19/11/2008 - 22:00

Forest report marks growth

19/11/2008 - 22:00

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A REPORT released this week has provided the first accurate and detailed picture of the Western Australian forestry industry, which employs 5,570 people, half of whom rely on native forest resources.

A REPORT released this week has provided the first accurate and detailed picture of the Western Australian forestry industry, which employs 5,570 people, half of whom rely on native forest resources.

The report, released by the Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry, showed more than 300 businesses, including 70 forest growers and processing businesses, were involved in forestry, with an additional 230 businesses involved in contracting work.

While native forests accounted for just more than half of the total forestry workforce, the growth in plantation employment has expanded significantly, rising from just 260 in 2001-02 when harvesting of blue gum plantations began, to 844 people by 2005-06.

Forest Industries Federation of WA executive director Bob Pearce said the numbers gave an accurate reflection of employment in the industry for the first time since the late-1990s, when employee numbers were about 8,000.

Numbers have been reduced significantly since that time, primarily as a result of government control of native logging through the forest management plan.

"The plantation industry has been really strong, the strongest of any state, and that's been really important," Mr Pearce said.

"Looking at the figures, native still provides the bulk of jobs.

"Plantation will continue to grow, but it would have to double employment to compensate for the loss of jobs from native."

The report's author, Jacki Schirmer, said the figures were based on a comprehensive survey of the industry in early 2007, which included a number of smaller contracting business for the first time.

The local government area of Nannup has the highest proportion of its workforce employed in forestry, with just less than one-fifth of its labour force employed in the industry.

Manjimup has the second-highest proportion of people working in forestry, at 14 per cent, with Plantagenet, Denmark and Bridgetown-Greenbushes third at 8 per cent.

Some of the state's biggest employers in the plantation industry include Great Southern, which directly employs 200 full-time equivalents and up to 150 contractors in WA, and Gunns, which employs about 230 people.

The timber industry was one of the most affected in the gas crisis earlier this year, with a number of mills forced to wind down operations and cut staff because of the reduction in gas supplies.

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