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August 1, 2021

Sale of state forests off the table after bushfires

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Burnt out state forest pine plantations at Rappville in NSW. Photo supplied.

The decision not to sell the NSW State Forests has been welcomed by North East Forest Alliance (NEFA), the Labor Party and the Australian Workers’ Union.

The Liberal National party coalition had proposed the sell-off in August 2019 have now backed away from the move.

The government insisted on a grotesque spending spree, doubling the original cost of its scoping study to $1.3 million, while fires raged through forests and plantations up and down the east coast of New South Wales,’ said NSW Labor Shadow Minister for Natural Resources, Paul Scully.

‘This is great news for Forestry Corporation’s 560 workers, including over 200 in the softwoods division.

‘It’s also great news for the timber-dependent rural and regional communities of Tumut, Tumbarumba, Gandagai, Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Grafton.’

Mr Walton from the the Australian Workers’ Union said the decision was welcome but the NSW government needed to go further and ensure that the sale of state forests would be taken off the table permanently.

‘The NSW government has announced a huge replanting program to replace the forests that were destroyed during the bush fire season. This will create new jobs and opportunities for our forestry workers. They have worked tirelessly over the past few months to protect these forests, and are now united in helping them regrow. We need to ensure that once they have fully recovered the NSW Government does not consider putting them back up for sale.

More resilient plantations needed

However, Dailan Pugh, Spokesperson for NEFA has said that following the fires a ‘fire sale of pine plantations was no longer an economic option.

‘In north-east NSW, north of the Hunter River, the Forestry Corporation has 37,000 hectares of Pine Plantations, 16,000 hectares (43 per cent) of them were burnt. Due to the flammability of pines most of these burnt intensively, rendering them useless for future production. They are now being salvaged logged and sold to China, likely at a loss.

Pine plantations were where the Forestry Corporation made most of their profits and were used to subsidise the largely unprofitable native forestry operations,’ Mr Pugh pints out.

‘Massive replanting is required, which provides an alternative employment opportunity to continued logging of native forests. Though in this heating world maybe they should consider re-establishing them as more resilient eucalypt plantations.

‘The Labor Party really doesn’t understand the decline of the timber industry and expansion of tourism if they are claiming Lismore and Coffs Harbour as timber-dependent communities.’

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