A WAR of words has erupted between the Forest Industries Federation WA (FIFWA) and the State government after the former accused the government of failing to meet its contractual obligations.
Earlier this month, FIFWA chief executive officer Adele Farina claimed that letters sent to timber businesses advised them that volumes of sawlog supplied by the Forest Products Commission (FPC) in 2022 would fail to meet the necessary requirements.
That was despite Premier Mark McGowan publicly pledging that the government would meet current contractual obligations to the end of 2023 when he made his announcement to cease harvesting of native forests by that time.
"This shows that the government clearly has no intention of meeting its current contractual obligations," Ms Farina said.
"Under existing contracts, the State government has an obligation to supply timber businesses the sawlog volume stated in the contract, being the contracted volume."
Ms Farina said many timber businesses had been told they could expect to receive around 50 to 60 per cent of their contracted volume.
"This is a significant shortfall and flies in the face of the Premier's commitment to honour current contractual obligations," she said.
"One business has been told it will receive as little as a third of its contracted volume."
However, a State government spokesman said the FPC was not in breach of its contractual obligations and that it would continue to supply volumes of native timber consistent with volumes supplied to these businesses over the past seven years under the current Forest Management Plan (FMP).
According to the spokesman, since the announcement to end native logging, a number of native timber businesses have requested volumes of native timber significantly above the volumes supplied under the current FMP.
However, there was never any intent from the government to allow an increase in timber production over the last two years of the current FMP.
"Since 2014 under the current Forest Management Plan, timber mills have requested an average of approximately 90,000 tonnes of jarrah sawlog per year," the spokesman said.
"The jarrah sawlog volume requested by industry for 2022, was in excess of 160,000t, a 78pc increase over the historic average."
However, according to Ms Farina, the contracted volumes are well within the sustainable level of harvest as prescribed in the current FMP (2014-2023).
She said timber businesses could not remain viable on 50pc or less of the contracted volume and would incur significant losses this year and next.
But despite that, the government expects these businesses to continue to operate until the end of 2023.
"It is unconscionable for the government to expect timber businesses to continue to operate and incur significant losses while the government drags its feet on business closure payments and business transition payments," Ms Farina said.
"The government is seeking to starve timber businesses out of the industry and that conduct is anything but honourable, it is shameful."
However, the government spokesman rejected that claim and said the government was investing $50 million for a Just Transition Plan to support workers, businesses and communities to support their transition out of large-scale commercial native forestry.
"We are working closely with stakeholders in the Native Forestry Transition Group to develop the Transition Plan," the spokesman said.
"The Native Forestry Transition Group is developing assistance programs for workers and businesses, funded as part of the transition plan, and details, including eligibility criteria, will be finalised as soon as possible.
"As a member of the Native Forestry Transition Group, FIFWA are encouraged to work constructively to develop these assistance programs."
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