The State Government will provide up to $5 million over the next two financial years to assist in the development of value-adding industry associated with the Pemberton timber mill.
Forest Products Minister Paul Omodei told a ‘Keep the Whistle Blowing’ launch at the mill today that Cabinet had approved the plan and the money on Monday.
The Pemberton mill will have its karri intake cut from 100,000 cubic metres a year to 30,000 from the beginning of 2004.
Mr Omodei said the Government had decided that when the total karri sawlog harvest was reduced to 50,000 cubic metres in 2004, the Pemberton mill would be guaranteed 30,000 cubic metres, which was proportional to the mill’s present cut.
Assistance would be given to re-tool the mill for higher rates of value-adding and to supplement the karri intake with other timbers, possibly bluegum from plantations and marri sawlogs from State forest.
The industry would also be encouraged to construct manufacturing facilities on site to produce flooring and other manufactured products.
Mr Omodei said that if the mill was closed, more than 100 employees would be directly affected and another 50 jobs would be lost in harvesting and transport operations.
A further 150 indirect jobs would probably be lost and the net result would be that about half the families in Pemberton would be affected.
“This Government will not allow such devastation in a community like Pemberton which has a vital long-term role in the development of the South- West,” Mr Omodei said.
In addition to the value-adding operations at the mill, the Government would develop a business incubator for furniture and fine wood crafts people in premises adjacent to the mill now occupied by the Pemberton Sports Club.
The Government would provide up to $700,000 to buy the premises and help the community to consolidate its sport and recreation facilities according to a plan developed by the community in association with the Ministry of Sport and Recreation and the Manjimup Shire Council.
The existing club premises would be turned into a centre of excellence for the development of a high value-added timber-related industries.
The Government was also involved in discussions with Sotico over existing mill houses owned by the company, but built on land owned by the State.
The objective was to make home ownership a reality for many timber workers.
Mr Omodei said that in addition to these proposals which related specifically to the Pemberton mill, the Government was considering a range of possibilities for other timber centres, including Northcliffe and Nannup.
“We are involved in a major restructure of the timber industry which will affect almost every family involved in it in one way or another,” he said.
“The glib and the irresponsible in the community demand that the Government simply shut down the native hardwood timber industry regardless of the consequences.
“There is a better way and that is to restructure the industry so that we achieve more value and more employment from smaller volumes of native hardwood.
“The Government has already guaranteed the preservation of 86 per cent of old growth karri, 70 per cent of old growth jarrah and 100 per cent of old growth and two-tier karri/tingle forest.
“Now our task is to preserve the employment of those with the skills to operate a sustainable timber industry and the communities they live in.
“We have a short time available to achieve these results and I am determined that we will.
“The industry is working closely with Government to facilitate a smooth transition over the next few years.”
Media contact: Hugh Ryan 9213 6700