The Softwoods Working Group (SWG) has expressed its disappointment that the South West Slopes region – Australia’s biggest plantation forestry production centre – was ignored by the Federal Government when it recently announced the pilot sites for four regional forestry hubs.
SWG chairman Peter Crowe said the Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the sites for the four initial pilot hubs in South West – Western Australia, Green Triangle – South Australia and Victoria, North/North West – Tasmania, and North East – NSW, but relegated the South West Slopes region to one of five hubs to follow the initial pilot hubs.
The hubs will be backed by $12.5 million in National Forest Industries Plan (NFIP) funding.
Mr Crowe said the South West Slopes region was far too important to be overlooked as one of the four initial pilot hubs.
“The South West Slopes forestry plantation production area provides employment for around 5000 people and has a gross regional product of nearly one billion dollars a year,” Mr Crowe said.
“Around 52 per cent of the population of Snowy Valleys Shire is directly and indirectly employed by the forest-plantation based industries.
“The SWG is calling on the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources for Forestry, Senator Colbeck, to immediately confirm pilot-hub status for the South West Slopes of NSW along with funding of $250,000 each year for four years to enable the implementation of the NFIP to proceed in this vitally important region without further delay.
The Softwoods Working Group believes it’s the right body to take the project forward.
Mr Crowe said the SWG has been operating for more than 30 years and represents the interests of growers, processors, councils and other stakeholders.
“SWG is ideally placed to facilitate activation of the pilot hub project and maximise outcomes which include training, education, research and product development leading to huge benefits for the region, state and nation,” he said.
“The group is a national leader in road infrastructure planning, plantation expansion advocacy, policy and strategy and has strong and broad regional support from local government, forest-based industries and relevant government and non-government agencies,” he said.