Bid to oust forestry ‘priority’

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Shire councillors have lost a bid to remove references to native forestry from a new industry prospectus developed for the South West.

The South West WA Local Government Zone Group declined a request for forestry to be deleted from a new prospectus which outlines electoral priorities ahead of next year’s State election.

At the August 26 Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council meeting, elected members voted 5-2 in favour of the request to delete logging references.

Crs Brian Daniel and Kylie Kennaugh opposed the motion.

While the request went to last Friday’s Western Australian Local Government Association zone meeting, Shire chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said other local government delegates did not support the removal.

The request was lodged by Cr Julia Meldrum and backed by deputy Shire president Pauline McLeod.

The August meeting heard concerns about promotion of the forestry industry in the shire when residents and past councils had come out strongly against WA’s logging regime. Councillors debated the merits of South West forestry while also eyeing a decision, passed on Wednesday night, to back the WA Forest Alliance’s latest anti-logging campaign.

“West Australians love the South West forests,” Cr Meldrum told last month’s meeting.

“Native logging is a thing of the past.”

Cr McLeod said she believed most residents did not support unsustainable WA forestry practices.

“They want to see it phased out,” she said.

“That’s what the majority of our community want.

“It’s deeply embedded in our psyche that we want the forests to remain.” Cr Daniel said changing the prospectus struck him as “a knee-jerk reaction”. He said the timber industry needed support to provide timber products and also to improve sustainability.

Cr Kennaugh also said the industry needed support. “We’re not allowing this conversation (about improvement) to happen because we’re ruling everything out,” she said.

“There are a lot of industries out there that can do things sustainably,” she said.

The prospectus includes “timber industry development” alongside regional livability, support for aviation and the Busselton-Margaret River Airport, regional roads, an advanced manufacturing hub, and Bunbury’s port expansion among its electoral priorities for what the group believes are the issues of “utmost strategic importance to the South West region and key to social and economic prosperity”.

Despite years of campaigning that the Forest Products Commission was operating at a loss, the zone document identified “timber industry ... jobs and value creation is a key strategic focus for the South West region”.

The prospectus arrives as anti-logging campaigners continue protests about the low-value uses of native timber and perceived threats to old-growth forests.

South West zone presiding member and Shire of Donnybrook president Brian Piesse did not respond to inquiries.

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