South Australia’s multi-million dollar forestry industry is scrambling for clarity from the state government as to whether it was an essential service just hours before the state is to due to plunge into a seven-day lockdown.

Key points:

  • Forestry industry officials are seeking clarity about their classification as an essential service
  • Thousands would be left out of work if forestry industries are forced to shut down
  • A regional MP renews call for a cross border commissioner

The industry was not included in the essential services list released by SA Health on Tuesday afternoon.

Key stakeholders have been in constant talks with The Department of Primary Industries and Regions as they scramble to get more information.

Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub chair Ian McDonnell said the lack of clear communication had been frustrating.

“It’s critical we get an answer [by 6:00pm], there’s a huge amount of people involved in our industry and while we respect the importance of what the government is trying to achieve, I’m very disappointed,” Mr McDonnell said.

Timber at a mill

Timber on the production line at a processing facility.(

Supplied: Australian Forest Products Association

)

He said the industry had previously been classified as an essential service, but on this occasion there is confusion.

“The disappointing part of this is that 12 months ago, our industry presented a COVID Management Plan to the government and it was accepted at the time,” Mr McDonnell said.

“We’re now scrambling to see whether we can still qualify for exemption.”

If the industry were forced to shut down for seven days, Mr McDonnell said the impact would be felt far and wide.

“Seven days is a long time for a lot of families and it is a very concerning time for our industry.”

’11th hour’ scramble

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell said industries like forestry should be allowed to continue to operate.

“Where there’s no cases, where industries can operate in a COVID safe environment, they should be allowed to operate,” he said.

“There’s no clarity at the moment. We’re working very hard at the 11th hour to get some assurance before six o’clock tonight about which businesses and which industries can continue and which ones cannot.”

Man standing near plantation

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell stands at a regional radiata pine commercial estate.(

Supplied: Troy Bell

)

Mr Bell said this issue highlighted the need for a cross border commissioner.

“I have been pushing for a cross border commissioner for nearly four years now and it is these exact issues that I could foresee,” he said.

Mr Bell said he was disappointed the government had taken the path of a full state lockdown.

“Mount Gambier is nearly 500 kilometres away from Modbury where this outbreak has taken place,” he said.

“I certainly agree that safety needs to be first priority, but we’ve had 18 months now to look at different strategies that work.”

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‘Non-essential’ forestry industry seeks clarity about SA lockdown at 11th hour
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