LABOR has promised a $15 million development package for South Australia’s forestry industry if it wins the state election this Saturday.

The pledge includes building a research and development centre in Mount Gambier, upgrading fire towers and creating an industry master plan

The industry has welcomed the package, but wants to be able to plant more trees

The pledge includes $15 million over 10 years for a ‘Centre for Excellence’ for timber research and development in Mount Gambier, in the state’s south east.

There would also be $2 million over three years to develop a “manufacturing and infrastructure masterplan”, $2 million to upgrade fire towers in the region’s forests and an additional $5 million for the Mount Gambier TAFE.

SA Labor Leader Peter Malinauskas said the investment package would support the sustainability of the forestry industry and help create more jobs.

The package also includes expanding the role of the Forest Industries Advisory Council and undertaking a “comprehensive” and “independent” review of the region’s Water Allocation Plan.

Labor has promised to invest in courses where there are identified trade shortages, and develop the Trees on Farms initiative to promote the environmental and economic benefits of on-farm plantations.

Key promises include:

  • $15million over 10 years for a new Centre for Excellence including $1.25 million a year for research and development and a one-off $2.5 million for the establishment of the centre;
  • Development of the Trees on Farms initiative with the aim of increasing log supply for smaller processors.
  • $2 million over three years to develop a forest products domestic manufacturing and infrastructure masterplan.
  • $2 million to replace fire towers with new fire detection technology.
  • Establishment of a formal, representative industry reference group to work with the Landscape Board to ensure all industry sectors are involved in scientific input for the review and development of the next Water Allocation Plan.

“Forestry is receiving attention at a political level that it hasn’t received for a very long time,” South Australian Forest Products Association CEO Nathan Paine said.

“But what the industry really wants is a commitment for more trees in the ground.”

Mr Paine said the proposed manufacturing and infrastructure masterplan would help streamline, maximise and supercharge the growth of the industry.

“It will mean we can identify opportunities for new locations for mills, or new locations for industry precincts,” he said.