Timber route funds query

OPPOSITION spokesman for primary industry, Steve Whan, has questioned whether the newly corporatised NSW Forest Corporation (formerly State Forests) is shifting its financial responsibilities onto taxpayers with the announcement by the state government of $450,000 to upgrade timber routes in the Bombala area.

“The Nationals recently announced a $450,000 grant for Bombala Council as part of the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Roads funding program (Bombala Times, April 30, 2014),” Mr Whan said.

“Obviously every cent for rural roads is welcome, however, I question whether this funding should be coming at the expense of other rural roads or whether it should really have come from the Forest Corporation.

“In my term as Member for Monaro the then State Forests provided $1.7 million to upgrade timber routes which otherwise would have been a cost born by council, this was on top of the $6.7 million in upgrades (ie not just maintenance) to state roads in the Bombala Shire.

“There is no doubt that the burden of maintenance on routes which carry a heavy burden of logging trucks shouldn’t fall only on ratepayers.  

“I have driven along all the roads slated for upgrades in Bombala Shire and I certainly agree that state assistance is warranted but what we seem to be seeing here is the Forest Corporation shifting its responsibility on to the roads budget.

“The Nationals local representative Mr [John] Barilaro voted to corporatise State Forests, he did so with no guarantee about maintenance of community service obligations. 

“Unfortunately Mr Barilaro just went along with what his Sydney bosses told him to do, create an organisation that has as its prime objective of making money.

“Of course the drive to make a profit comes at the expense of regional development goals and it means the organisation will do its best to minimise the amount it has to pay for local infrastructure.

“This is a case in point – under Labor $1.7 million came from State Forests to pay for roads, under the Nationals $450,000 comes from the roads budget. 

“The bottom line is less money being spent on roads in Bombala Shire and shifting of funding that should be paid by the Forest Corporation on to the taxpayers.”