Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Loggers find friend in PM

Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Timber industry vital to economic future.

TYLA HARRINGTON March 7, 2014 4:45am

Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks with Mathoura’s Chris Crump.

The local timber industry could not have found a more potent ally.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, when addressing about 600 Forest Products Association members on Tuesday night in Canberra, made a commitment to set up a new advisory council to support the timber industry.

The PM said there were too many ‘‘locked up forests’’ and that he wanted the timber industry to be a ‘‘vital part of Australia’s economic future, not just something that was a relic of our history.’’

His rousing address was enough to revive hopes that commercial timber workers return to the local state forests that were converted to National Parks by the state Labor Party in 2010.

Mathoura business owner and timber worker Chris Crump was at Tuesday night’s dinner in Canberra and met with Mr Abbott and Minister for Environment Greg Hunt.

Mr Crump spoke with the PM about the situation in Mathoura, Deniliquin and Barham where the commercial timber industry was effectively ended following the change to National Parks.

Mr Crump also told Mr Abbott about the recent business closures in Mathoura.

‘‘After all these years it looks as though we have a future,’’ Mr Crump said.

‘‘I’m not just fighting it for us or the timber industry, it’s a fight for our town.

‘‘When Tony Abbott spoke people’s shoulders lifted ... a weight is being lifted off all of our shoulders.

‘‘I can’t tell you how excited I am about it,’’ Mr Crump said.

‘‘I look forward to the direction we’re heading ... the town needs hope and lately that has been squashed. Now we have good support.

‘‘If people can get behind this now we can actually do this ... the sky’s the limit.

‘‘Deniliquin people gave us the support when we were closing down and we need it again.’’

Mr Crump gave Mr Abbott and Mr Hunt copies of documents compiled by Mathoura man David Joss which show the effect the National Parks conversion has had on the local area.

Mr Crump said the documents also show that the tourists that were promised would visit the area once National Parks were in place had not eventuated.

Even though he was only able to talk with the PM for a short time, Mr Crump described the meeting and Mr Abbott’s address as ‘‘unbelievable’’.

‘‘We don’t support, as a Government and as a Coalition, further lock-ups of our forests. We just don’t support it,’’ Mr Abbott said.

‘‘We have quite enough National Parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.

‘‘When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental vandals; I see people who are the ultimate conservationists.’’

State Member for Murray-Darling John Williams welcomed Mr Abbott’s promise of an advisory council.

He said he hoped it may lead to a review of the amount of National Parks there are in NSW.

‘‘Obviously any support for the timber industry is encouraging,’’ Mr Williams said.

‘‘Governments have insisted on suggesting that tourists would replace the timber industry locally ... where is the evidence of that?’’

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