Leading forestry organisation hits out at Forestry Minister over comments made in Parliament

Melissa PedeltyManjimup-Bridgetown Times
FIFWA CEO Adele Farina.
Camera IconFIFWA CEO Adele Farina. Credit: Supplied/RegionalHUB

A leading voice within the forestry industry has hit out at WA’s Forestry Minister over comments made in Parliament last week about the industry and associated businesses, slamming them as “offensive” and “factually incorrect”.

But the minister has clapped back, saying the industry is “unsustainable” and the Government were actively engaging to support the transition of workers and businesses.

On February 16 during a parliamentary debate in the Legislative Council, shadow forestry minister Steve Martin called on WA Forestry Minister Jackie Jarvis to advise the council of the details of her “plans to fix the issues the State Government has inflicted” on the timber industry following it’s decision to ban native logging.

Ms Jarvis hit back at Mr Martin’s suggestion the decision was “unscientific,” claiming the reports he was basing his comments on were “out-dated”.

“This is despite the numerous reports and studies tabled, including reports from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology,” she said.

“I note that climate change sceptics have a long history of picking and choosing the science they want to quote from.”

Speaking to the Manjimup-Bridgetown Times, Ms Jarvis said she stood by her position and the State Government’s $80 million Native Forestry Transition Plan was in place to support those impacted.

“I want to know whether members opposite really believe in taking up to one million tonnes of timber every year from Western Australian native forests,” she said.

“We are not banning hardwood logging — blue gum is a hardwood... We are banning the logging of up to one million tonnes of timber every single year. Jarrah trees and karri trees take between 250 and 400 years to reach maturity.”

Ms Jarvis then continued on to say the majority of WA’s sawmill-quality logs were exported to the east coast from Parkside’s Nannup, Greenbushes and Manjimup mills or to China by Busselton-based Whiteland Milling, rather than staying in WA.

“The Barnett government signed a 10-year forest management plan in 2013 allowing for the harvest of 787 cubic metres per annum, which equates to around one million tonnes of timber fibre,” she said.

“Where does the one million tonnes go?

“We are exporting value-adding jobs with our timber.

“A tiny proportion of the one million tonnes available to be harvested went to WA manufacturers.”

She also said karri trees not deemed to be sawmill quality were sold to a Japanese company and exported as woodchips.

“That is what we were doing,” Ms Jarvis said. “We were allowed to harvest up to one million tonnes a year to export and to export jobs.”

Forest Industries Federation WA chief executive officer Adele Farina called Ms Jarvis’ comments wrong, misleading and hypocritical for a former Forest Products Commission board member who presided during the current Forest Management Plan.

“The Minister’s comments were ill-informed and ignorant of the facts,” she said.

“For a local South West member and Minister to speak in such a way of her constituents and an industry which she represents, is appalling.”

During the debate, Ms Jarvis referred to a list of documents tabled in Parliament as providing evidence that native forestry was not sustainable.

“The documents acknowledge a drying climate, but they do not conclude that native forestry is unsustainable, nor do they make a definitive statement about the growth rates of jarrah forests over the next 50 years,” Ms Farina said.

“The Minister conveniently ignored the fact that the sustainable yield modelling undertaken by the expert panel of scientists for the current FMP assumed zero growth rate of two-tiered jarrah forests beyond 2023, and still managed to deliver sustainable yields for the next 70 years.”

Ms Farina said Ms Jarvis’ criticism of timber businesses Parkside and Whiteland Milling was deplorable.

“Ministers and Members of Parliament should not use Parliamentary Privilege to publicly criticise WA businesses, in particular businesses with whom they have contracted, as these businesses were not in Parliament and therefore unable to defend themselves during the debate.

Ms Farina said she urged Ms Jarvis to stop making promises when it came to timber being available to local businesses and reflect on her comments which displayed a lack of compassion or understanding towards the workers, businesses and communities that have been impacted by the State Government’s decision.

“These businesses have waited long enough; the Minister needs to back her assurances with contracts,” she said.

“Businesses shouldn’t be required to endure another 10 months, or longer, of uncertainty.

“The Minister’s words compounded the hurt already inflicted on impacted workers, business owners and their families,” she said.

“They deserve better.”

Ms Jarvis said the modelling quoted by FIFWA was dated and undertaken under different settings than today, resulting in her to believe the industry was unsustainable.

“The modelling quoted by FIFWA for the current Forestry Management Plan was undertaken in 2012 under different settings than we have today and allows for logging of up to one million tonnes of logs per annum from our native forests,” she said.

“This is not sustainable.”

Ms Jarvis said the State Government would support the industry and affected businesses through the NFTP.

“Representatives from the Native Forestry Transition Team are working closely with the South West-based sawmills and harvest and haulage businesses,” she said.

“They have also met with affected workers and will continue to offer support into the future.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails