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January : Ground-breaking timber economy workshop

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18 January, 2017

Ground-breaking timber economy workshop

Timber workshop

KNYSNA NEWS - The Knysna tourism entity, Knysna & Partners held, what has been lauded as a "ground-breaking" timber economy workshop at the Knysna Hollow on Friday, November 11.

This closed workshop saw stakeholders from various sectors such as Government, timber growers, timber buyers, conservationists and foresters coming together with one main aim, to resurrect the ailing timber economy in the Garden Route.

Knysna executive mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies opened the workshop with the message that the participants of the workshop were not to "apportion blame" for the failing timber economy in the region, but rather to work on solutions on how to resurrect this important historical sector.

"I have watched the slow death of what was once a very active timber industry and it keeps me awake at night," said Bouw-Spies before adding: "We are gathered today to find solution on how we can restructure this industry, an industry that can be traced back in Knysna to the early 1700s."

Before closing she acknowledge the magnitude of the task that lay ahead and said: "I know that this is a very volatile issue and am grateful to Greg Vogt [CEO of Knysna & Partners] for bringing all of you together today and am hopeful that by the time you leave, you will be a great deal closer to resolving the many issues that have been hampering our timber economy."

Paddy Gordon, park manager of the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) explained that SANParks manages 60 000 hectares of indigenous forests transferred from the Department of Forestry. "Another 20 000 hectares are meant to be transferred by MTO/Cape Pine by 2020 and half of this (approximately 10,000 were transferred by MTO) to be rehabilitated. These are majorly fynbos areas," said Gordon.

One of the studies presented at the workshop was questioned by SANParks and other stakeholders but the meeting decided not to consider and work from it but to rather chart the way forward by identifying key stakeholders in both indigenous and commercial forestry sectors. 

Gordon expressed willingness to engage in dialogue with the sector via the Knysna & Partners' initiated workshop. He further released the relevant team(s) to get involved in the process.
Gordon lead the mayor's call for everyone to work together by committing to the recommended process and proposed journey to collectively migrate this sector of the economy towards a successful solution.

Workshop facilitators, Professor Roy and his wife and business partner Dee Marcus are well known both nationally and internationally for their high level engagements and coordinating processes bringing similar problems, as Knysna's ailing timber economy towards success.

Marcus utilises the systems and design thinking methodology in getting all parties to start the process of reconciliation with a clean slate. Painful truths spoken out loud, but not apportioning blame to any one party. But rather looking at positive ways of moving forward in the fixing of this ailing economy.

The next phase of the process will be a high level two day workshop that will see many relevant role-players and stakeholders from the Garden Route participating. These role-players will include national and provincial government ministries.

Bouw-Spies said that she is hopeful that at the end of the next two day workshop the stakeholders would have resolved the many issues that may have been hampering Knysna's timber economy. "I leave you with a few words of wisdom from Albert Einstein: ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.' Instead of find problems within possible solutions, I ask all to apply their minds to find solutions. I have full faith that through these workshops we will find the solution to the ailing timber economy in Greater Knysna and the Garden Route.

Knysna & Partners