Job fears as industry forced to wait 18 months for action

 

A panel that was tasked almost 18 months ago with looking at ways to safeguard the state's timber industry still hasn't been created, with industry claiming the holdup is impacting investment and jobs.

Flanked by her Ministers and local MP Bruce Saunders, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk launched a major timber action plan while visiting the marginal seat of Maryborough in November 2019.

But The Courier-Mail has revealed no one has been appointed to the panel despite the Agriculture and Fisheries Department's website saying it would be established last year.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with Agricultural Minister Mark Furner and former State Development Minister - now Treasurer - Cameron Dick at the Baywood timber mill in Maryborough in 2019.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with Agricultural Minister Mark Furner and former State Development Minister - now Treasurer - Cameron Dick at the Baywood timber mill in Maryborough in 2019.

Timber Queensland chief executive Mick Stephens said the industry was losing its patience over the lack of action.

"Despite cautiously welcoming its announcement in 2019, industry is frustrated by the empty rhetoric of the Government," he said.

"The advisory panel needs to be established as soon as possible with adequate industry and forestry science representation to work on long-term supply for the industry.

"Without any tangible progress, this is already impacting resource security, investment and jobs."

Agricultural Minister Mark Furner conceded the naming of the panel had been "somewhat delayed" but referred to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Palaszczuk Government remains committed to the establishment of the panel and the important work required to identify future resources for the industry," he said.

"That work continues, and appropriate announcements about panel members will be made as soon as practicable."

Timber Queensland chief executive Mick Stephens.
Timber Queensland chief executive Mick Stephens.

At the time, the action plan was lauded as guiding the "preservation" of the industry, with the Premier saying her government had a "laser sharp focus" on supporting new jobs and economic development in regional Queensland.

As part of it, hardwood timber harvesting in the Wide Bay Burnett was extended by up to two years, which guaranteed access for select felling up to 2026.

And a two-year study into identifying sustainable options for supply was also promised, which is on track to be finished this year.

Regional community cabinet meeting in the FCRC chambers in Maryborough. Premier Palaszczuk arrives at the Baywood timber mill in Maryborough.
Regional community cabinet meeting in the FCRC chambers in Maryborough. Premier Palaszczuk arrives at the Baywood timber mill in Maryborough.

Mr Stephens said Queensland's hardwood industry had a very bright future with strong demand and its "inherent renewability".

"We cannot understand why the Palasczcuk Government is dragging its feet," he said.

"Industry wants to be at the table now to map out a strong plan for the future".

Originally published as Job fears as industry forced to wait 18 months for action


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