Knysna’s annual timber festival - from 11 to 13 November, 2016 - will take place at a crossroads moment for the economy of the Garden Route.
That’s the message from the Knysna Timber Initiative (the organisers of the event), the Southern Cape Landowner’s Initiative, Knysna & Partners (the town’s destination management and destination marketing organisation), and others who’ve committed themselves to halting job losses and preventing a possible disaster that could happen if the timber industry in the region collapses altogether.
“The Knysna Timber Festival focuses on the experience - what forestry and woodworking have to offer in terms of skills, jobs, and tourism, and how massively they impact on the local economy,” said the vice-chairperson of the Knysna Timber Initiative, Jock McConnachie.
But, he said, “the supply of both indigenous timber and timber from plantations has become a critical constraint for the normal operation of the industry, and we’re going to use the opportunity that the Festival will present - since we’ll have most of the role players together in Knysna at one time - to hold a workshop to develop a vision and plan for the future.”
Cobus Meiring, manager of stakeholder engagement for the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI), said that the Garden Route has lost as many as 7,000 jobs over the last decade, “as a direct result of policy decisions.”
He said that the SCLI has approached the issue from an environmental perspective from the start.
The organisation exists to promote environmental awareness and best land management practice among its members; its chief operational function lies in rehabilitating degraded areas and ecosystems overcome by invasive alien plants.
“We’re concerned that forested land that’s not properly managed becomes a major threat to the environment and thus to our fresh water supply.
“But the rehabilitation of forests promotes job opportunities and creates opportunities for the development of new tourism products,” he said.
Retired forest officer Theo Stehle - who worked in the indigenous and plantation forests of the Southern Cape for more than 30 years - said that, “In the 1970s and 80s, everything in Knysna was all about timber.
“It was the engine of the entire economy, and it attracted first-rate researchers who were considered world leaders in their fields.
“Given the political will - and the buy-in of the local businesses - the foundations could be there for successfully reviving our timber heritage.”
Greg Vogt, CEO of Knysna & Partners, said that the Provincial Minister of Economic Opportunities in the Ministry of Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism, Alan Winde, will attend the workshop, which is scheduled for 11 November.
“Our role as a destination management organisation includes finding connections across sectors that can unlock the potential in our destination, and the Knysna Timber Festival is the perfect opportunity for that kind of discussion.
“We’re committed to helping wherever we can because, like our partners in this event, we understand that it’s now or never for timber in the Garden Route.”
Festival organiser Picca de Bruin said that Knysna Timber Festival will be sponsored by Woodoc Food for Wood and Saplings Timber Trading, and is presented with the assistance of Knysna & Partners and the Knysna Municipality.
It will be run under the theme, ‘Wood is in our nature.’
“Our exhibitions, demonstrations, and talks will take place at Timber Village in Welbedacht Lane, while the workshop on the future of timber in the Garden Route will happen at Knysna Hollow.
“We do still have some exhibition spaces available, and there’s more information at www.timberfestival.co.za,” she said.
Media release for Knysna & Partners by
Martin Hatchuel of www.thistourismweek.co.za
084 951 0574