Independent economic modelling of the impact of the proposed Great Koala National Park on the NSW North Coast has found it could lead to a $757 million a year hit to the NSW economy and cut almost 2000 jobs, devastating communities across the region where the timber industry is a major employer.
The Ernst & Young report commissioned by NSW forest industries considered the impact of ending the NSW Government’s native forest timber contracts on the North Coast, which is a likely outcome if the Great Koala National Park is implemented. The Great Koala National Park will lock up an additional 175,000 hectares of state forest, most of which is currently available for timber production.
The peak industry groups representing NSW’s timber and forest products industries, the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) and Timber NSW, said the economic impact analysis shows that NSW Labor’s commitment to establish a Great Koala National Park has failed to consider the significant economic and social cost that will result from the policy.
“We urge the NSW Opposition Leader to abandon the concept of a Great Koala National Park and focus on the scientific evidence protecting koalas in all forests,” Timber NSW General Manager, Ms Maree McCaskill said.
“The recent release of the official costings of the major parties confirmed that the NSW Opposition has failed to account for the more than $57 million in revenue the NSW Government-owned Forestry Corporation of NSW receives annually from its contracts with sawmills on the North Coast, or the cost of breaking the long-term contracts that are in place between sawmills and the Government.”
“The NSW Opposition has not made any funding provision to support the timber towns and the thousands of workers that will be out of a job if the Great Koala National Park is implemented,” AFPA CEO Mr Ross Hampton said.
“While we acknowledge the Opposition’s commitment to consult on the Great Koala National Park in Government, unfortunately it is too little too late. They’ve ignored the evidence which shows that timber harvesting has no impact on koala numbers, and now risk shutting down the biggest industry on the North Coast.”
Industry is also concerned that NSW Labor has failed to explain how it will manage the Government’s long-term contracts with sawmills, the biggest of which (Boral Timber’s) extends to 2028 and accounts for around two thirds of the high-quality sawlogs sold by FCNSW on the North Coast.
“The continuation of these contracts and the Great Koala National Park as proposed by the environment groups are not compatible,” Mr Hampton said.
“Labor needs to come clean on whether it will honour these contracts and secure the thousands of regional jobs that depend on them, or how it will find the hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate the companies, contractors and workers when the biggest industry in the region shuts down,” Mr Hampton concluded.
Ms McCaskill said NSW Labor Governments’ track record of locking up production forest and turning them into national parks had failed to stem the decline of koalas, and it was time to listen to the science.
“Only 0.2% of NSW native forests are harvested annually and they are all regrown so we should be demanding to know why our extensive reserve system is failing,” Ms McCaskill concluded.