Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 73

Forestry Tasmania  have really made a mess for themselves this time. An article in The Australian last thursday, by Matthew Denholm, exposed the truth behind Forestry’s contract with Ta Ann. The contract they had made with Ta Ann is basically selling a product that doesn’t exist. That’s right. There simply is not 265,000 cubic meters per year of veneer wood available in the native forest estate of Tasmania.  There they trying to push back on conservation outcomes because of contracts and they themselves can’t even meet the contract anyway! And they’d be thanking their lucky stars that Gunns Ltd left the native forest industry of their own accord. If there isn’t even enough wood for Ta Ann, who knows how they expected to supply over double that amount had Gunns Ltd still been in the game.

How did Forestry Tasmania think they would supply Ta Ann with wood that wasn’t there? Lets hope they weren’t thinking of doing any sneaky cutting of wood they weren’t meant to, a little from a wildlife reserve here or a streamside buffer there?

When calculating how much wood you have, the trick is that you can’t just include 100% of the forest that is in the State forest system. Because to do that would mean no streamside buffer zones, no wedge-tail eagle nest buffers, no wildlife corridors. (surely that is not what FT had in mind?). Now, in Tasmania we have the Forest Practises Code (FPC). It outlines some rules for all those conservation measures. Really it is  highly inadequate and for a state that claims “world’s best practise” it really leaves a lot to be desired. For example a river (class 1) here in Tasmania is currently getting a 40 meter buffer. When in some other Australian states that would be 100m. Class 4 creeks, like the one just near my tree, get what’s called a Machinery Exclusion Zone, meaning the machines can’t go closer than 10 meters, but it doesn’t necessarily exclude other types of disturbance within that zone. So, really the current Code is not super great for conservation outcomes as it is. Yet, even then, Forestry Tasmania only allocated 10% of the wood in the forest estate to be taken up by such buffers, zones and other inaccessible areas. Well, this is a gross underestimation. They should have been looking more at the 30% figure, or at least 20%. You would think that it would be important to get the calculations right before you went around signing contracts for that wood. Now they are in even more of a pickle. Because not only did they overestimate the amount of wood with the current Code, they didn’t leave room to move. And that was not wise, considering they would have known that the  FPC was subject to regular review.

A recent review of the FPC has indicated that tighter restrictions are needed. The review found that the FPC was not providing protection for endangered species. (You and I could have told them that of course, with all the Tasmanian devils in this coupe that are going to lose their homes!). The Forest Practices Authority is particularly concerned about native bird species that require hollows for nesting. So, how did Forestry Tasmania respond? Well, John Hickey from FT was quoted in the Australian as saying that a much more “pragmatic” approach was needed. That’s right, we really can’t concern ourselves too much if the Tasmanian devil is going to go extinct or not, when we have the more important duty of supplying wood to a Malaysian company so that they can make veneer! Well, it’s not really a very convincing argument. At least, it certainly hasn’t convinced me to stop caring about the devils! And it didn’t manage to convince Graham Wilkinson  chief of the Forest Practices Authority either. Graham said (as reported in The Australian) that you can’t go against the scientifically proven data and they would not be willing to water down scientifically based requirements. Endangered species need to receive more protection. The new FPC changes will increase the area inaccessible to logging to about 40%. Creating a further shortfall for Forestry Tasmania to sort out for their unviable contract with Ta Ann. The FPC review was no surprise and they should have left a bit of room for it, rather than selling off every last scrap of forest in the entire state (and more).

“Forestry Tasmania has argued throughout the process that, provided it can continue to ignore scientifically based requirements for the protection of endangered species, it could still meet its contracts until 2030 provided no more areas were protected. Now we know that is a lie. It cannot. Even with no reserves, and unsustainable practices, Forestry Tasmania cannot fulfil its contracts from native forests.” Christine Milne said in her press release about the issue.

Forestry Tasmania should be abolished. As Senator Christine Milne said  ”

Forestry Tasmania must be disbanded beginning with the Board which has overseen reckless destruction of forests, overcutting, over allocation in contracts and financial failure with the $18 million losses over the past two financial years.” They cannot be trusted. They have not only sold away all of our forests and even some that aren’t there. They also have shown clearly now where their true loyalties lie. If they are willing to say that we should not bother protecting endangered species, that we should instead prioritize contracts, then it is clear that the organisation will never be able to deliver true conservation outcomes. For this reason, it is anyone’s guess why the organisation would be given the responsibilities of both logging and preserving the forests. There is a clear conflict of interest. And in addition they have shown themselves to be simply incompetent at managing our forests time and time again. It is time for them to go.

And as far as Ta Ann’s contract is concerned, well, the new information about wood supply certainly changes the way it should be viewed within the IGA process.  How can the negotiation process take into account  a contract that can’t be meet even without any new reserves? The contract is going to have to be renegotiated. And since a whole lot of changes are going to have to be made anyway to make up for this debacle, then they might as well make the additional changes needed to meet conservation outcomes. The Australian reported that with the FPC changes, there would only be about 177,000 cubic meters a year available for Ta Ann. The company is currently requiring about 330,000 cubic meters of wood  (to create 265,000 m3 of veneer). If they have to change the way they operation to account for the short fall of 100,000 m3 they might as well do so to account for the loss of wood from the 572,000 hectares, so that it can be protected, as it should be. Surely not that difficult, since it would amount to less cubic meters than the current short fall anyway.

