Disenchanted with broken promises – and betrayals – the forestry industry has called out the WA government for failing on commitments to the sector, including supplying businesses with the timber they have been contracted to receive.
Former Premier McGowan promised that current contracts would be honoured until end-of-2023.
As exclusively reported by Wood Central last month, the former premier – a long-term supporter of hazard reduction burning – was cornered by the left-aligned ministers to accelerate the closure of native forests.
The Australia Labor Party (ALP) is aligned with the Australian Federal Government and State and Territorial Government in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT is deeply divided nationally on native forests.
Last week, Wood Central reported a push by the influential Labor Environmental Action Network (LEAN) to exit native forests supported by more than 300 local branches.
The industrial strategy, which aims to recover native forests, will be taken to the ALP’s national conference next month.
Forest Industries Federation WA (FIFWA) CEO Adele Farina has called for an urgent meeting with Forestry Minister Jackie Jarvis to discuss the matter.
However, the minister’s office has fobbed this off and will not provide a timeframe for its response.
“We have been told that the Forest Products Commission (FPC) is prioritising harvesting firewood over sawlog for the remainder of 2023, leaving businesses expecting their contracted sawlogs high and dry,” Ms Farina said.
“This is contrary to the government’s commitment to the industry and supply commitments made by the FPC earlier this year,” she said.
“It is extremely disappointing, particularly for businesses that have made decisions based on continuing operations until the end of 2023.”
This was another broken promise from the government since the decision to end native forestry in 2024.
Ms Farina said this was a breach of trust and contract, reflecting poorly on the FPC and government.
Businesses accepted the government’s modest payments, which fell well short of the pre-decision market value of the companies, on the understanding that current contracts would be honoured until the end of 2023, allowing them to transition to the new Forest Management Plan (FMP), if they wished to do so.
“The decision by the FPC to no longer focus on sawlog production will starve our members of resources and make it impossible for sawmills to transition under the new FMP, forcing them to close before the end of 2023,” Ms Farina said.
“This means those sawmills will not be there to facilitate the government’s ecological thinning program and process timber from mine site clearing.”
“They will no longer be able to supply local furniture manufacturers with sawn timber as promised.”
Ms Farina denied that the redirection from sawlog to firewood was due to reduced contractor capacity; contractors wanting to continue operating were willing to employ skilled workers from exiting contracting businesses to maintain capacity.
The redirection was an effort by the government to stockpile firewood to avoid supply issues and public backlash next winter ahead of the state election.
“This would likely drive the price of firewood up even further due to double handling at a time when families are already struggling with cost-of-living pressures,” Ms Farina said.
“We call on the government to honour its commitment to meet current contractual commitments through to the end of 2023.”