ACT Government urged to make forest industries essential

Major timber framing supply issues currently being felt across the building, transport and retail industries has been dealt another blow in the nation’s capital.

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has appealed to the ACT Government to urgently revert to the nationally agreed essential industry status for forest industries or risk undermining access to food on supermarket shelves for Canberrans.

In a statement issued last week Chief Executive officer of AFPA Ross Hampton said in the rush to protect Canberrans from an outbreak of the Delta variant, the ACT Government had left forestry and sawmills off the list of essential industries which are allowed to operate.

“To the lay person this may seem appropriate. However, what most don’t realise is that most of the cardboard packaging which contains the food in our supermarkets is produced by our paper mills which need the residues from sawmilling operations,” said Hampton.

“For the sawmills to operate they need sustainably harvested trees, like those in the ACT Government’s pine plantations.

“Even the pallets which go under the boxes to allow the supermarkets to move the food from the trucks into the supermarkets are made from timber. And then there’s all the vital everyday items such as toilet paper and tissues. All these things require forestry to continue.”

AFPA has been explaining this to every state for the last year as authorities sought to make the best decisions possible regarding lockdowns.

Every jurisdiction has been persuaded that, as long as all the very exact precautions are taken regarding social distancing, masks and cleaning are in place, forest industries are indeed essential.

“Our hope is the ACT Government quickly understands this and updates its guidelines consistent with every other jurisdiction,” said Hampton.

Australia’s forest industries are critical to many regions across the country, directly employing 80,000 and indirectly employing 180,000 people nationally.

They contribute $24 billion to the national economy every year.

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