According to a poll of 1,000 people by media and analytics group Utting Research, there is overwhelming support for Western Australia’s sustainable forest industry to continue.
This is a sharp slap in the face of the government’s policy to close the 150-year-old industry.
In the first polling since then Premier Mark McGowan announced the logging ban, it has been revealed that a large majority of West Australians (72% support, 17% oppose) wanted local regrowth forests to continue to provide wood for furniture, flooring, decking, heritage and firewood uses.
Forestry Ministers Dave Kelly and Jackie Jarvis have been unable or unwilling to explain this policy decision rationally. Nor have they tried to find a future for the industry from the planned ecological thinning.
The Forest Products Commission has also been silent on the issue.
This lack of a government narrative for forestry sees the approval of the government’s handling of forestry matters at a dismal 18% (55% disapproval, 18% approval).
The polling recognised the importance of providing timber from mining salvage operations to local manufacturing businesses rather than industrial uses (82% approval, 18% disapproval) and a high level of opposition to sourcing timber from tropical forests. (11% approve, 77% disapprove).
The current Minister, Jarvis, has a deaf ear when it comes to listening to the timber industry’s suggestions for a road map.
She has taken no action to develop even a concept for what might happen for the industry under the next forest plan, let alone develop any concrete details.
She has taken no responsibility for providing business continuity, as illustrated when the FPC unilaterally ceased to supply sawlog contracts, which still had five months to run and owing thousands of tonnes of logs.
There is also no desire to maintain the integrity of the native forestry.
High-quality sawlogs are being sold off as firewood, and stockpiles are being created when customers ask for supplies.
Last winter, Perth ran out of firewood!
There is little wonder there is a strong preference for scrapping the current policy to ban sustainable harvesting (52% approve, 21% oppose).
A recent survey in NSW provided similar results, with 67% of those surveyed believing that some harvesting should continue in state forests.
But the problem with these poll results is that the government has never been willing to discuss its forestry policy.
As with the Cultural Heritage Act, it was introduced and implemented in a rush; it wasn’t even mentioned in the 2021 election, yet six months later, it was being implemented.
No discussion, no consultation, just a straight execution.
Since then, there has only been talk of “just transition”.
This was meant to cost around $50 million, but it’s up to $200 million at the latest count.
Any concept of the transition being just is lost when commitments to honour contracts are ignored, and information is not provided.
The industry can only hope that the poll informs the government that timber products from sustainably managed forests are valued and the businesses are respected across the community.
This should cause the minister to start a process of constructive engagement to provide a pathway for the future use of wood from ecological thinning and mine site clearing.
It would be even better if the government scraped its unscientific policy and supported the use of wood, a genuinely renewable resource.