26 October, 2006

LETTERS: Blind ideology endangers sound debate

Mark Poynter, forestry consultant, Institute of Foresters of Australia
October 26, 2006

The outraged response to my article about the GHG abatement benefits of native forest wood production reinforces my central point that blind anti-logging ideology threatens to counteract alternative energy initiatives that are addressing global warming.

Despite evoking a passionate save-the-forest tirade, my article clearly stated that wood production is only permitted within a 10 per cent portion of Victoria's forests, and so concerns that logging threatens forest survival and integrity are irrelevant.

If our society is to advance, we must address environmental issues in a clear-eyed rational manner. This cannot occur if public debate continues to be dominated by ill-informed armchair environmentalists whose only answers lie in tired rhetoric, self-righteous indignation, and discrediting the informed thoughts of scientists who grapple with environmental issues on a daily basis.

Foresters know what they are doing
Norman Endacott, Warranwood

Your four correspondents (Business, 24/10) pillory Mark Poynter (Business, 18/10) for dutifully sticking to the truth in debunking the misinformation perpetrated by Gavan McFadzean, who has attributed bad global warming outcomes to the harvesting and concomitant regeneration of our native forests. Those forest management practices have been honed over the years, and cannot be accused of depleting or degrading those forests, in terms of environmental values or long-term timber sustainability or carbon retention.

Those four people have an ignorance of the life cycle of a tree, a forest, a forest landscape mosaic, or an ecosystem, and they just cannot perceive the waxing and waning associated with the interplay of the foresters' ministrations and nature.


21 October, 2006

ARTICLE: Gunns must pay Greens costs

Xavier La Canna
The Heraldsun, 21 October 2006

Tasmanian timber company Gunns must pay legal costs for a group of environmentalists it tried to sue for millions of dollars, a Victorian judge has ruled.
Supreme Court Justice Bernard Bongiorno yesterday ruled that Gunns must pay the costs, which relate to an unsuccessful claim that 20 environmentalists took part in conspiracies against the company.

Greg Ogle, the legal coordinator for the Wilderness Society, one of the defendants, said the costs would probably amount to more than $1 million.

But Mr Ogle said it was unlikely the environmentalists would be given the money for at least one year, while the exact amount was decided.

Gunns had tried to sue the 20 defendants, who included Greens Senator Bob Brown and Tasmanian Greens leader Peg Putt, for almost $7 million.

Since December 2004 the company has filed three separate statements of claim, which have all been thrown out of court.

In August, Justice Bongiorno ruled three of the defendants should be given a total of nearly $87,000, which related to the first statement of claim.

Yesterday's ruling relates to the third statement of claim Gunns made against the environmentalists.

Wilderness Society spokeswoman Virginia Young welcomed the ruling but said it would not cover the organisation's total costs.

The costs will include the expense of reading and responding to the statement of claim, as well as researching and formulating the legal arguments, and the costs of the three-day hearing in August last year, the society said in a statement.

Justice Bongiorno also gave Gunns until November 2 to seek leave to file a fourth statement of claim in relation to the alleged conspiracies against the company.


Original article

LETTER: Give us water, not timber

Ellen Sandell, East Brunswick
The Age, Saturday 21 October 2006

The Bracks Government has finally gone mad. The decision not to end logging in Melbourne's water catchments ( The Age, 20/10) is irresponsible, shortsighted and stupid.

With countless reports highlighting the fact that logging causes a significant water loss, the Government sits on its hands and spits out rhetoric about jobs and money from timber. Isn't it aware that the amount of water that would be saved is worth more money than the timber coming out of the catchments?

Labor's forest policy was hijacked in the 1990s by forest industry staff who planted spies in environment groups and blocked discussion on forest protection. Now, with the ridiculous decision about our water catchments, one cannot help but wonder if this is happening again.

20 October, 2006

ARTICLE: No end to logging in catchments

Liz Minchin, Environment Report
The Age, October 20, 2006

Loging in Melbourne's water catchments will continue for at least another two years, despite government-appointed experts conceding it reduces the amount of water running into the city's biggest dam.

This week the State Government released its strategy to supply Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and the Latrobe Valley with water for the next 50 years.

But the strategy did not include any decisions about continuing to log water catchment areas, including higher rainfall areas above Melbourne's main reservoir, Lake Thomson.

Four years ago, an expert committee appointed by the Bracks Government said phasing out logging in the Thomson catchment by 2020 could increase Melbourne's long-term water supply by an estimated 20,000 megalitres a year by 2050 — enough to supply 80,000 Melbourne homes.

Their report, 21st Century Melbourne: a WaterSmart City, called for an investigation to be completed within two years into whether logging in the Thomson Reservoir catchment should be phased out.

Similar recommendations were made in a 2003 Department of Sustainability and Environment paper.

