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Friday analysis: Closing native forestry – the net gain for Australia is nil


Do any of these possibly well-meaning anti-forestry folk really think through the ramifications of their usually hair-brained destructive schemes when they come up with them?

It seems not.

Let’s look at the three latest examples; the Greens and anti-forestry led closure of the native timber industry in Victoria, the as-yet unexplained closure of the native timber industry in Western Australia, and the New South Wales Labor Opposition’s pledge to go ahead with the Great Koala Park if elected to government in March.

We’ll start in Victoria. The past week saw the last ream of Reflex white paper’s been produced at the Maryvale Paper Mill, near Traralgon in eastern Victoria, creating uncertainty for more than 90 workers in the production room.

Opal Australian Paper’s closure of the production of white paper means Australia will need to rely on imports, potentially sending paper prices skyrocketing.

Opal Australian Paper has struggled to source the native timber needed to produce white paper because of regulations placed on logging after multiple long court battles with the “well-meaning” anti-forestry folk.

The subsequent court rulings have left VicForests unable to meet some contracts and the Maryvale mill emptied its stockpile in the time spent seeking a solution.

The mill is the biggest private employer in the Latrobe Valley.

Now let’s head west.

The tiny town of Nannup is the latest to feel the brunt of the Western Australian government’s decision to end native logging with the town’s timber mill closing.

Forty-five people lost their jobs when Parkside Timber closed the doors late last week.

The closure comes less than a year after the Queensland-based company shut its mill in Greenbushes following the WA government’s decision to ban native timber logging by 2024.

Forest Industries Federation president Ian Telfer told the ABC the impact on timber towns in the South West would be ongoing.

It comes as Alcoa waits for environmental approval to clear more than 9000 hectares of jarrah forest in WA so it can mine the area.

Forestry Australia has previously stated that it is puzzled by the fact that the sustainable harvesting of native forest products is ceasing, while broad scale clearing of thousands of hectares of jarrah forest for mining is allowed to continue, and even to expand.

The result in both cases – Victoria and WA – is that two small rural towns will be gutted and face the prospect of becoming ghost towns.

And thirdly, the Great Koala Park scheme. Labor has promised it will spend $80 million establishing the sanctuary, comprising existing national parks and state forests between Kempsey and Grafton.

Again, we see the end of the native timber industry – this time by default, or stealth – in the name of saving the koala.

A recent NSW Government study of koala populations in NSW’s north-east forests using advanced koala detection technology found that timber harvesting has no impact on koala numbers.

It’s worth repeating that: It found that timber harvesting has no impact on koala numbers.

So, if Labor gets in and we get the Park, thousands of hardwood timber industry workers in NSW will be concerned about their future.

Anyone building a house or renovating should also be concerned about what this will mean for the cost and availability of timber, as well as other essential timber products sourced from state forests including firewood.

It would mean the closure of NSW’s hardwood timber industry and increase our reliance on timber imported from countries at high risk of deforestation and illegal logging.

Sadly, two major themes seem to be at the forefront of each of these cases.

In each case, jobs will be lost, and Australia’s reliance on imported timber from at times dubious sources will increase.

Net gain to Australia; Nil!