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RFA impacts on timber

THE timber industry should be pleased the WA Regional Forest Agreement has been signed, says Forest Industries Federation executive director Bob Pearce.

He said a major factor in producing a credible RFA was the willingness of the timber industry to negotiate a voluntary reduction in the jarrah and karri cut over the next four years.

Current contracted jarrah would be cut by a third, with a reduction in karri cut by 15 per cent.

Mr Pearce said the industry would lose a considerable amount of timber resource.

“This is in stark contrast with the Greens, who refused to be part of the RFA process, refused to compromise in any way, and refuse to accept the outcome,” he said.

At the heart of the issue lies an industry with a turnover estimated to exceed $850 million annually and employing over 20,000 people.

Two major hardwood chipping facilities are operating in the South West at Manjimup and Greenbushes and a new chip mill processing plantation timber in the Great Southern region will start operations this year.

About 70 per cent of gross production comes from 12 large sawmills in the RFA region.

In 1996-97 the hardwood industry grew more than 22 million seedlings and converted more than 1.5 million cubic metres of roundwood into various wood products including saw logs, chiplogs, industrial wood, firewood, charcoal logs and other products.

The RFA region covers about 4.26 million hectares of which 44 per cent is private land. The remaining public land is covered mostly by native forest and some tree plantations.

The agreement will create 12 new national parks and place more than 150,000 hectares of high conservation forest into new reserve systems.

It is estimated more than 600 jobs will be slashed, but WA Environment Minister Cheryl Edwardes said the RFA represented a balance between conservation outcomes and jobs.

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