Regional Employment (Northern Forests) | QUESTION TIME


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (14:42): My question is to the Minister for Regional Development. Will the minister advise the house how many net new regional jobs—so new jobs less existing jobs lost—will be created as a result of the government’s plan for the Bundaleer and Wirrabara forests, and when will these new jobs materialise?

The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL (Mawson—Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Recreation and Sport, Minister for Racing) (14:42): We are working on what is happening with the Northern Forests, and I thank the member for Stuart for the interest that he has shown in the redevelopment of the forests. As we said, when we were up there back in 2014 at a community meeting in Jamestown, and the member for Stuart was there as was the member for Frome, the future isn’t going to look like the past up there because of the devastation of those bushfires that went through the Mid North forests.

We have explained to the community up there that we would have liked to have seen this progress a lot quicker than it has, but it’s been several layers on top of each other in working out the ownership. We have had some very good expressions of interest. We have had some binding expressions put to us as well, but in some cases they have overlapped, so we have had to go back to people who have put up proposals and see if they would be willing to cut out a portion of the land that they have actually bid for so that someone else can do some other activities within that space.

We have had the member for Frome come and meet with me. We have also had lots of representations from the member for Stuart, so both local members have been doing a good job in representing the people of their area and I thank them for that. As to how many jobs, we don’t know yet because the process hasn’t been finished. But I know there’s a big battery going up in Jamestown, so we are looking after the Mid North. There is going to be the world’s biggest battery built up there. It will support a number of jobs up there. As we said back in 2014, we don’t know what the future will be like, but it’s not going to be like the past, when the very first commercial forests in Australia were planted there in the 1870s—I think was 1873.

If you look at things now, it is not the space where you would have planted forests. There are better uses for the land up there. We are working through with the commercial sector as well as with the Department of Environment, and some recreational users as well, at how that land can be used. We haven’t reached the end of the process yet, so we don’t have a number of how many net jobs have been created.