Union says more help needed to grow industry

MORE NEEDED: Greater Green Triangle CFMEU Manufacturing Secretary Brad Coates said more help for the timber industry is needed to avoid declining forestry numbers.

Elsie Adamo

THE Timber Workers Union has said water licensing and skills shortages will need to be resolved to see any real growth in the timber industry.

The CFMEU Manufacturing (Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union) is demanding all political parties and independents commit to supporting the South Australian forest and forest products industry.

CFMEU Manufacturing secretary for the Greater Green Triangle District, Brad Coates said that any funding for forestry without water provisions is “just spin.”

“Whoever is in government will need to seriously look at the water licencing issues,” Mr Coates said.

“We have already seen the plantation estate decrease in South Australia by between 15 to 20 per cent over the last ten years.

“By 2030 we may have 25 per cent less because water licencing is so restrictive now.”

Last month the State Liberal Government committed $800,000 over three years to accelerate work on the Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan, supporting additional modelling and monitoring work.

Mr Coates said the other big problem was local training, claiming that some local companies are considering sending staff to New Zealand to get appropriate training.

“There is a big black hole in skills training,” he said.

“There is a real need to upgrade the facilities here at TAFE.

“At the moment, we have two companies who are looking to send saw technicians to New Zealand to get trained because they cannot get trained in Australia.

“Mount Gambier used to have the biggest saw doctor training facility in the country 15 or 20 years ago, people used to come here from other places for training.

“But that is all gone now.”

National Secretary of CFMEU Manufacturing Michael O’Connor said it was vital any future government acted quickly.

“We need a growing forest and forest products industry, not timber shortages which are harming jobs, our economy, and our communities,” said Mr O’Connor.

“We need a State government committed to building upon South Australia’s world-class timber resource and industry.

“Workers deserve a State Government committed to addressing problems stymying the industry and release the shackles on it so that it can realise its full potential.”

The union has written to political parties and independents and plan to share responses with timber workers, families, and communities before the election.