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Logging concerns dismissed

THE Forest Products Commission has dismissed concerns the Government will be unable to honour the existing forest product contracts following the cessation of logging in old growth forest in WA.

When the Government announced it would end logging in old growth forest in WA it also committed to honour all the existing forest product contracts until the end of 2003.

Forest Products Commission acting general manager Dr Paul Biggs said the saw log contracts make up the main part of the operation.

“There are contracts for jarrah and karri first grade and second grade saw logs,” Dr Biggs said.

“We’ve now got operations in non-old growth forest and the logs coming out of that are in line with current demand.”

Dr Biggs said there was one million hectares of non-old growth forest available for logging.

“Very soon after the election there was fear we wouldn’t be able to find replacement areas.

“During March and April we have been able to locate and prepare alternate areas and with the easing off of the building industry there’s been a reduction in demand,” Dr Biggs said

The current level of cut was set by the forest management plan approved by the minister of the environment in 1994 and at this time CALM allocated 10 year contracts for that volume.

“Following the introduction of the new forestry policy there needs to be a new plan and that is being started now,” Dr Biggs said.

“Once there is a new plan in place then we will be able to set contracts up to that level and the way we do that is being debated now.

“There are a range of options for allocation and in the end it will probably be developed with the industry in response to its reconstruction.”

A new forest management plan including the new yields is expected to be announced by the end of May.

Dr Biggs said that, over the next two and a half years, the Forest Product Commission would work with the forestry industry to restructure down to levels that will apply for the next 10-year period.

The weak Australian dollar has allowed woodchip exporters to increase their share of the Japanese wood chip market but Dr Biggs said there are no problems with woodchip supply, which is sourced from the residue of the sawlog operations.

“Over the next year or two we’ll have to examine how much residue is available under the reduced sawlog volume,” he said.

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