Western Australia’s largest hardwood timber operator has denied threatening to shut down its operations unless it received a $25.8 million grant from the State Government. Source: Timberbiz
According to The West Australian newspaper a presentation by Parkside said that “without the grant investment, Parkside Group mills will be forced into closure by December 31, 2021”.
But Parkside chief executive John McNamara told the newspaper that while there was a reference to closing down by the end of 2021 without government support, it was only made in an earlier draft of a presentation shared with the Forest Products Commission.
He said it was included by a Parkside director, hoping it could be a pressure point for the Government, but was not contained in the final document.
“We scrapped that draft and produced a couple of versions after that. The final version submitted to FPC contained no threat of any nature of closing,” he said.
“Parkside was verbally asked if there was any risk we could close and we said certainly not.”
Forestry Minister Dave Kelly told State Parliament last week that the Parkside Group had approached the Government last month – before the native timber decision announcement – for the $25.8 million grant to ensure its business remained viable.
Mr Kelly said while Parkside’s warning was not behind the decision to shut down native logging in the South West, it did demonstrate the industry’s viability.
A statement released by Parkside director Robert Tapiolas said the group understood the need to protect bio-diversity and ecological values of the forests.
He said the Parkside Group was attracted to invest in the Western Australian timber industry due to the world-class sustainable logging practices adopted by the Western Australian Government.
The Brisbane-based Parkside Group entered the WA timber industry in late 2019 purchasing the sawmilling assets from Brickworks.
Since acquiring the business, Parkside has invested $54.4 million to date and employed more than 160 people to re-establish Greenbushes as a specialist Karri sawmill and Nannup as a specialist Jarrah sawmill.
Its Manjimup site has been rebuilt as a specialist processing centre with $12 million invested in the latest technology since January. It will be operational in four weeks’ time.
Mr Tapiolas said that over the past two years, the Parkside Group had been encouraged “by the Premier, Minister and local Mayors to continue development of the business into a world-class milling centre”.
The Parkside Board had subsequently approved additional capital improvements to the WA businesses which would see a total investment of $103.2 million with the requested contribution of $25.8 million from the WA Government.
The outcome would mean 720 full time jobs in WA and an internationally competitive business in southwest WA supporting local communities.
Mr Tapiolas said the announcement regarding the closure of native forest harvesting had come as a complete surprise to Parkside Group and was extremely disappointing.
He said Parkside would continue operating as usual as it waited on further details from the WA Government.