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Friday analysis: NSW election holds the future of hardwood not koalas

New South Wales goes to the polls tomorrow and it has been a relatively quiet affair.

Even the Sydney Morning Herald commented earlier this month that people could be forgiven for not even realising there’s an election on March 25.

Cost of living is of course, at the front of everyone’s mind with inflation at the highest level in three decades, and after nine successive interest rate rises.

Housing affordability, shortages of teachers and healthcare staff are a key concern as is transport and infrastructure. Gambling reform policies could prove crucial.

Western Sydney seems to be where the election is being focused.

While the environment gets a mention, forestry barely gets a nod.

NSW Labor has announced that it will establish a Great Koala National Park if elected. The Government says it will be business as usual for the timber industry.

However, the consensus is that Labor is likely to form government, even if only a minority one on the support of the Greens.

And there lies the problem. We have seen – particularly in Victoria – what happens to the timber industry when the government of the day is in some way beholden to the Greens.

And it has been suggested that if the Greens hold the balance of power in NSW, the same will happen in Queensland which goes to the polls in 2024.

The timber industry is vital to NSW. It is an industry neither party can afford to ignore.

Research commissioned by the Commonwealth-funded North East NSW and South East NSW Regional Forestry Hubs, shows that the NSW hardwood timber industry is critically important to the State’s rural and regional economy, contributing $2.9 billion in revenue, adding $1.1billion to NSW GDP and employing almost 9000 people.

In the North East of the State alone the hardwood timber industry contributes $1.8 billion in revenue each year, adding $700 million to NSW GDP and employing 5700 people. The report points out that amid rising demand for nation-building timber supplies, the region provides two thirds of NSW’s hardwood timber.

Australian Forest Products Association NSW CEO Victor Violante said the park would result in the closure of the hardwood timber industry on the NSW Mid North Coast.

“The 2023 NSW election is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the next State Government to stand up for regional jobs, to grow domestic manufacturing jobs and secure our future housing timber supply by backing our sustainable, renewable forest industries,” Mr Violante said.

The SMH believes if the ALP can snatch five or six seats from the Coalition it may be enough for it to form government with the support of the Greens and independents.

Timber NSW CEO says the Great Koala National Park is unnecessary and unworkable, both environmentally and economically.

“Extensive scientific research shows that koala populations in North East NSW State Forests are stable and are not being impacted by timber harvesting,” Ms McCaskill said.

“One job loss in a rural area has the impact of 100 job losses in the cities, impacting schools, local services and small businesses. We must safeguard local timber supplies and keep these jobs and skills in NSW.”

And the slow strangulation of the native timber industry in NSW would result in the loss on hundreds, possibly thousands, of jobs in rural areas.

There is much riding on the result of this election.