26 December, 2007
Letter to the editor, The Weekly Times, 26 December 2007
While it is impossible to respond to all of Lorraine Leach’s (WE December 19) half-truths in the limited space available, it is important to contradict several of her untruths about Victoria’s forests.
First, Victoria is not alone in harvesting some of its native forests. Tasmania, NSW and Western Australia all have ongoing sustainable native hardwood timber industries.
Queensland is phasing out its public native forests over a 25-year period, in favour of eucalypt plantations that are being established at great taxpayer expense.
Secondly, contrary to her claim that a third of Melbourne’s catchments have been logged over the past 30 years, sustainable timber production is, in fact, permitted within just a net 13 per cent portion.
If Ms Leach really believes there is an unabated rush to exploit the last of Victoria’s forests, she urgently needs to take a drive to acquaint herself with the 91 per cent of our forests that are in national parks and reserves, or are just unsuitable for timber production.
26 December 2007, The Age
Older garden-lovers strain to lift buckets of grey water; pensioners scrimp to buy water tanks. The water companies sell the water saved for sportsgrounds; sell our aquifers; plan to build desalination plants on beautiful areas of coastline.
Greed leads to trees being cut down in water catchment areas; megalitres of water allocated to service pulp mills and coal-fired power stations. Pensioners become crippled, gardens die; shareholders grow fat. Isn't privatisation wonderful?
24 December, 2007
Letter to the editor, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 2007
A young girl is arrested, charged, fined and forced to pay compensation after attempting to save a forest from logging ("Tree-sitting activist wins high praise from judge", December 22). Even her judge can't help but offer praise for her efforts.
Her opponent was not even a person, just a legal entity, a corporation - little more than a piece of paper. And we created it. We gave it the same legal rights as a person, and worse, we obliged it by law to put the profits of its shareholders over all other concerns - be they social, environmental or otherwise.
We created monsters that have become our own worst enemy and nothing is being done about that because corporations wouldn't like that.
Matt Caine, Tamarama
Holly Creenaune proves once and for all that nice gels do climb trees. More power to you, Holly.
Letter to the editor, The Age, 24/12/07
IT'S heartening to hear that the incredible work and worth of activists is beginning to be recognised ("Magistrate so impressed by woman in the tree that Holly gets off lightly", The Age, 22/12). Holly Creenaune is an amazing young individual who has devoted much of her life to making our world a better place, and her anti-logging activism charges were rightly dismissed by magistrate Jelena Popovic.
I applaud this decision, and the invaluable work that environmental and social justice activists carry out in Australia. Let's hope that those standing up for a better world begin to have their efforts praised and respected too, instead of disrupted, dismissed and persecuted.
It is an outrage that the State Government is still logging the breathtaking forests in East Gippsland that Holly and so many others are still fighting to protect — the struggle to save our planet continues.
22 December, 2007
December 22, 2007 [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/magistrate-so-impressed-by-woman-in-the-tree-that-holly-gets-offlightly/2007/12/21/1198175340714.html?page=fullpage Source]
To some, the young woman atop the tree-sit tripod in the Victorian old-growth forest was just another unemployed feral greenie disrupting legitimate workers.
However, Holly Creenaune's appearance last week in a Melbourne court, after her arrest on January 17 last year in the Goongerah Forest logging coupe in East Gippsland, moved one of Victoria's most senior magistrates to exercise a rarely used discretionary power.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Jelena Popovic dismissed charges of obstructing a road and obstructing an officer (Creenaune having pleaded guilty), rejected an application for Creenaune to pay $1900 compensation, and described her as a "remarkable young woman".
"I have to say I've never had the opportunity to meet somebody like Miss Creenaune, who has worked consistently and effectively in relation to improving our environment and maintaining the environment," Ms Popovic said.
"I don't know that I'll ever meet anyone again with the same passion, drive and ability, and I suspect that it won't be the last time I hear the name," she said.
"Next time I'll know how to pronounce it." A CV tendered by Creenaune's lawyer, Vanessa Bleyer, alerted Ms Popovic to the fact that she had a unique offender before her.
