Min­is­ter un­fazed by log­ging loss claims

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

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.

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