Controversial tour offers hope

FACING a declining timber industry as a result of the new Regional Forest Agreement, many in the South West are looking elsewhere to generate ideas for alternative income.

Recently, fifteen people from the South West participated in a study tour of the US and Europe to see how other communities are successfully diversifying their economic base.

The tour was organised as part of the Doing More with Agriculture project, an initiative of Primary Industry Minister Monty House.

Mr House said the aim of the tour was to foster innovative approaches to diversification in agricultural tourism and encourage rural community development.

The group saw first hand how communities had reversed economic downturns by diversifying into agricultural and nature-based tourism.

“The South West region is facing a number of fundamental changes in land use from traditional agriculture and forestry to newer intensive high value industries,” Mr House said.

He said that timber and mining industries in Wisconsin, USA were in decline and the community had united, showing incredible strength in adversity to change from a forestry dependent economy to an alternative economic base.

Manjimup Shire President Keith Liddlelow said the tour had taught him how towns in the US had dealt with similar rapid population growth and generating new industry.

He said the tour had made him more positive about the future of the region.

Ariana Svenson, former manager of the Tree Top Walk and recently appointed South West co-ordinator for the Progress Rural WA initiative, has been given the task of implementing the findings of the tour group.

The tour became embroiled in controversy when members of the Tourism Commission were not invited to join the tour.

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