Shadow forestry minister slams State Government forestry sector job announcement as “inadequate”

Melissa PedeltyManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Shadow forestry minister Steve Martin.
Camera IconShadow forestry minister Steve Martin. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

The State Government’s $36million pledge to create 50 new jobs in the WA’s forestry industry has been slammed by the shadow forestry minister as “inadequate” and a “Band-Aid solution” to issues now being faced by the sector.

The funding, announced in the 2023-24 State Budget, would create 50 full-time positions and additional operational funds which would help implement the Forest Management Plan 2024-33, the full details of which have yet to be finalised.

This cash promise comes just a week after revelations 20 jobs would be lost at Albany’s Redmond Sawmill when it closes in June, and after more than 100 people have already lost their jobs in the sector across the South West since the State’s contentious decision to end native logging by 2024.

Environment and Climate Action Minister Reece Whitby believes the majority of West Australians support the protection of native forests, and this new funding would help improve forest resilience.

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However, Shadow forestry minister Steve Martin believes the Government does not care about South West people facing redundancy or the forced closure of their businesses.

“This Government doesn’t care about regional private business and jobs,” he said.

“Today’s announcement by Reece Whitby and Jackie Jarvis contains no detail about what the jobs will be or when they might begin,” he said.

“True to form with this Government, everyone’s kept waiting.”

Mr Martin said while logging contractors and small businesses were being forced out of operations, he believes Labor was claiming it would create jobs where no work existed, and raised concerns the Government was not being transparent about what these jobs would entail.

“Businesses and workers within industry are already starting to wind down, because they can’t wait for Labor’s Band-Aid solutions to kick in after log supply slows and industry stops,” Mr Martin asked.

“Where will the Government find the people who can or want to do these jobs? Why would locals with the skills and knowledge to perform these unknown jobs stick around to wait and see what Labor’s Forest Management Plan includes?”

The final Forest Management Plan 2024-33 will be released later this year and will take effect from January 2024.

Mr Whitby said the investment highlighted the State’s commitment to acting on climate change and preserving WA’s forests for future generations.

“Western Australians overwhelmingly support the protection of our native forests,” he said.

“This funding will provide jobs and resources for management activities that improve forest resilience.”

Timber will still be taken from WA’s native forests for management activities designed to improve forest health and clearing for approved mining operations or infrastructure maintenance, however, the end to commercial logging is said to mitigate against climate change and protect biodiversity.

“We must act now to conserve the precious biodiversity of the South West forests over the next decade,” Mr Whitby said.

“The impact of climate change on our forests can’t be ignored.”

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