A mass rally led by three of the region’s Mayors will march through the heart of Mount Gambier this week to reinforce the message to the State Government that the South East isn’t giving up on the fight to save its forests. The action has been prompted by the announcement that new South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill will make his first official visit to Mount Gambier on 8 and 9 December.
Members of the community are being urged to meet at Vansittart Park Gardens at noon on Thursday, 8 December. At 12.30pm, the crowd will began its march down Commercial Street to the Cave Garden, where Mount Gambier Mayor Steve Perryman, Wattle Range Mayor Peter Gandolfi and Grant District Council Mayor Richard Sage will speak at 1.15pm about the direct and indirect impacts of the proposed sale.
“In the South East, there is no bigger player than the timber industry – thousands of jobs hinge on it and the ancillary businesses it attracts. In addition, Forestry SA returns a good dividend to Government coffers, and the payroll from this sector makes a significant contribution to the economy of the State. The business case for the sale is flawed, and the Premier needs to re-examine this senseless plan to sell off over 100 years of timber supply,” said Mount Gambier Mayor Steve Perryman. Several prominent local businesses have already indicated that they will shut their doors in order for staff to be able to attend the rally, and others are being encouraged to follow suit.
“We urge the business community to show solidarity and once again highlight our dismay at the decision to forward sell our forests. Some may choose to join the marchers as they proceed down Commercial Street, others may choose to await their arrival at the Cave Garden – it doesn’t matter, as long as people come along and show their support,” said Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce President Lynette Martin.
Widespread support is also expected from other South East towns and participants are asked to wear green clothing or the official Don’t Privatise SA Forests t-shirts. Businesses are again being encouraged to display anti sell-off signs, banners and balloons in windows and on shop floors.
“This is our big chance to appeal to the Premier to have his Cabinet reconsider the privatisation of the State’s forests. We want to see every member of our community turn out in a show of unity and support for the campaign to stop the forward sale,” said Grant District Council Mayor Richard Sage.
“This campaign has been driven by our community for over a year and there is fight in us yet,” added Wattle Range Mayor Peter Gandolfi. “We will not back down until the Government abandons its plans to privatise our forests.”
The SA Government has called for expressions of interest in the forestry estate. According to Treasurer Jack Snelling, the Green Triangle plantation estate is one of the best plantation softwood forests in Australia. He described the EoI move as “the start of the tender process for the sale of forward rotations of 81,000 hectares of plantations”.
International forestry expert Dr Jerry Leach says the Government’s own audited documents show the region’s forests are worth around $1 billion. State Budget papers show the Government expects $650 million from the sale. Figures also show that ForestrySA has swelled the Government coffers by more than $320 million in the past 10 years.