Perhaps it is time for Ta Ann to change their business model? The company clearly has no future in the ongoing destruction of native forests, especially when they are marketing it as environmentally friendly. Even they are admitting that their customer’s are not going to accept forest destruction anymore, claiming to have lost 50% of their Japanese customers due to the environmental concerns. They cannot survive by logging native forests, the wood isn’t there, the customers don’t want it anyway and the rest of the world certainly doesn’t want them to either. So, it seems to me that the timing is perfect now for them to transition out of native forests. And for the government to make sure they do, because otherwise Forestry Tasmania might well find it’s self on the end of a law suit.  Ta Ann could certainly considering suing FT for the signing of a contract for wood that wasn’t even available.

I think if the Premier wants so desperately to see a solution, as she seems to be claiming, she will be doing everything she can to get Ta Ann out of native forest as quickly as possible.

Posted on February 25, 2012, in Daily Blog. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Pleased I am that my message is finally being better understood, I have long been advocating that the GBE of Forestry Tasmania be revoked of all its currently held authorities including, “to harvest Native Forests sustainably and to act as the responsible stewards of Tasmania’s forests.”
    I look to the day, (soon hopefully) to hear that this forestry entity it is to cease all government mandated functions.
    It has taken considerable time for this State government entity to be to fully understood and to be identified as Tasmania’s most destructive force/element.
    Furthermore that the engagements of Forestry Tasmania has seen this GBE engage in the contractual sale of its harvested product below the production cost, beginning with its location- through to its delivery onto to its major buyers, generating nil revenues into the State’s Treasury.

  2. An entire conservation movement exists because of the evils of logging. Name one thing right about logging. The practice is destructive, exploitative, primitive, unprofitable, and as many diehards are learning, finite.

    Have a look at a satellite map of Tasmania and go fix the denuded landscape left by loggers of yore.
    If loggers need to quench their addiction, there is much unutilised farmland that could be turned to silviculture, but one needs planning and patience for the trees to grow – might be too hard!

    To FT Coupe BA338D in Liffey Forest is like a hooch crop to feed its addiction. It has nothing to do with woodchips, saw logs, timber, profit or even revenue.

    It is forest so it has to die! It exists on FT’s map – colour coded for logging, so it must be logged. There is a principle at stake too – no giving ground to them Greenies and their locked up 430,000 heactares. FT is number one boss logger.

    In any case FT has idle feller bunchers, idle loggers sitting at home watching the plasma.

  3. Here is what Matthew Denholm wrote in his article “Tougher protection puts logging contracts in doubt” (From: The Australian, February 23, 2012 12:00AM):
    “TASMANIA’S state-owned logging agency faces difficulty in meeting a key contract — to mills employing 160 workers — because of tougher environmental restrictions and a timber shortfall.

    “Forestry Tasmania needs to produce 265,000cu m a year of logs for veneer maker Ta Ann, which has two mills in the state, under a 20-year contract running until 2027. In an analysis for the forest peace process in June, FT said this amount of wood was available from native forests until 2030, as long as no further forests were added to reserves.

    “These volumes were also based on a 10 per cent “discount” to account for restrictions under the Forest Practices Code, such as requirements to leave areas standing for endangered species.

    “However, the independent regulator of the code, the Forest Practices Authority, is tightening it to better protect endangered species, particularly birds that nest in tree hollows such as the swift parrot. Preliminary modelling by FT shows these changes mean that as much as 40 per cent, rather than 10 per cent, of wood volumes from production forests need to be “discounted”.

    “FT corporate manager Ken Jeffreys confirmed that a 40 per cent discount would reduce the average amount of veneer wood available from public native forests to about 177,000cu m a year.

    “As well as code restraints, independent logging schedulers assisting the forest peace talks have identified a separate “annualised shortfall” of 39,000cu m of veneer logs, which must be found from outside state forests.

    “FT forest management chief John Hickey said that for FT to meet its target of 265,000cu m of veneer logs each year, a much more pragmatic view was needed of the code changes and the creation of new reserves.

    “However, authority chief Graham Wilkinson said while his body would consult with FT and industry it could not water down scientifically based requirements for the protection of threatened species. Mr Jeffreys insisted that despite any difficulties, FT would meet the terms of its Ta Ann contract. He said the creation of new reserves would lower the discount rate and he was confident of filling any shortfall from plantations and private sources.

    “Ta Ann declined to say what level of concern it had about the issue. However, a spokesman pointed out that both sides in the forest peace process had guaranteed support for its 265,000cu m a year of veneer logs.”
    So as well as potential pressure from a Forest Practices Authority tightening of the Forest Practices Code, Forestry Tasmania is experiencing an “annualised shortfall” of 39,000cu m of veneer logs. That is, they can’t meet their contract with Ta Ann. They over-committed our forests to the chopping-block. I think it should be FT on the chopping-block and I agree with the calls for Forestry Tasmania to be abolished and to be replaced by a body whose priority is the protection and conservation of our forests, a body that is not itself a logging enterprise, as is the present FT.

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