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WA agrees to a $26.9M transition program for native foresters

Adele Farina

The West Australian Government has reached agreement with the Forest Industries Federation WA on a $26.9 million Business Transition Program. The Business Transition Program will provide financial support to native timber sawmills and harvesters before native forest logging ends in 2023. Source: Timberbiz

FIFWA Chief Executive Officer Adele Farina said while the revised offer did not extend as far as FIFWA and its members would have liked, it delivered much needed and improved financial support to timber businesses directly impacted by the Government’s decision.

“After a lengthy negotiation process, the Government’s revised Business Program is a welcomed improvement on the original,” Ms Farina said.

The package includes an Industry Restructure Payment, which will be based on contract volumes. Businesses can use this payment at their discretion to support activities such as diversification or to exit the industry.

Sawmills and harvesters will also be eligible to receive further support of up to $225,000 for redundancy payments, site clean-up and equipment reimbursement.

Firewood will continue to be made available after 2024 through forest management activities that improve forest health and clearing for approved mining operations.

Under the Business Transition Program, firewood processors will be eligible for funding support of $50,000 if they do not win a future contract and exit the industry.

For second tier businesses who do not have a direct contractual relationship with the Forest Products Commission, there will be further opportunities for support within the industry and community development programs of the transition, which will be released in the coming months.

Agreement was reached with the Australian Workers Union on financial support programs for native forestry workers in February.

Separate programs to support communities and attract new industries to the South-West are currently in development.

The McGowan Government is also investing $350 million over the 10 years to support the softwood pine plantation industry.

“In my personal opinion, businesses were entitled to more compensation, and I am deeply saddened to see the end of a sustainably managed industry,” Ms Farina said.

“An industry which enabled the State to meet strong consumer demand for local timber and delivered a better environmental outcome than importing timber from unsustainably managed forests overseas.”

Ms Farina said she hoped there would be no delays with the rollout of the Business Transition Program as impacted businesses had been put through enough turmoil to date and for those that are required to or chose to remain in the industry to the end of their current contracts, the next 18months will be a difficult and testing time.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to timely delivery of the funding programs and to continuing to work with the Government through the Just Transition process,” Ms Farina said.

WA’s forestry industry contributes $1.4 billion to the WA economy annually and supports about 6000 jobs, with more than 90% of those jobs located in regional communities.’’