A WA timber processor says the State Government encouraged it to spend tens of millions of dollars building up operations in the South West ahead of this week’s shock announcement that logging of native forests would be banned from 2024. Parkside Timber, owned by a Queensland family, has spent $50 million acquiring and upgrading WA plants and sawmills since entering the local market in 2019. It has mills at Nannup and Greenbushes and employs 160 people across its WA operations. It was due to open a new $14m Manjimup facility later this month. Parkside chief executive John McNamara said the Government had encouraged it to invest and reinvigorate the WA industry. “We had been encouraged by Government departments and ministers to continue our investment,” he said. “We had discussions with various senior people in departments about where we were taking the business, and were getting a lot of encouragement to continue investing.” Mr McNamara said business would continue as normal as the company analysed the detail of this week’s ban order. “We have told our staff all we can at this point in time — that the Government has made a decision which we need to understand in full before we can make any decisions on where we head,” he said. “In the meantime we will continue our business, doing what we do until we can find out the detail.” Jay Branson, owner of Dwellingup Sawmill, estimates he has invested more than $1m after acquiring the business in 2005. The company employs 18 people, including Mr Branson, who said there was a lot of uncertainty about the future. “Without logs, we can’t operate. Without huge financial investment, I can’t see how I could transfer over to pine,” he said. “Hardwood takes a lot more labour and is a lot more specialised. Pine is much more about mass production. Without hardwood, we will shut down.” Mr Branson believed spending $350m to transfer the industry to pine — to be announced in today’s Budget — would not fill the void. He said the softwood industry was already battling to source enough fibre. The industry would need to wait two decades to harvest trees planted today. “There’s a fair bit of worry among staff. We’re still working but no one has the bounce in their step they usually have,” Mr Branson said. Forest Industries Federation (WA) executive director Melissa Haslam said the industry employs more than 500 people and contributes upwards of $220m to the WA economy each year. She said a $50m transition funding offered by the Government as compensation was miniscule compared to the level of investment in the sector. As well as Parkside’s $50m investment, another $100 million of investment was pending, which would now be lost. Ms Haslam said a $350m investment in the plantation sector would do nothing to help the native timber sector. WA Opposition leader Mia Davies condemned the decision and noted there had been no logging of old growth forest since 2001. The only logging that occurs in native forests now is of replanted trees, sustainably managed under a long-term forest management plan, she said.