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Pemberton calls for stimulus help

Tari JeffersManjimup-Bridgetown Times

The Pemberton Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants the Manjimup Shire Council to help lobby the State and Federal governments for a stimulus package to offset anticipated adverse effects from the closure of the Pemberton Sawmill.

Representatives from the chamber attended the council meeting on Thursday.

They presented councillors with a letter outlining the chamber’s course of action and a request for help.

The request follows last month’s announcement the Auswest facilities in Pemberton and Manjimup would close in the first three months of next year.

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The chamber’s proposed Pemberton Assistance Package includes the employment of community and/or economic development specialists.

The proposal also suggests a training package to provide money for reskilling affected Auswest workers and a tourism package to investigate and develop funding for an iconic Pemberton tourism project.

Chamber president Roger Bettoni said final approvals still had to be sanctioned by the chamber at its next meeting in early December.

Mr Bettoni said the impact of Auswest’s closure on Manjimup would be less severe because the town had alternate sources of major employment and had secured a lot of funding in recent years.

“Pemberton is a little bit left behind or left out of the picture,” he said.

“There are going to be impacts and we will attempt to measure those impacts on things like school enrolment numbers.”

Mr Bettoni said businesses that relied on the patronage of Auswest employees could suffer.

Shire president Wade DeCampo acknowledged the Pemberton economy was fragile and that little had been done about stimulating the economy of the town.

“We’re looking at a multi-agency approach to the issue,” he said.

In a statement last month, Cr DeCampo also said the council and South West Development Commission representatives had met with Auswest to determine the level of help required for each affected employee.

“The long-term wellbeing of employees has remained paramount and we’re staying involved to ensure this continues,” he said.

“Traditionally, local government authorities don’t get involved in the operations of commercial enterprise or employment, but the Shire of Manjimup is of the belief that if it affects the community, it affects us, and we need to be there to advocate.”

Mr Bettoni said the chamber would also be lobbying with State and Federal governments and the opposition regarding the proposed stimulus package.

He said the Pemberton Sawmill had been a valuable source of revenue and materials for the past 100 years and deserved to be recognised as such.

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