To protect jobs and ensure the long term sustainability of the economy in South East NSW local MPs Andrew Constance and Mike Kelly should read the writing on the wall and work on a transition plan for workers at the Eden chip mill which is strongly rumoured to soon close, says Australian Greens forests spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon.
"Despite the grey clouds hanging over South East Fibre Exports' Eden chip mill both Andrew Constance and Mike Kelly continue to paint the sky as blue," Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon said.
"Right now we have to end native forest wood chipping and the federal and state governments should work together in cleaning up the industry.
"Local residents tell me that the General Manager of the chip mill Mr Peter Mitchell has implied publicly that the closure is on the cards. The loss of 20 workers last month also rang clear warning bells which should not be ignored.
"The approximately forty mill workers and their families cannot be left to face an uncertain future.
"Mr Constance and Mr Kelly should be working with their respective governments to see the retraining of mill workers and identify new work opportunities. Many value adding projects using plantation timber could be developed.
"Bega TAFE can also play a major role in assisting to retrain workers. Labor and the Coalition should reverse their education policies that are running down TAFEs in regional areas.
"For too long now local MPs have had a head in the sand approach to the economic and environmental perils of relying on the logging of South East native forests.
"Work on a transition plan is needed now, not once the doors close and the Eden chip mill is mothballed," Senator Rhiannon said.
NSW Greens MP and forest spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
"The O'Farrell government talks the talk on jobs for timber industry workers, but the fact is that job numbers in the industry are shrinking and government has no plan to deal with the changes.
"With international native woodchip prices in long term decline there is no viable future for the Eden woodchip mill and rather than fight history, it is time to put in place a transition plan.
"The South East needs more, not less TAFE places, to ensure any displaced worker can retrain to work in long term industries such as sustainable plantations, to native forestry rehabilitation and regional tourism.
"Unfortunately with the corporatisation of Forests NSW the government has even fewer ways to assist timber workers whose entire future will be in the hands of a for-profit statutory corporation disinterested in jobs, the environment or local families."