'Through enough turmoil': Revised compensation package for WA forestry businesses

INDUSTRY: WA forestry contributes $1.4 billion to the WA economy annually and supports about 6000 jobs. Picture: File Image.
INDUSTRY: WA forestry contributes $1.4 billion to the WA economy annually and supports about 6000 jobs. Picture: File Image.

AFTER months of intense negotiations the state government has made a revised offer to businesses impacted by its decision to end native forestry by the end of 2023.

While the Forest Industries Federation of WA (FIFWA) says the compensation now being offered by the government is much better than what was originally on the cards, it continued to oppose the decision to stop sustainable native forestry.

The state government says it will provide financial compensation to the tune of $26.9 million to native timber sawmills and harvesters.

The package includes a payment that businesses can use at their discretion to diversify or to exit the industry.

Sawmills and harvesters can also claim another $225,000 for redundancies, site clean-up and equipment reimbursement.

Firewood will continue to be made available after 2024 through forest management activities that improve forest health and clearing for approved mining.

Firewood processors will be eligible to claim up to $50,000 if they do not win a future contract and exit the industry.

For second tier businesses who do not have contracts with the Forest Products Commission, there will be further opportunities for support within the industry and community development programs of the transition, which will be released in the coming months, the state government has promised.

FIFWA argues that native forestry provides much needed employment in regional WA and injects millions of dollars into local communities in the South West.

PROTEST: Nannas for Native Forests, a group of women from the Margaret River and Busselton area, at a blockade in Nannup last year. Picture: Mike Wylie.

PROTEST: Nannas for Native Forests, a group of women from the Margaret River and Busselton area, at a blockade in Nannup last year. Picture: Mike Wylie.

Chief executive Adele Farina said while the revised offer did not extend as far as FIFWA and its members would have liked, it delivered much needed and improved financial support to timber businesses directly impacted by the government's decision.

"In my personal opinion, businesses were entitled to more compensation and I am deeply saddened to see the end of a sustainably managed industry," Ms Farina said.

"An industry which enabled the state to meet strong consumer demand for local timber and delivered a better environmental outcome than importing timber from unsustainably managed forests overseas."

Ms Farina said she hoped there would be no delays with the rollout of the Business Transition Program as impacted businesses "had been put through enough turmoil" to date.

She said those that are required to or chose to remain in the industry to the end of their current contracts, the next 18 months would be a difficult and testing time.

The state government previously established the $50 million Just Transition Fund in 2021 to help workers, businesses and communities adjust following the historic decision to protect WA native forests.

Separate programs to support communities and attract new industries to the South West are currently in development.

Forestry Minister Dave Kelly said the state government had "listened closely to the concerns of industry and the South West community and had significantly increased the support available".

"The program will provide support to businesses who choose to exit the industry and to those who plan to diversify their operations," Mr Kelly said.

WA's forestry industry contributes $1.4 billion to the WA economy annually and supports about 6000 jobs, the majority in regional communities.