Reece Whitby Drives Stake Through Heart of WA Forestry!

Government vendetta against a sustainable industry

Mon 26 Feb 24


The mask has finally been lifted, and the truth is exposed. And it’s nothing to do with science … and it isn’t a question of sustainability.

The Western Australian government is ideologically and politically opposed to native forestry.

In a brutal assault on science, Environment Minister Reece Whitby has announced that not only is the government stopping sustainable native forestry, it wants to stop it forever.

The possibility of a return to commercial timber harvesting will not be permitted even if the science clearly shows it is sustainable. Whitby wants to remove it from the Conservation and Land Management Act, totally.

Premiers, forestry and environment ministers have all claimed that their decision to stop commercial harvesting was based on the science … because it wasn’t sustainable, because the trees were no longer growing because 400-yar-old trees were being cut down, and because it was bad for climate change.

The only problem with these ‘facts’ is that they couldn’t develop any science that demonstrated it to be true. WA Forestry has been certified by international environmental auditors and given a big green tick. Freedom of Information inquiries demonstrated that not a skerrick of forest science arrived at ministerial offices before the government’s decision. Contrary to the real science, the government has bulldozed through.

Finally, Whitby conceded to parliament that he would not table any reports because the decision was based on “common knowledge”. Not science. Just some alternative facts.

Bauxite mining in WA’s Northern Jarrah Forests has been one of the biggest threats to the area’s biodiversity and ecological health since Alcoa was first allowed to mine these forests in the 1960s, according to @waforestalliance.

The Forest Management Plan was recently gazetted and will be in force until 2033, which confirms the government policy position – commercial harvesting is finished. Timber can only be produced from salvage operations in mine sites and ecological thinning.

The demolition of the timber industry isn’t enough for Whitby. The decision has seen a $240 million industry employing around 800 people decimated. This will last ten years and more.

It isn’t enough for Whitby to allow the science to determine whether the timber industry can recommence. He needs to drive a stake through the heart of forestry to ensure that it never returns. He is now proposing to no longer allow state forests to be used for sustainable timber production – no matter what the science says.

The only plausible reason for the WA government to amend the Act is that it has done a deal with green politics. It has nothing to do with science, just straight politics.

The mistruths about forestry have been avidly promoted through the green media. They repeated the green line that logging had to stop because there were fewer than 1000 numbats left in the world, and logging would cause their demise.

Now that logging has been banned, it is suddenly revealed (ABC, Feb 2024) that in just one region where numbats exist, there are around 2000 numbats. How very convenient for this information to be revealed now.

The WA government’s green credentials are, in fact, shameful; it has presided over a threefold increase in the number of mining tenements on forest and conservation lands since coming to power. (SMH, Peter de Kruijff, July 25, 2022).

While it is clear there is no requirement for mining activities to demonstrate sustainability, they are not even able to ensure that their rehabilitation achieves basic biodiversity benchmarks. Compared to forestry, mining is in the dark ages. Yet mining leases are across the forest.

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Minister Whitby is joining Forestry Minister Jarvis in the government’s attack on forestry. The minister’s forestry agency, the Forest Products Commission, has refused to supply sawlogs to mills even though it has built up vast log stockpiles and hasn’t supplied contracted quantities. This action appears callous and spiteful.

The government has decided to sacrifice the sustainable timber industry to ‘appear green’ to facilitate an expansion of mining and the ‘flattening’ of forests.

Whitby, hear this: There is no need to remove sustainable forestry from the CALM Act. If it isn’t sustainable, science will rule it out. But if it is, it should continue as it has done for the past 150 years.

If your rules governed other industries, WA would be closed for business.


  • Gavin Butcher

    Gavin Butcher is a former director at the WA Forest Products Commission. With a career in plantation and native forest management spanning more than 25 years, he is a specialist in the strategic, analytical and financial fields of forestry management. Mr Butcher holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and has lectured at Edith Cowan University.


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