SEFE GM “amazed” at code of conduct ruling

SEFE general manager Peter Mitchell is furious that no further action is to be taken against Bega Valley Shire Councillor Keith Hughes, who criticised the company in a letter to visiting Chinese delegates last year.

SEFE general manager Peter Mitchell is furious that no further action is to be taken against Bega Valley Shire Councillor Keith Hughes, who criticised the company in a letter to visiting Chinese delegates last year.

South East Fibre Exports general manager Peter Mitchell says he is “amazed” by an independent reviewer’s decision to take no further action against Bega Valley Shire Councillor Keith Hughes, over a letter Cr Hughes wrote to visiting Chinese delegates last November.

Mr Mitchell made a code of conduct complaint against Cr Hughes over the letter, which advised the delegates against purchasing Eden woodchips.

“I advised our Chinese visitors that Eden woodchips from native forests were highly controversial, poor quality, involved enormous environmental damage to the forests, soils and waterways of the region, and kills native birds and animals,” Cr Hughes, a member of the NSW Greens, said.

“I pointed out that intensive logging increases bushfire hazards, the woodchipping industry is heavily subsidised by Australia and NSW taxpayers, and that the very large carbon emissions from native forest logging make climate change worse.”

Cr Hughes’s letter also suggested that it would be better to purchase better quality woodchips from plantations.

“It also stated that South East Fibre Exports has made serious financial losses in each of the previous two years and cannot be considered a reliable supplier,” Cr Hughes said.

An independent reviewer has found that no further action will be taken against Bega Valley Shire Councillor Keith Hughes, over a letter he wrote to visiting Chinese delegates last year, advising them against purchasing Eden woodchips.

An independent reviewer has found that no further action will be taken against Bega Valley Shire Councillor Keith Hughes, over a letter he wrote to visiting Chinese delegates last year, advising them against purchasing Eden woodchips.

Mr Mitchell described the letter as “unconscionable”, and said Cr Hughes has “again shown no concern for regional employment, or communities that benefit from the native forest timber industry”.

“For a councillor to openly defame a major employer and ratepayer in his official capacity while hosting a visiting delegation is unconscionable,” Mr Mitchell said.

“I wonder what the BVSC reaction would have been if Cr Hughes had advised the Wenzhou delegation to boycott Bega Cheese products, because their milk-producing farms were once prime koala forests.

“It is further evidence that for eco-nazis, such as Cr Hughes, the end justifies the means.

“I wonder if his home was threatened by wildfire, if he’d accept assistance from timber industry or Forestry Corporation of NSW fire-fighting capacity.”

The independent reviewer found that:

  • The complaint is not a code of conduct complaint;
  • The complaint is not trivial, frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith; and
  • The complaint does not disclose prima facie evidence of a breach of the code.

Cr Hughes said he was never seriously concerned.

“I had not claimed to be speaking for the whole Council and was simply advising our visitors of a number of matters which are all on the public record anyway,” he said.

A copy of Cr Hughes’ letter can be viewed here.

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