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Forestry job losses ‘cut the throat of expertise’

Scientists in New South Wales have warned that job cuts in forestry research will significantly damage environmental work in the state, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 23 August.

According to the newspaper, the state government is cutting 11 jobs from its Forest Science Centre, which is run by the Department of Primary Industries. These include senior science positions and account for half the centre’s full-time workforce.

Mike Archer, a professor of biological science at the University of New South Wales and a former director of the Australian Museum, told the newspaper that the move would ”cut the throat of the expertise that is generating so much information that we need now. This is not the group to sacrifice.”

He added that scientists at the centre—who specialise in sustainable forestry and agriculture—work on long-term projects for 10 or 20 years.

“They are producing understanding about changes in the land resulting from the way we use it in a way that no other researchers can demonstrate because none of the rest of us have this capacity to do these kinds of long-term studies,” he said. “And it is long-term studies that are precisely what we need at this point.”

Peter Banks, president of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW, has also written to members, calling on them to appeal against the decision by writing to ministers, the Herald reported.

Katrina Hodgkinson, the minister for primary industries, told the newspaper that the decision was made after four years of “benchmarking” against commercial forestry companies and that AU$1.5 million would still be spent on research.