It was a CV that might motivate some, or put others to shame.
Creenaune, 23, Victorian-born but now living in Sydney, started a school conservation club when she was 12. As a teenager she worked for Rotary in a Brazil orphanage, and later she co-ordinated 2000 young people for Australia's largest environmental sustainability conference.
She was the recipient this year of the University of Technology Sydney human rights award, presented by Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court.
It denoted Creenaune's commitment to a range of social justice and human rights organisations and activities, including indigenous rights, climate change and environmental justice.
Now in her final year of a law and journalism degree, Creenaune said that her parents, both teachers, were not "greenies or lefties" or even activists.
"What they fostered in me as teachers was to use critical thinking skills, to read a newspaper and look beyond and take a critical eye to issues," she said.
When ordered from the tree-sit, Creenaune refused unless VicForest, the Government's commercial forestry arm, stopped logging.
Her parents, shocked when the prosecution summons lobbed, followed the progress of the charges and "reminded me every now and then to avoid a (criminal) record at all costs", Creenaune said.
Politics does not excite her — "my feet are firmly planted in organising" — but the Rudd Government now offered "wriggle room" for a stronger voice for communities, unions and environmental lobbyists.
"I am looking towards the new area of climate law," she said.
Ms Popovic ruled Creenaune's "exemplary" character as a significant factor in her dismissing the charges against her, but warned that she might not adopt the same line of reasoning if Creenaune reoffended.
Such forest activities were best left to the past, Ms Popovic advised Creenaune.
19 December, 2007
Letter to the editor, The Age, Wed 19 December 2007
Cross posted on Peter Campbell's state of the planet
Water Minister Tim Holding's assertion (Letters, 17/12) that the Government's water plan is cost effective and sustainable is questionable. The proposed desalination plant will consume most of Victoria's available renewable energy, which will lend impetus to the Government's ill-advised plan to build yet another brown coal-fired power station.
Incredibly, the Government is still allowing logging in the Thomson catchment, decreasing the quality and quantity of our water. Last week, logging started in the Armstrong catchment, closer to Melbourne. Stopping this logging would be much cheaper than producing desalinated water.
In 2002 extensive public consultation led to a move to develop plans to stop logging our catchments. Five years later it is still business as usual.
Our Melbourne house has been almost self-sufficient for water for more than five years, with 23,000 litres of tank storage.
The $3 billion to be spent on the desalination plant could equip about 600,000 households with tank systems that could provide more water than the plant's estimated production. Combined with recycling sewerage water and protecting our catchments, we may not even need desalination.
We also need improved consultation about options for Victoria's water, rather than unilateral decisions made in Spring Street following deliberations behind closed doors.
18 December, 2007
December 18, 2007, The Age
Many people can't see the wood for the trees in the greenhouse debate.
An uparalleled dermination to conserve tropical rainforests has been a welcome development from the UN climate change summit in Bali. But the recent call by Greens senator Christine Milne for Australia to "tackle our forestry emissions by stopping logging in Tasmania and Victoria" highlights the need to clearly differentiate between the damaging climate change implications of tropical deforestation and the benefits of sustainable Australian native forest wood production.
Deforestation in developing countries involves permanently removing forest cover in favour of some other agricultural land use. While it can produce wood, it is mostly conducted illegally and so represents an unregulated and unsustainable supply. The release of carbon from clearing and subsequent burning of vegetation, coupled with the loss of future carbon sequestration, led the 2006 Stern review to conclude that tropical deforestation is responsible for 18% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.
Conversely, Australian wood production is best described as managed harvesting and regeneration, with the aim of maintaining native forest cover and wood supply in perpetuity. It is a legal, highly regulated and sustainable arm of forest management or forestry. Sustainable wood production makes a positive contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by transferring carbon from forests into storage in the community in an array of wood products while creating space in the forest for replacement trees to sequester more carbon.
It also reduces demand for rainforest timber imports that contribute to tropical deforestation.
