State forest sale ‘could devastate regional communities’
WHILE touring the region this week, NSW Shadow Minister for Natural resources Paul Scully demanded Premier Gladys Berejiklian abandon her plan to sell off NSW Forestry Corporation, saying the move would devastate regional communities.
"I asked the deputy premier who is the minister responsible for forestry corporation about it in the parliament last Thursday - he refused to rule the sale out," Mr Scully said.
"He's told me previously that the sale had never been off the table.
"It's a government hurtling toward a sale when they should be more looking at more actively managing and investing in the sector - particularly for a sector that in the deputy premier's own words is "on its knees".
Mr Scully, who visited the region to inspect the devastating impact of the bushfires warned that 26 councils, including Tenterfield Shire and Clarence Valley, could go bankrupt if they were forced to maintain 7365 kilometres of roads currently managed by NSW Forestry Corporation.
"We've got bushfire impact and firefighting, the tourism aspect of some of the Forestry Corporation areas and the road management … there are big questions about what might be done under a privatisation.
"These are real sorts of impacts not only on who the financial repercussions land on but also big questions for communities on how they manage with things going forward."
NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay echoed Minister Scully saying if the Premier broke the pre-election promise of no more privatisations and went ahead with this sell-off, hundreds of jobs would be put at risk in areas that are in recovery after the bushfires.
NSW Forestry Corporation employs about 640 staff and was the largest manager of commercial native and plantation forests in NSW, producing around 14 per cent of Australia's timber.
The softwood division produces enough timber to build a quarter of the new homes in Australia every year.
A spokeswoman for NSW Treasury said the NSW Government was committed to supporting all communities affected by the recent bushfires, and the impact of the fires will be considered as part of the scoping study.
"The scoping study into the potential long-term lease of the softwood plantation assets remains ongoing, and a final report will be handed to the NSW Government in due course," the spokeswoman said.
"The State will only proceed with the long-term lease if it is deemed to be in the best interests of the people of New South Wales."