- by Richard Titelius
- The Guardian
- Issue #1979
On the 8th September 2021, in the lead-up to the presentation of the Western Australian State Budget, WA Premier and Treasurer Mark McGowan announced plans to end logging of native forests by mid-2024. As part of the plan, softwood timber plantations would be planted to replace logging previously carried out in native forests and a $50 million transition plan for people who work in forestry in native forests. The announcement was made in the eastern hills of Perth at Chidlow where native forests were logged in the early part of the 20th Century for native timbers. Accompanying the Premier at the announcement were Climate Change Minister Amber Jade Sanderson and Forestry Minister Dave Kelly. Premier McGowan announced there would be a saving of 400,000 hectares of forests from logging; 1,000 Kings Parks that would have been logged will be preserved for future generations.
The Australian Forest Products Association condemned the announcement, with chief executive Ross Hampton claiming it already engaged in “certified environmentally careful forestry in WA.” Others in the forest protection campaign said this sentiment merely echoed an outdated belief in an entitlement to continue logging as had always done since the mid-19th Century. Another spokesperson for the forestry industries, Melisa Haslam slammed the ban on logging in native forests as “a rushed and bizarre decision which came without any consultation,” despite the government having a survey open to the entire WA community for several months.
WA Forests Alliance Community organiser Paddy Cullen said he welcomed the WA government’s announcement, but the people of WA would need to hold the government to its plans. Cullen’s remarks pointed to a similar announcement by an Australian Labor Party government twenty years ago when then-Premier Dr Geoff Gallop announced an end to logging in old-growth forests in March 2001. That announcement to end logging in old-growth forests was the culmination of a campaign that began in earnest in the mid-1990s and included semi-permanent camps of forest activists in those areas to protect specific forest coups from logging for months at a time. However, once Gallop made the announcement in March of 2001, it was not long before the pressure from logging interests came. What followed was a muddying of the definitions about what constituted old-growth, and thus regrowth logging of native forests slowly took off again.
This time, said Cullen, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Cullen added it was the nearly 17,000 people who responded to the governments forestry survey that helped push the McGowan government towards the native forestry logging ban. The overwhelming number of submissions were in favour of stopping further logging in native forests.
However, it is not yet a total ban on logging as the new regime or agreement from 2024 allows timber to be taken from native forests for forest management activities that improve forest health. Still taking place is tree thinning and clearing for approved mining operations, such as the large-scale forest stripping for approved mining operations, including bauxite mining by Alcoa near Pinjarra and the Boddington Gold Mine nearby.
FORESTRY V TOURISM JOBS
Though the move to ban logging in native forests will mean the loss of up to 400 timber industry jobs, the decision will ensure the maintenance of sustainable jobs in the tourism sector and those in the public sector and non-government organisations dedicated to the ongoing maintenance and care of forests and woodland. A Native Forestry Transition Group will be established, to assist in the development and implementation of the plan, and will be comprised of local industry, trade union, and government stakeholders. With the growing awareness of the increasing effects of climate change, preserving native forests and creating additional softwood forests for industrial use is an important step towards sustainability. One long term benefit of this is to help maintain rainfall patterns that can be significantly affected by the degradation of forests. The impacts of the large-scale removal of forests can be seen in Brazil and Peru with the dryness being observed within the Amazon rainforest. Cullen also added, “The decision to ban logging in native forests was also a win for the Noongar Aboriginal people of the south-west who have long sought forest preserved as it was bound to their culture and world view.”
The Communist Party of Australia supports the decision to ban logging in the native forests of the south-west of WA and hopes that the Just Transition Plan for workers affected by the decision will create sustainable and well-paying jobs and that communities which depend on the forests will continue to survive and prosper from them as well as the benefits to ecosystems and the planet itself to be realised by preserving the environment.