FPC stoush gets personal

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Peter Lane
Camera IconPeter Lane

Former Shire of Augusta-Margaret River councillor Peter Lane’s decade-long battle over the Forest Products Commission has turned personal, with claims WA Forestry Minister Dave Kelly has refused all further discussion.

A career geologist and water expert whose science was crucial to the fight against coal mining in the region earlier this decade, Mr Lane’s campaign to show FPC accounting processes obscured how State Government logging was not financially viable has been a regular feature in Times reports.

Successive Labor and Liberal-National State Governments put the complaints in the too-hard basket while continuing to talk up the benefits of FPC harvesting State forests.

A revaluation of timber assets more than 10 years ago functioned to make FPC profits look greater than they were, Mr Lane said.

He believes FPC runs at a loss to taxpayers.

But the impasse was worsened by a letter last year from Mr Kelly’s chief of staff, Naomi Arrowsmith, telling him the matter was closed.

“I note that you have received a reply from the Minister on a number of occasions,” Ms Arrowsmith wrote. “Please be advised that there is no further information or clarification that the Minister can provide to you in regards to your most recent correspondence, and the matter has now been closed.”

Responding to inquiries, Mr Kelly’s office told the Times it wasn’t true he had told Mr Lane to stop writing to him.

“The minister welcomes community members to write in with any issues they may want to raise,” a spokesman for Mr Kelly said.

“There has been no direction that Mr Lane is unable to send correspondence to this office.

“The minister has considered the concerns raised by Mr Lane and provided clarification on the matters raised.”

The minister did not outline any perceived errors in Mr Lane’s financial analysis – compiled with the help of veteran Margaret River accountant and ex-councillor Brian Middleton – or what action resulted from that feedback.

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