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Mill closure in WA blamed on the end of native forestry

Parkside Timber’s Greenbushes mill.

Queensland’s Parkside Timber will close its green and dry mill at Greenbushes in Western Australia on Friday with 50 local employees stood down. The WA State Government’s decision to end native forestry by the end of 2023 has been blamed for the closure. Source: Timberbiz

However WA Forestry Minister Dave Kelly would not acknowledge whether his government’s policy was to blame for the mill’s closure.

“Whether it’s a decision directly resulting from our decision to end native logging in 2024, we’re not in a position to say that,” he told the ABC. Forest Industries Federation WA Chief Executive Officer Adele Farina said the news came as a blow to industry and the Greenbushes community, particularly given the State Government’s commitment to “business as usual” for industry until 2024.

Parkside purchased the mill in 2019 and was actively encouraged and praised by the State Government for its significant investment, which now totals more than $75 million.

At the time, Forestry Minister Dave Kelly said Parkside’s investment was seen by the McGowan Government as a step forward in maintaining a strong forestry industry that supports WA jobs, while still protecting the environmental values of our beautiful native forests.

Parkside’s Nannup and Manjimup facilities will continue to operate.

“Our thoughts are with the Parkside management and their employees during this difficult time, and I know the owners and board of Parkside are extremely disappointed with having to make this decision,” Ms Farina said.

“This situation is a direct result of the State Government’s political decision to end native forestry by the end of 2023. Government has been standing on the hose of timber supply and deliberately holding back access to higher yielding coupes, resulting in a significant reduction in log supply to Parkside and other businesses.

“Despite the Premier’s assurances that it would be ‘business as usual’ for industry until that time, the reality has been quite the opposite. Had that commitment been honoured, the town of Greenbushes would not be facing this grim situation and workers would remain employed for at least a further 12-18 months.”

Ms Farina said the online portal allowing impacted workers to access compensation packages was still not open and urged the State Government to take action.

“FIFWA has been in discussions with the State Government to allow workers to access resources through the Native Forestry Transition Group as soon as possible,” she said.

“This all should have been in place by now and immediate support for these people and the local community is essential.”

Shadow Minister for Forestry, Steve Martin, said the closure is a shock to the local Greenbushes community and evidence of the Government’s failure to properly understand the implications of its plan to close the native hardwood industry.

“This closure is a direct result of the decision to end native forestry and the Government is leaving the hard-working families of Greenbushes, who have served the mill for its 128 years, to pay the price,” Mr Martin said.

“Greenbushes offers a window into the future for many small communities across the South West and without serious policy revisions, the future is very uncertain.”

“Labor are destroying a sustainable industry that has supported small communities in Western Australia for well over a century. The Minister should be ashamed of his actions.

“Parkside were encouraged to invest in the sector just two years ago by Minister Kelly. They have now invested more than $75 million in the Greenbushes Mill, not to mention the jobs and economic stimulus it provides communities across the South West.

“Minister Kelly has broken his promise and instead shut the native forestry industry down.

“We are already experiencing the consequences of Labor’s poorly thought-out decision. There are widespread shortages of firewood, timber used for furniture manufacturing and construction materials.

“To meet the demands of the community, timber will now need to be imported from other countries, rather than grown sustainably in Western Australia.

“When the Labor Government announced the shock end of the native hardwood industry, they committed just $50 million towards the ‘Just Transition’ plan,” Mr Martin said.

“With industry advice, this figure is drastically insufficient to ensure the transition is fair. With today’s closure of the Greenbushes Mill, I call on the Minister to remedy the shortcomings of this package in next week’s State Budget.

“The industry has lost confidence in the ability of Minister Kelly. He has a long track record of breaking his promises. Western Australian small businesses deserve more from this government,” said Mr Martin.