Minister unfazed by logging loss claims
The Labor State Government has shrugged off concerns about WA logging operations running at a loss despite a decade-long campaign by Margaret River activists.
Shire of Augusta-Margaret River councillor Peter Lane and local accountant and former councillor Brian Middleton flagged Forest Products Commission revaluing native timber assets to create an on-paper profit in the Times in 2009.
Despite hopes the new Government would take on the criticism as part of a review proposed by the former government — that once included rationalisation of some FPC assets — Forestry Minister Dave Kelly continued the line of the past State government, insisting the FPC’s native forestry books showed a $2.1 million profit.
FPC has been under attack from anti-logging activists concerned woodchipping and harvesting of low-grade native timber was costing more than it returned amid a general failure to plan for a sustainable forestry future. Margaret River-based Liberal MLC Steve Thomas said the FPC’s finances couldn’t be fixed without “a real strategy to deal with severely declining log quality that results from Government policy”.
“It is correct to say that the FPC has struggled financially for many years,” he said.
Cr Lane told the Times the on-paper profit was not his main concern but FPC’s native forest division recording a $46.23 million loss during the past five years after producing 2.57 million tonnes of logs.
“To incur losses of this proportion is neither economically or socially responsible,” Cr Lane said.
He called for “radical changes in forestry management practices” and noted Mr Kelly had talked up sourcing timber from sustainablymanaged forests.
Responding to inquiries, Mr Kelly ruled out any restructure or asset sales at FPC, saying forestry would return a $4.5 million dividend to the Government during the next four years.
He also ignored claims FPC native forestry was making a loss, saying records showed a $2.1 million profit last financial year as part of overall FPC profits of $10.4 million 2016-17.
“The FPC’s financial statements, which include the valuation of biological assets, are independently audited by the Office of the Auditor General and are compliant with the Australian Accounting Standards,” he said.
“My office and Parliamentary secretary have met with community groups and residents, including Mr Lane, to discuss the matters they have raised.”
Dr Thomas pinned the blame on WA’s 2001 Old-Growth Forest Policy.
“I think FPC is a soft target to attack because it has had to manage the decline and seems to take the blame for the whole industry,” he said.
Forests for Life director Jess Beckerling said Labor pledged to protect high-value forest before the election.
“It’s a no-brainer that it is time to stop logging native forests and transition the timber industry,” she said.