Milne is certainly not the first to try to equate concerns about tropical deforestation and climate change with Australian wood production. Indeed, the mainstream environmental movement's fixation on closing Australia's native hardwood industry causes it to routinely misrepresent our wood production as a significant contributor to global warming. Just one example is the Wilderness Society's oft-repeated assertion that native forest timber harvesting in Victoria annually releases as much carbon as 2.4 million cars — an unsubstantiated claim that seemingly regards carbon removal in wood products as an emission and ignores the reality that logged areas are regenerated.
The environmental movement's promoted alternative is to "preserve" all forests in parks and reserves that will store carbon forever. But this is flawed by the reality that Australian forests rely on disturbance for their long-term renewal and so will always wax and wane as carbon stores subject to the influence of severe fire.
The striking contradiction of Australian anti-logging campaigns is that if ultimately successful, they would significantly diminish our capability to combat climate change.
Wood is the world's only naturally renewable building material. The carbon emissions associated with its production are hundreds of times less than alternatives such as steel and aluminium, and six to eight times less than concrete. Sustainably producing wood to displace the use of these alternatives is one of the best means of reducing net carbon emissions.
Timber harvesting transfers carbon from the forest into storage in the community in a range of products. Where harvesting is conducted within designated wood production forests at sustainable rates, there should be no net loss of carbon from the system due to simultaneous sequestration by regrowth from past logging and in yet-to-be harvested sections.
Consequently, sustainable wood production adds to net carbon stores and helps counter the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
And using part of our forests for wood production maintains them at a younger average age. The trees grow more vigorously, with enhanced rates of carbon sequestration compared with older forests.
The popularly promoted view that "old growth" forests must be preserved because of their carbon storage capability is somewhat compromised given that ageing trees are no longer growing and eventually become net carbon emitters as they decay and slowly die. In any case, they will inevitably be burnt and so will release much of their stored carbon.
Mark Poynter is the Victorian media spokesperson for the Institute of Foresters of Australia.
15 December, 2007
December 15, 2007 [Article source]
Countries will be paid to protect forests from logging, with the Bali conference adopting a proposal for the successor to the Kyoto Protocol to embrace deforestation.
The deal was proclaimed as beginning a new era in conservation, envisaging a multibillion-dollar forest carbon protection fund to reward developing nations for reducing logging.
The head of the Global Canopy Program, Andrew Mitchell, said Bali had become "the forest conference".
Money will immediately flow through to pilot forest protection projects.
The breakthrough heralded a new international approach to the environment, according to the chief negotiator for developing nations, Kevin Conrad. "I believe it's a first step to what we in society have to do in the future, which is create markets that value our environment."
Trading the carbon saved from reducing logging would create a new carbon credit market, Mr Conrad said. The move would require deeper emissions cuts from developed nations to help fund the trade.
"It's the first time we've really had an ecosystem service that's globally traded, that starts to deal with standing forests," Mr Conrad said.
"The industrialised world wants our wood, wants our cocoa, wants our coffee, and for us that means we've got to cut down forests."
Bali delegates endorsed a declaration stating the post-Kyoto deal should include "issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation" in developing countries.
The move offers a lifeline to the world's tropical forests, which are threatened by rampant logging.
The Kyoto Protocol did not extend to logging, and the decision was seen as a breakthrough for developing nations.
14 December, 2007
14 December 2007
While Brumby talks tough on climate change at Bali, Melbourne’s carbon stores and catchments are woodchipped
The Wilderness Society responded with shock today to news that the Brumby government has ignored pleas from environment groups and started logging in one of Melbourne’s water catchments.
“We are calling on the Premier to intervene immediately to stop the logging,” said Victorian Forest Campaigner Luke Chamberlain.
“Catchment logging will result in the loss of millions of litres of water and the release of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We are stunned that the Brumby government would log old growth forest in Melbourne’s water catchments during our worst ever drought and with the looming threat of climate change.”
“While Brumby talks tough on climate change at Bali, Australia’s biggest carbon stores are being destroyed for woodchips.”
