State logging agency using misleading figures to hide native forest losses

WA’s peak environment and forest conservation groups have accused the Forest Products Commission (FPC) of using drought claims to disguise losses from the state’s unsustainable native forest logging industry.

According to their recent annual report, the FPC has posted a $13 million loss in the last financial year.

The FPC has claimed this loss was due to the effects of water stress on plantations, however conservation groups have accused the agency of using misleading accounting to artificially inflate returns from the unsustainable and destructive native forest logging industry.

Western Australian Forest Alliance spokesperson Jess Beckerling said, "The FPC is continuing a long-established tradition of using creative accounting to hide the fact that the destructive South-West logging industry in WA is loss-making in both environmental and economic terms.

“While the FPC has reduced the value of plantation assets because of drought stress, at the same time they have artificially increased the value of the remaining native forests – which the State Government gave them for free in 2000 -  by $10m despite the widespread native tree deaths in our state forests.

“The only explanation for this is that the agency is once again trying to hide the fact that native forest logging in WA is systematically destroying an asset owned by all Western Australians, without producing any economic dividend to the state.

“To blame the accumulating ecological and economic debt incurred by native forest logging on the plantation industry is misleading and deceptive accounting by the Forest Products Commission.

Conservation Council of WA Director Piers Verstegen said “Native forest logging in WA is systematically devaluing and destroying state-owned assets, but this is not disclosed in FPC’s skewed and misleading accounting. For example, the lost carbon storage potential of native forests, lost tourism revenue, and lost ecological assets do not figure anywhere in the FPC accounts despite the fact they amount to massive State subsidies to the logging industry.

 “The tragedy is that these critical ecological and economic assets are being destroyed to support a no-value industry producing low-value products.

“Despite all assurances that the industry is investing in ‘value-added’ native timber, the volume of charcoal, firewood and woodchips produced was still approximately twice that of all sawlogs.

“The destructive native forest logging industry in WA has been on taxpayer-funded life support for too long – it is time to finally pull the plug in favour of a sustainable farm forestry industry in the South – West.”