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KIPT unfairly targeted by Kangaroo Island Mayor on Landline program

The Kangaroo Island fire emerges from Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area four days after it started. Photo credit: Tim Wilson

Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber’s (KIPT) managing director John Sergeant is disappointed that the island’s mayor Michael Pengilly is criticizing the timber industry rather than working with it to create that future. Mr Sergeant was commenting on an item on the ABC’s Landline program at the weekend where Mr Pengilly said that he could find “99% of the island’s population who don’t want forestry here” and repeated his claims that the plantations were to blame for the ferocity of the recent fires. Source: Timberbiz

Mr Pengilly is also a vocal opponent to the KIPT’s planned wharf at Seal Bay.

Early aerial assessments indicate that about 95% of the company’s blue gum and pine trees valued in excess of $100 million and all of the island’s independent plantations have been affected by fire.

Mr Sergeant said that if the wharf had already been built a lot of the timber that burnt would have been already been harvested and would have left the island.

He said that Mr Pengilly was right that there is substantial community opposition to the timber industry.

“Mr Pengilly is not out of touch with the community.

“That won’t change until it’s employing hundreds of people on the island,” Mr Sergeant said. “And you need the wharf for that.

“Timber is far more economically productive per hectare and employees more people per hectare when it’s in production, but we need the port to get it into production.”

He said timber could make an enormous contribution to the island’s recovery by boosting employment and economic activity rapidly by both the salvage harvest and through the wharf construction.

“There isn’t another major capital works project waiting to happen on Kangaroo Island,” Mr Sergeant said.

“It is disappointing that the Mayor is criticizing the timber industry rather than working with us to create that future.

“It’s disappointing that the mayor of a small community would be devoting so much energy criticizing his largest ratepayer.”

Shauna Black, KIPT’s island-based director, said there was a “great deal of misunderstanding about how plantations behave in fires” and that the company exceeded the standards for implementing fire breaks.

She said most criticism levelled at the industry was because the trees were yet to realise their full value, an estimated $50 million a year.

KITP plans to recommission the former Timber Creek Mill, near Parndana, to supply fence posts to the fire-ravaged island.

The company expects to begin work in the coming weeks on an operation to help replace about 3000km of fencing which has been destroyed in the region using salvaged timber.

Shares in the publicly listed KIPT remain voluntarily suspended from trading on the Australian Securities Exchange, as the company decides what can be done with the millions of tonnes of burned timber.