The Western Australia (WA) Labor government will end commercial logging in native forests to protect two million hectares of native karri, jarrah, and wandoo tree life.
To keep sawmill businesses and townships afloat, the government will also plunge $350 million into softwood pine plantations and $80 million into restructuring payments and grants for existing workers.
The announcement on Oct. 1, means from next year, timber can only be taken from native forests to maintain forest health or for approved mining operations.
The government said native karri forests were mainly chipped and exported overseas, and jarrah sawlog products were sent interstate.
The Cook government says developing alternative softwood timber plantations meant continuing supply for housing developments, and could also "capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere" to help "fight climate change."
"This move by the Cook Government will safeguard our ionic forests for generations to come," said Forestry Minister Jackie Jarvis, in a statement.
"The record $350 million investment in WA's plantation estate will ensure we can continue to build houses in WA, supporting both the local construction industry and the South West forestry industry.
"As a leading manufacturer of building products in WA, Laminex and businesses like eKitchens in Forrestdale have an important role to play in shaping the future of the building sector by utilising sustainable wood products."
Environment Minister Reece Whitby said the move meant WA would soon be the first Australian state to end native forest logging.
"This decision reflects the changing attitudes of the community towards our native forests, building on the legacy of the Gallop Labor government ending old growth logging."
WA's decision comes after the Victorian Labor government also began banning native forest logging, aiming to end the practice by next year as well.
The move came after the government-owned VicForests endured repeated legal action from environmental activists.
Former Premier Daniel Andrews claimed his government had "no options for regulatory reform" to prevent further legal injunctions that could disrupt logging activity.
"Native timber harvesting in state forests will end in 2024—with existing supports being brought forward and scaled up—which will mean every single timber worker will be directly supported to find a new job."
However, that move drew criticism from logging groups and unions.
"It will also add to current imports [in Victoria]—already worth $5.5 billion—much of which comes from the tropical forests of developing nations with lesser environmental standards than Australia,” said the CEO of the Australian Forest Products Association, Joel Fitzgibbon. “That’s no way to protect and conserve Australia’s native forest estate or to halt global deforestation practices.”
“Sustainable forestry management practices play no role in deforestation in Australia, and decision-makers need to understand the ramifications of their decisions.”
While the national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining, and Energy Union, Michael O’Connor, told The Australian newspaper that the government's failure to consult with unions would "maximise the chances that the impact on people is going to be worse."