South Australia’s foresters have joined the outcry by farmers and local government about the exorbitant increases to the Natural Resource Management Levy which threatens one of the few industries that is growing employment in South Australia.
“Government should be doing all they can to encourage employers who are sustaining thousands of jobs in regional areas,” State Manager of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA-SA), Clare Scriven, said today.
“Forest industries currently provide more than 7000 direct jobs and 14000 indirect jobs, yet are constantly battling government policies that discourage the long-term investment that forest resources involve. We already have industry members telling us they won’t be replanting some of their plantations after the next harvest, because the new NRM levies – on top of the huge water fees that they are now paying – means that they are better off expanding their businesses over the border in Victoria. Every time this happens, people’s jobs are placed at risk. This is a tragedy for a state that needs to grow employment, not export the jobs.”
Ms Scriven said forest growers are being asked to pay twice for services provided by the NRM Board in the South-East. “Our members undertake at their own cost fire management, animal and pest control, conservation, revegetation, and erosion control,” Ms Scriven explained. “The activities outlined in the business plan for the South East NRM for the coming year, for example, are almost exclusively activities that forest growers already provide, costing tens of thousands of dollars. The NRM Board provides none of those services for them. For growers to then be asked to pay huge increases in the NRM levy to supposedly cover these is simply double-dipping.”
AFPA-SA made a submission to Parliament’s Natural Resources Committee that argued that the proposed increases conflicted with the NRM Board’s ‘beneficiary pays’ principle. “The forest industry agrees with the concerns of farmers that funds are being raised from regional areas but not being used there,” Ms Scriven said.