Confidence in the South-East forestry industry has again taken a major dive following Labor’s announcement that Forestry SA will relinquish management of forestry plantations to OneFortyOne Plantations.
Yesterday’s announcement from Forests Minister Leon Bignell comes three years after the region’s future was thrown into jeopardy with the privatisation of the State’s forest assets, and presents grave questions over local employment security and community fire safety.
“The Weatherill Labor Government’s blatant privatisation of one of our State’s most important assets continues,” said Shadow Minister for Forests David Ridgway.
“The people of the South East have endured enough economic blows – they deserve a commitment, in no uncertain terms, that no further job losses will occur as a result of these decisions and that community fire safety will treated with paramount importance.
“It is a very uncertain time for the people of the South-East – they are only just adapting to the Weatherill Government’s previous decision to sell off the forests and now the few jobs that appeared to be secure are in question.”
Industry and economic experts have repeatedly branded the privatisation decision as one of the most short-sighted, uneconomic and socially disastrous financial decisions made by a South Australian government.
At the time of selling the forward rotations in 2012, Premier Weatherill claimed that ForestrySA jobs would be maintained and Treasurer Jack Snelling asserted that the people of the South-East could feel secure that jobs would be protected.
It is now clear that this is not the case.
“OneFortyOne’s (OFO) decision to absorb ForestrySA’s management functions means that there is no certainty about the employment future of Forestry SA staff who do not take up employment offers within OFO,” said Mr Ridgway.
“Further, it had been a condition of ForestrySA’s contract with OFO that the agency would manage not just the fire protection of the plantations, but of the local community. It has not been made clear who will assume that responsibility.
“Yesterday’s announcement is simply the hangover of a terrible privatisation decision, which will continue to haunt the once burgeoning South-East forestry industry and the local population.”