Forestry sell-off ‘threat'

HUNDREDS of jobs and the economic and environmental future of the Gympie Region are in jeopardy as a result of State Government plans to sell off forestry assets, the Queensland Greens said yesterday.

Greens Wide Bay federal election candidate Jim McDonald said the long-term sustainability of Gympie's forestry industry could be decimated by the sale of Forestry Plantations Queensland (FPQ).

“The Government's (tender) documentation states that there is strong demand for FPQ products,” Dr McDonald said.

“If that is so, why would the Bligh Government sell off such a good asset to foreign buyers?

“For the sake of $20 million of government investment a year in a healthy industry, which last year turned in $72.4 million of sales, the State is flogging off a viable asset.

“It doesn't have the moral right to do that. That industry has been developed over the long term by taxpayers' money for the public purse.”

He said the environmental record of some private forestry firms here and overseas “has been rightly the subject of concern”.

“Those concerns have been dumped on Gympie and the Sunshine Coast by the same State Government that proposed the Traveston Dam.

“The sale not only jeopardises the job security of 400 forestry workers in the medium term, but the overall economic health of the region if the workforce is cut.

“There is a strong possibility that the forests in the Gympie and Sunshine Coast regions will be in foreign hands by June this year.

“One likely purchaser is John Hancock Financial Services Inc, an American group of companies that has bought up a large section of the plantation and forests industry in Victoria.

“Hancock's clear felling practices in rain catchment areas and koala habitats have been questioned by Victorian environmentalists.

“Environmentalists have accused the Hancock company of decimating large tracts of koala habitat in the Strzelecki Ranges in south-east Victoria, and they claim the company has failed to apply proper koala management practices.

“I cannot see how it is the national interest to contemplate the sale.

“We support the unions and the community in objecting to this sell-off,” Dr McDonald said.

Gympie Times

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