Ourimbah, Wyong and Strickland State Forest at Somersby are among the state forests that the State Government has targeted for sale, says the Australian Workers Union (AWU), which has launched a campaign to highlight the issue.
The NSW government is assessing options for the future of the Forestry Corporation’s softwood operations, and Terrigal MP, Adam Crouch, says that no decision will be made before the outcomes of this process are known and the interests of all relevant stakeholders are carefully considered.
Labor NSW is opposed to the privatisation, saying that even though it will be an initial cash injection, over the longer term, it will be another income stream that the State will lose.
Wyong MP, David Harris, says it will take about six months for the government to finish its study into whether it is viable to sell or lease the forestry estate for softwood timber collection.
“If it goes into private hands, we are concerned that fire risk, weed and pest control won’t be managed properly,” he said.
Harris also said that there was a chance that the forest road network might become a local government responsibility and they might not have the resources to maintain it properly.
Harris said Ourimbah, Wyong and Strickland forests were mainly hardwood forests with limited softwood, but if this privatisation went ahead, it could pave the way for private industry to move in on the hardwood forests too.
“It’s very early days,” Harris said, “they are just putting it out to the market to see if there’s any interest.”
The AWU, whose members work in State forests across NSW, will organise town hall meetings across regions to keep communities informed to organise against the possible sales.
“There are no positives in this,’’ Assistant Branch Secretary, NSW, Paul Noack, said.
“There’s never been an incidence of privatisation resulting in more jobs.
“State Forests bring in $100M a year to the State Government coffers, so we’re very productive.”
He said the industry directly and indirectly created up to 22,000 jobs and the AWU believed more money should be invested.
“We would like to see fire trails upgraded, more pest control to protect our koalas and we should be planting more trees,’’ he said.
“The sale of our forests will result in limited access for the general public, decreased protection of our cultural sites and reduced hazard protection which keeps our communities safe during fire seasons.
“The lessons of privatisation are now crystal clear.
“It will inevitably lead to job cuts and a worse deal for the community.
“At the moment, we have a profitable state owned asset that delivers millions of dollars in dividend returns to the people of NSW and provides thousands of quality jobs to regional communities and a well looked after natural environment for all of us.
“Public ownership also ensures resources are available for crucial fire management.”
Media Release, 21 Oct
Interview, Oct 23
Paul Noack, AWU NSW Branch
Media statement, Oct 31
Terrigal MP, Adam Crouch
Interview, Nov 1
Wyong MP, David Harris
Journalists, Sue Murray and Merilyn Vale