State Government to accelerate changes to forest management in WA [Audio]

27/07/1999 4:30 AM

    Logging in old growth Karri and Tingle forests will end when current contracts expire as part of a State Government decision to accelerate changes to forest management in Western Australia.

    Premier Richard Court today also announced that the woodchipping industry would move through a rapid transition over the next few years to become a predominantly plantation-based industry.

    Mr Court said there would also be major changes to forest management practices in Western Australia - including an end to large scale clearfelling in the Karri forest and a revision of existing logging programs to 2003 (the current contract period) to minimise the impact on old growth Karri and Tingle.

    While the revised logging plans are being developed there will be a three month moratorium on logging of old growth in Karri and Tingle areas - other than those already being logged, or due to be logged, to meet 1999 contractual commitments.

    Mr Court said that following discussions involving himself, Environment Minister Cheryl Edwardes and a range of interested parties, the Government had agreed to these and other measures which would complement the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA).

    “There can be no doubt that the RFA has been a major step forward for forest management in Western Australia and the Coalition Government remains committed to it,” Mr Court said.

    “Following ongoing community debate, however, the Government acknowledges that further change is required.

    “The changes are a genuine attempt to bring logging practices into line with community feeling, while at the same time maintaining a viable timber industry that is so important to this State - and in particular many communities in the South-West.

    “There is no denying, however, that these communities will bear the brunt of the pain from our decision to accelerate the restructuring plan.”

    Mr Court said the measures to be implemented included:

    Karri and Tingle
      • end old growth logging in Karri and Tingle forests after 2003 (except where the EPA determines necessary for forest protection and enhancement);
      • review logging plans to 2003 to minimise use of old growth Karri and Tingle to satisfy current contracts;
      • a three month moratorium on logging of old growth in Karri and Tingle areas while the logging plans are revised (other than those already being logged, or due to be logged, to meet 1999 contractual commitments); and -
      • end large scale clearfelling in the Karri forest.
      • cease woodchipping in old growth Karri and Tingle forests from the end of the current supply contract in 2003 (forest thinnings and sawmill residue would still be used for woodchips);
      • move to a predominantly plantation-based industry; and -
      • currently Bunnings Forest Products has contracts to supply woodchips to Japan until 2005 and contracts to take the resource from CALM until 2003. The Government will hold discussions with the company to see if variations can be made to these arrangements.

      • prepare a Jarrah strategy so that harvesting is limited to what is needed to satisfy approved uses, with the emphasis on value adding. There will be strict auditing of the value adding requirement under existing contracts and future contracts could be terminated if the requirements are not met; and -
      • write no new contracts to use native timber for railway sleepers (other than from third grade timber and then only if the new State Conservation Authority determines that there is no more valuable use for the timber).

      • encourage farm forestry, which would see areas of plantation integrated with traditional farming practices;
      • maximise the contribution of private plantations for sawmilling and value added production;
      • increase the use of plantation and re-growth timbers for high value products and value adding; and -
      • explore a range of options, such as carbon credits and tax concessions, to create incentives for additional investment in plantation timber - including sawlog based tree crops.

      Royalty Review
      • bring forward from 2003 a review of timber royalties.

      Mr Court said a taskforce of Ministers from relevant portfolios would be formed to monitor the effects on employment in the South-West region and bring forward recommendations on the development of opportunities and assistance for affected communities.

      “The plan agreed to by Government is intended to build on and accelerate measures already announced as part of the RFA,” Mr Court said.

      “This plan requires major change to logging practices and forest conservation measures in WA - the community, and particularly environmental groups, need to acknowledge that.

      “It has been a tough decision to accelerate the restructuring plan given its impact on a number of communities in the South-West.

      ‘There is no easy solution, however, the Government accepts the need to move more quickly to a greater reliance on plantation timber. We will speed up existing plans that would have seen plantation stocks quadrupled to an estimated 800,000 ha by 2020.

      “These latest measures remain in line with our long term commitment to forest conservation and a sustainable timber industry.”

      Media contact: Casey Cahill 9222 9475

      "There is significant pain associated with these changes. We are talking about communities, we are talking about peoples' jobs."

      "There is no doubt there is a pressure cooker situation and some pressure needs to be released. I believe the key point will be a decision to cease the logging in old growth Karri and Tingle forests at the expiration of current contracts."

      "In no way are we walking away from the RFA and the Federal Government knows that. The RFA is very much the basis on which we are proceeding with forestry management."