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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3958 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

a resounding success. This can also be achieved for the New South Wales southern RFA region.

Rather than yet another failure in the eyes of the public, another RFA that fails to protect the environment, that fails to value add and that supports the foreign woodchip companies, this forest decision could be a success like that in Queensland. It could be another economic success, another employment success, another environmental success, another media success, that has already been proven to work in Queensland. That is what the public wants to see.

For example, the New South Wales southern RFA region is surrounded by some of the biggest plantation areas in the State - Tumut, Oberon and Bombala - as well as the ACT. Visy recently opened a $450m pulp mill based on plantations at Tumut. The investment potential is enormous. The plantations of the New South Wales southern RFA region produced almost a million cubic metres of timber and pulp wood in 1997-98, whereas the native forests industry produced less than a quarter of a million cubic metres in 1998-99. Hardwood mills based on native forests employ only 250 people, whereas the number of people that mills based on softwood plantations employ is over 1,300 and growing.

Clearly the region does not rely on native forest logging for jobs or income. There is already substantial movement of timber between these plantation regions and the south coast. It should also be noted that in many cases these native forest industries are in direct competition with the plantation industries rather than complementing them. An expansion of native forest logging will only harm the plantation industry, which is so much more important for employment and wood production in the southern RFA region.

The ACT's plantations are being ignored in the development of a timber industry plan. When we are already exporting whole logs from the ACT out of Port Kembla, the ACT's timber industry should be included in any regional development strategy, with a view to maximising the amount of processing of our wood in the region.

With the coming decision by the New South Wales Government on whether to take the RFA path or the Queensland path for the forests of the south coast and Snowy Mountains, governments, businesses and residents of New South Wales and the ACT have the opportunity to affect this choice now. It is a decision which is currently being made without any input from Canberrans or the ACT Assembly. This is despite the fact that the south coast is Canberra's backyard and the ACT has a role to play in the region's tourism and economy. It is a matter that concerns Canberra residents and residents of the south-east New South Wales region.

The South East Forest Alliance, which is a coalition of community environmental groups in the region, has identified 15 forest areas which are essential to completing the south coast forest national park system. The community reserve proposals are currently unprotected, and most of them are threatened by intensive logging and woodchipping. The New South Wales Government must declare these areas as national park.

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