likely that many of those roads won't be maintained and will deteriorate,” Runnalls said.

Luke Sytema on his way to victory at the 2019 Ada River Rally. Photo: live.love.rally

The logging ban is also expected to increase bushfire risks, due to the lack of timber industry personnel and equipment and the deterioration of public access roads. It appears that the Andrews Government has been swayed by a long-running campaign by environmental groups to end logging of native forests in Victoria, despite the social, economic and environmental benefit of the management of native forests for timber production.
The Liberal National Opposition in Victoria has said that it will fight the plan, so this could become a key issue at the next state election, although the damage may have been done as the industry contemplates a rocky future.
This decision also paves the way for the mooted Great Forest National Park (pictured above), covering much of the Mountain ash forests in the areas of Healesville, Toolangi, Kinglake, Marysville and Mt Baw Baw. Rallying special stages are not allowed in any National Parks, which would further impact rallying in Victoria. Currently those regions host four of the Victorian Rally Championship's seven rounds – Marysville Stages, Ada River Rally, Valley Stages and Akademos Rally. The sport faces many challenges, but should the logging ban come into force, the sport in Victoria will face what will potentially be its greatest challenge yet.
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