Richard Court

Richard Court


    Coalition forest policy delivers a balance

    27/01/2001 12:15 PM

    The Coalition’s forest policy will protect old growth forests while delivering a sustainable timber industry that will result in higher economic value and more employment in regional and rural Western Australia.

    Releasing the policy today, Premier Richard Court said that only a Coalition Government would provide true conservation, proper forest management, and genuine commitment to families and communities in the South-West.

    “We have struck a balance that takes into account not only the future of our forests, but also the future of families in the South-West,” Mr Court said.

    The policy focuses on:
    • increased protection for old growth forests;
    • responsible forest management, including appropriate fire control measures;
    • increased value-adding in the timber industry; and -
    • a rapid expansion of the plantation timber industry.

    “We have protected our old growth forests, with 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 permanently reserved from harvesting, and with all old growth karri harvesting to cease after 2003,” the Premier said.

    “This is part of a world-class comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) reserve system covering more than

    Mr Court said the Coalition would fulfil its commitment to create a further 12 national parks and two conservation parks totalling 150,000ha as provided for in the Regional Forest Agreement. This would include parks in the Margaret River region (Yelverton, Margaret River and Forest Grove), the Walpole Region (parts of Sharpe, Collis and Trent forest blocks), the Blackwood River National Park, Hawke Block near Pemberton and Milyeannup in the Nannup Region.

    “We understand that forest policy is about balancing community values for native fauna, for native flora and for families and communities,” Mr Court said.

    “The CAR reserve system established by the Government recognises these values and recognises that communities like Nannup, Greenbushes and Collie need protection.

    “The Coalition forest policy recognises the value of real jobs to workers, not hand outs and welfare.”

    Mr Court said the Government would continue to lead the timber industry through a major restructure which would place greater emphasis on plantation timber and encourage high value uses of our unique native hardwoods.

    “The Government is negotiating contract buyouts with industry to reduce total consumption of native timbers, but at the same time we have ensured the continued operation of high employment mills at Greenbushes, Nannup and Pemberton,” he said.

    “We have provided financial assistance to establish a value-adding manufacturer at Greenbushes and negotiations are well advanced to establish additional value-adding facilities at Nannup and Manjimup, securing jobs in those communities.

    “This early response from private enterprise reflects confidence in our responsible and balanced approach to conservation and industry.

    “We have allocated $5 million to ensure that a new value-adding timber related industry is available in Pemberton when mill production is sharply reduced in 2004.”

    The Coalition would:
    • extend the life of the South-West Industry Restructuring Small Grant Scheme which provides assistance to businesses affected by the timber industry restructuring and assistance to affected timber workers to start new businesses; and -
    • provide support through a Worker Assistance program which would provide funding for training towards alternative employment, travel and accommodation assistance associated with job search and interviews and relocation assistance to take up new employment opportunities.

    Mr Court said the policy also takes account of the potentially tragic loss of life and forests that would result from fires as a result of poor forest management.

    “Whole communities can be destroyed by fire, entire forest ecosystems can be laid waste through well-meaning but misguided demands to lock up forests and prevent adequate management,” he said.

    “The recent fires in the United States, where Western Australian forest fire experts provided critical leadership, struck home the tragic losses that can occur in large forest fires.

    “The Coalition has taken the risk of fire destroying forests into account, providing the resources necessary to support fire management in the forests.”

    Between $10 million and $12 million is spent each year on existing fire control measures and the Coalition would provide an additional $1 million to help:
    • provide an additional 20 people in seasonal fire crews committed specifically to fire suppression activities in the South-West;
    • use helicopters to improve the efficiency of prescribed silvicultural and fuel reduction burns; and -
    • significantly extend the use of highly successful aerial water bombers for fire suppression in South-West forests.

    Mr Court said the Coalition would also:
    • ensure that all operations in multiple use forests outside the reserve system were conducted under the principles of ecologically sustainable forest management (ESFM);
    • support increased tourism opportunities in the State’s forests, including the establishment of commercial eco-tourism lodge developments and the construction of a sky-jetty proposal above the forest floor in the Donnelly River Valley;
    • support the development of a range of tree crops such as oil mallees, maritime pines, sandalwood and bluegums to provide landcare and economic options throughout the agricultural areas of the State; and -
    • work closely with the Commonwealth to develop taxation and other incentives for longer rotation plantations to provide sawlog as well as pulpwood products.

    “There is significant scope to get more value out of less timber,” the Premier said.

    “The State’s furniture industry is already worth $450 million a year and its export markets are growing impressively.

    “Under a Coalition Government, the South-West will benefit from the continued expansion and diversification of this valuable industry.

    “Plantation timbers will play an increasing role in the State’s timber supplies and will generate new opportunities for high technology processing.

    “Western Australia has led the nation in the establishment of new plantations for each of the last six years and we expect this level of investment to continue.

    “The Coalition will support the transition of woodchip supply from native forests to plantations which will see woodchip exports increase from 50,000 tonnes in 1999 to 750 000 tonnes by 2002.

    “Plantation and native forest timbers offer great opportunities for the people of WA.

    “Unlike the Labor Party, we will not devastate the timber industry and then set up a Forest Benefactor Foundation to pass round the hat to try to find money to manage the forests.

    “Labor’s absurd plan is a silent admission that they won’t have the funds to manage the forests they want to lock up.

    “WA deserves better than that; it deserves a Government that knows how to conserve forests; how to use forests on an environmentally sustainable basis; how to generate new opportunities for plantation timber; and how to care for families and communities involved in the timber industry.”

    Media reference: Casey Cahill 9222 9475