David Gibson in Toolara Forest, part of the land at the centre of the new asset sale scandal.
David Gibson in Toolara Forest, part of the land at the centre of the new asset sale scandal. Craig Warhurst

Bligh's forestry sale lies exposed

NEW revelations that Gympie Region forestry land will be sold, freehold and with no strings attached, contradict government assurances only last year to forestry workers, customers like Laminex and their workers and all recreational users of forestry land.

The revelations came this week from Premier Anna Bligh in State Parliament and her deputy Paul Lucas on radio. After promising last year that only the forestry business would be sold, not the land asset, Ms Bligh told Parliament on Thursday that the land would be sold freehold.

Mr Lucas told ABC Radio yesterday that this meant the door was open for it to be rezoned for other developments, including houses, shops and secondary industry.

Questioned by Shadow Natural Resources Minister Jeff Seeney in Parliament on Thursday, Ms Bligh admitted the land was up for grabs, claiming there was “nothing new about this.”

Mr Seeney’s question related to “33,169ha of state owned freehold land”, including big areas “in the corridor between Caloundra and Gympie.”

Ms Bligh did not answer a part of the question asking her if she could “guarantee that this land will continue to be used for forestry and that the trees will not be bulldozed to make way for concrete jungles.”

Her response was: “The Treasurer announced this when he announced the structure of the sale...

“Just the trees,” Mr Seeney interjected, before being called to order.

Ms Bligh continued that one of the key issues was that a private owner would pay rates on the land “and that means benefits to the councils in all of those areas.”

On June 2 last year, she told the House: “I want to reassure Queenslanders that we will retain ownership of the land and protect access rights for the public. A condition of sale will be that recreation in state plantation forests will continue. This includes walking, cycling, horse riding, motorcycling, car rallies, photography or filming.”

Opposition leader Jean-Paul Langbroek said it was “another Bligh lie” about privatisation which had been exposed.

“The land being sold is the size of two Moreton Islands and represents a bigger land mass than countries like Malta and the Maldives.”

Mr Seeney said Mr Fraser’s claims that the land would not be sold and could not be redeveloped were also lies.

Gympie MP David Gibson said he could not speak for Laminex but understood it relied on pine forest trimmings for its raw material.

“I’m concerned about job losses in forestry. As each day goes by we hear more details of how bad these asset sales are,” he said.

Gympie Times


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