The Government has now commissioned studies into how much water is being lost from logging and whether it could be replaced with timber from plantations outside catchment areas.

But its new water strategy says those studies will not be completed until December 2008, with a Department of Sustainability and Environment spokeswoman confirming that "the project is still at an early stage".

A spokesman for Water Minister John Thwaites defended the time the Government was taking to act, saying "any decision on logging in catchments has to balance any potential increase in water yields with the impact on regional jobs and the economy".

In response, the State Opposition and environment groups accused the Government of trying to delay controversial decisions until after next month's election.

"This is another example of the Bracks Government hiding critical data ahead of the state election," Liberal environment spokesman David Davis said.

Central Highlands Alliance president Sarah Rees said studies going back to 1968 showed that logging reduced water flows into water catchments.

"How many more reports do they need before they'll finally do something?" Ms Rees said.

Meanwhile, Latrobe Valley power workers have called for reassurances about the Government's $2.4 billion plan to use recycled water to cool Victoria's biggest electricity plants, after a Government report suggested it may increase their chances of catching legionnaire's disease.

The feasibility study for the Eastern Water Recycling proposal notes that more chemicals will be needed to treat recycled water used in cooling towers "due to expected higher nutrient levels in cooling water … to control biological growth including legionella".

"I'm concerned that introducing new impurities, new toxins or nutrients into our system … presents a potential risk of increased outbreaks and perhaps the introduction of new bugs," Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union spokesman Greg Hardy said."

Original article

18 October, 2006

ARTICLE: Campaigners can't see forest for trees

Mark Poynter
Forestry consultant, and member of the Institute of Foresters of Australia.
The Age, October 18, 2006

THE start of Victoria's renewable energy trading scheme in January signifies a welcome Government willingness to step up the fight against global warming.

Yet environmental groups continue to pressure the Government to act against native forest logging and close Victoria's hardwood timber industry - a debate that was reignited recently by an ABC Four Corners program.

Although not obvious to most Victorians, there is a counter-productive link here that needs to be acknowledged if we are to make headway against global warming.

Sustainable logging is now restricted to just 10 per cent of Victoria's native forests. Yet anti-logging campaigns continue to attribute it with damaging environmental impacts out of proportion to its nature and extent. This includes the erroneous claim that timber
production promotes global warming by diminishing the capacity of native forests as carbon sinks when the opposite is true.

It is widely appreciated that growing forests sequester atmospheric carbon that effectively counteracts greenhouse gas emissions. But rates diminish as growth slows with age. Over time, undisturbed forests store carbon but sequester little new carbon once they reach maturity and
become "old growth".

But sustainable harvesting maintains a continuous cycle of vigorous growth that actively sequesters carbon at high rates while annually transferring carbon storage from trees to various wood-based products.
Losses of carbon occur along the way, most notably through greenhouse gas emissions from mechanised timber harvesting, log cartage, primary processing, and from slash burning to promote forest regeneration. But the losses are relatively small compared with the rate of enhanced carbon sequestration and storage by logging regrowth.

Sustainable logging in Victoria's designated wood production zones produces about 1.5 million cubic metres of hardwood sawlogs and residual logs a year from an estimated total harvested biomass of about 2.1 million cubic metres, including roots, bark, branches and foliage. The
concept of sustainability dictates that annually harvested amount is replaced by an equivalent volume of growth.

Carbon sequestered each year in new biomass growth in Victoria's production zones is estimated to be equivalent to saving 2.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. This is net of emissions from fuel and power use inherent to timber production and emissions from the regeneration process. It is also additional to the carbon that could have been sequestered if the forest had alternatively been left unlogged.

Putting this into perspective is that clean energy produced from Victorian wind farms has been estimated to save 250,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. Put another way, if anti-logging campaigns were to close Victoria's native forest timber industry, 10 times as many wind turbines as now exist would be required just to make up for the carbon sequestration lost by "locking up" wood production forests.

Enhanced carbon sequestration is only part of the "greenhouse" benefit of sustainable logging. Australian domestic hardwood production also offsets imports of tropical hardwoods and the use of steel, aluminium and concrete that offer poor environmental outcomes.

Tropical timber imports - often illegally produced from unsustainable sources - have increased by 50 per cent since 2001 as state governments have reduced the native forest harvest. This has been accompanied by additional greenhouse gas emissions inherent to international freight.
Unfortunately, this is likely to continue as we have few hardwood plantations being grown for solid wood production.

The use of substitute products is also believed to have increased as governments have reacted to anti-logging campaigns. These are problematic because they rely on finite resources and because their manufacture involves substantially greater carbon emissions compared with producing a similar unit of renewable solid timber. In particular, greenhouse gas emissions from steel and aluminium making are several hundred times greater than that associated with timber.

