South West leaders and key forestry industry stakeholders this week met for the final time this year to discuss the progress of the transition plan for workers affected by the State Government’s contentious decision to ban native logging. The State Government-led Native Forestry Transition Group — a taskforce of local industry, union and government stakeholders helping develop the transition plan — came together on Tuesday for its third and final meeting of 2021 to continue working on the move away from native logging. It comes three months after the Government announced a shock decision to end native forest logging by 2024, promising to protect an additional 400,000ha of karri, jarrah and wandoo forests through the Forest Management Plan. WA’s native forest industry employs hundreds of workers in the South West and generates more than $220 million a year. The controversial decision has been met with strong backlash from industry saying it was blindsided by a lack of consultation, and timber workers and industry leaders again protested the decision at the second NFTG meeting last month. Forestry Minister Dave Kelly said Tuesday’s meeting focused on developing business and worker support packs for the transition and the long-term impacts for communities. He said they hoped to have the support packs finalised by early January, but were waiting for industry information to know the exact number of businesses and workers that would need assistance through the transition process. Mr Kelly said once it was clear what resource would be available post-2024, the Government would engage with industry to find its best possible use. “It’s likely to be manufactured-wood products,” he said. He said the next step of finding how much of the resource would be made available to industry would be finalised when the next Forest Management Plan was completed halfway through next year. Mr Kelly said he was impressed by the level of engagement by government agencies, businesses and local governments amid an uneasy period for some community members. “People can see things are moving and there are other opportunities,” he said. “While any change does cause some anxiety and some businesses will need to change, I do think that now that people can see there is work going on and there are other opportunities. “Now that people are sitting around the table working on a plan that does assist in reducing that (anxiety).” Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie said she had received mixed feedback from the community in regards to the transition plan. “Some people are still concerned, which is why it’s so important that we have this group together and meet regularly, while others have . . . applauded the decision to stop the commercial-scale native forest logging,” she said. Ms Kelsbie said the biggest step to ensuring the sustainability of businesses in her community was to continue to have local stakeholders, including shire councils and chambers of commerce, representing the communities to help them come up with solutions on how to transition.