No one disputes the benefits of focusing on conserving biodiversity as is now the case in most of our native forests. But it must be recognised there are also substantial environmental benefits associated with sustainably harvesting wood from a portion of our forests.

At a time when environmental awareness is starting to drive urgent political action to tackle global warming, unwarranted campaigns to "save" a minor portion of our forests from sustainable timber production threaten to counteract much of the good work being done by governments and Australians to embrace cleaner "green" energy alternatives.

13 October, 2006

NEWS: Govt to protect Strzelecki forest

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Victorian Government has struck a deal to permanently protect 8,000 hectares of the Strzelecki forest in Gippsland.

After six years of negotiations, the Government has paid Hancock Plantations $7 million for the Cores and Links.

The new reserve features cool-temperate rainforest and mountain ash and will link Tarra Bulga National Park to the Gunyah Rainforest Reserve.

But Deputy Premier John Thwaites says a pocket of plantation timber within the reserve will be logged under the deal.

"They'll be able to log once and then it will never be logged again," he said.

Greens candidate Louis Delacretaz says the compromise is inappropriate.

"It's incredibly difficult to put back the biodiversity after you log an area," he said.

This morning's announcement in Gippsland by the Deputy Premier was kept secret to prevent protests by green groups.

Original articles

02 October, 2006

THE AGE:Revealed: spying on Greens

Michael Bachelard
The Age, October 2, 2006

Multinational packaging company Amcor stacked the Labor Party, infiltrated environment groups, sent people pretending to be greenies to forest protests and paid bribes overseas to secure its supply of native hardwood in the 1990s.

Company documents obtained by the ABC's Four Corners show that, for more than a decade from 1989 to 2001, the company funded its staff, through the so-called "A-team", to spy on and sabotage its opponents.

The union, the pulp and paper workers, which later joined the forestry division of the CFMEU, co-funded the A-team.

It was led by Derek Amos, a former state Labor MP and shadow minister for energy, and Victoria was the epicentre of the group's activities.

At its height in the late 1990s, A-team representatives were in the majority on the state ALP's environment policy committee, hindering any discussion of forest policy in the party.

They had got their places on the committee by working through the union, but also by taking over the Traralgon branch of the ALP.

"Oh, it was stacked, there was no doubt about that," the Labor MP for Morwell, Keith Hamilton, told the program.

A-team spokesman and mill worker Chris Moody became the branch's president and Mr Amos' daughter, Leanne Martin, the secretary.

"We would sit around a table and the A-team would sit in a group together; they were extremely well organised," former environment policy committee member Kerry Baker said.

Another member, Cheryl Wragg, said "any time that people other than the Amcor A-team mentioned forestry policy, they would be yelled out of the room". Calls by non-A-team committee members to ALP head office for an investigation fell on deaf ears.

But in the lead-up to the 1999 state conference, an election year, something was finally done. The environment committee drafted a forest policy, which would have opened up 40 per cent of Victorian old growth forest for logging, but, as non-A-team members threatened open revolt, ALP head office, under state secretary John Lenders, took the policy in and rewrote it.

Mr Amos has also confirmed that the A-team infiltrated the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society and Environment Victoria, where a spy, "Tracy", would get paid time off from her shifts at Amcor's Maryvale pulp and paper mill to attend meetings, photocopying any documents she could get hold of.

She took "copious notes" and filed written reports on Environment Victoria's discussions.

Some of those reports found their way to the then member for McMillan, Barry Cunningham, a Labor MP whom the A-team had helped to get elected to Federal Parliament. When he started quoting Environment Victoria minutes in Federal Parliament, the environment group realised they had been infiltrated.

Mr Amos said this was part of "a program to discredit environmental groups" through "covert operations which included the planting of volunteers as bogus greenies in targeted environmental organisations".

A-team players were active on the front line of the 1990s environment movement: the forest protests.

In 1993, the team's members joined in as the green protesters set up camp in Goongerah, East Gippsland, to protest against woodchipping in national estate forests.

According to veteran green campaigner Jill Redwood, the two spies, "David and John", turned up at the camp in "a big, clean, white four-wheel-drive ute" and "nice neat clothes".

The spies' report to Amcor says the protesters were "unkempt" with "matted hair and dishevelled clothing, similar to early '70s styling".

Mr Amos claimed success, through the help of federal Labor MPs, in convincing the Keating government in 1995 to institute a more pro-logging policy. He also admitted to international bribery, saying in a document he had paid the customers of Amcor's competitors to find out commercially sensitive information.

The A-team was disbanded in 2001 after Amcor's paper-making operations were spun-out into a new company, PaperlinX. Amcor went on to further notoriety when its executives were sacked two years ago for their part in a cartel to fix prices for cardboard boxes

Original article