“These trees safely store as much carbon as any on earth, and the logging, burning and soil disturbance releases vast amounts of global warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
“Logging reduces water supplies into dams by up to 50% and it takes the forests up to 150 years to release as much water again.”
“98% of these trees which supply water and store carbon will now end up as woodchips, palettes and posts, all products which should instead come from Victoria’s massive plantation estate.”
Nestled between the Yarra Ranges National Park and the protected Upper Yarra catchment less than two hours drive east of Melbourne, the Armstrong catchment contains some of the most spectacular stands of unprotected old growth forest in Victoria and is one of Melbourne’s water catchments.
Further comment contact: Luke Chamberlain 0424 098 729
13 December, 2007
You can also send the same email to the various people who make the decisions. You could also phone them to express your concerns.
- This is a pristine unspoiled water catchment providing Melbourne with the purest drinking water - 2 billion litres per year, or 815 Olympic swimming pools.
- Forest within the Armstrong is scheduled for logging from Saturday 1 December 2007.
- A number of Melbourne’s water catchments were protected in the 19th and 20th Centuries, including the Maroondah and O’Shaughnessy.
- These areas were protected to the point where public access is prohibited. Fines up to $2,000 are enforced.
- The Armstrong catchment has the same aspects as protected catchments. However, it will be logged.
- Clearfell logging involves the broad scale clearing of forest areas and has a dramatic impact on the landscape.
- Clearfell logging is followed by a high-intensity burn, up to 1,000 degrees.
- It has been shown that clearfell reduces water flows by 50%. Also, it takes up to 250 years for the area to recover. This was shown by the Maroondah Experiment (Melbourne Water).
- When logging begins in the Armstrong, this catchment will be shut off from Melbourne’s water supply. This is so that logging can take place. This is to prevent pollution from the industrial scale of logging operation (soil sedimentation, erosion and fuel spills)
- It is a south-facing catchment and recieves a lot less heat from sun. It therefore contains a lot more moisture than other forest types.
- Water is 5 times more valuable in economic terms than woodchips used for paper.
- VicForests, the government agency responsible for sale of wood including from this area, made a net loss last year of $17,000. It is being propped up by taxpayer dollars.
- The government has made a significant net loss.
- The State government refuses to end the logging of Melbourne’s water catchments.
- The Shire of Yarra Ranges have unanimously passed motion in objection to the State government for the continued logging of water catchments.
- In this period of record-breaking drought, with Melbourne’s reservoirs at 40% it is ludicrous to be wasting water on this scale.
- This is publicly owned forest which should be protected to ensure Melbourne’s water security.
Victorian Minister for Environment
Hon. Gavin Jennings
Email – email@example.com
Phone - 9096 8830
Victorian Minister for Water
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone - 8684 8000
Tom Park, Managing Director and CEO
Email - email@example.com
Phone - 8540 2333
Jim Henneberry, Executive General Manager
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
SHADOW MINISTERS (Liberal)
Shadow Minister for Environment
Andrea Coote MLC
Email - email@example.com
Phone - 9681 9555
Shadow Minister for Water
Hon. Louise Asher
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone - 9592 9799
Email (personal assistant) – email@example.com
Phone - 9235 7100
Department of Sustainaility and Environment (DSE)
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone - 9637 8765
- Logging rainforest within the Melbourne's domestic water supply catchments. Victorian Rainforest Networks, good maps and photos
11 December, 2007
Letter to Editor (not published)
We have a total of 22,500 litres of storage for rainwater collected from our house roof in Melbourne. We use the tank water for showers, the dishwasher, the laundry, the hot water system and garden watering.
We filled the rainwater tanks in late 2001 when we moved in after a house renovation. We have only added more Melbourne water a couple of times during severe drought periods. This means we have been basically self sufficient for water for around 5 years.
The $3 billion allocated by the Victorian Government for the Wonthaggi desalination plant could equip around 600,000 households with domestic rainwater tank systems that could provide up to 160 gigalitres of water per year that would otherwise be lost as storm water.
This equates to 165 days of Melbourne’s total water consumption based on the current daily usage, and it exceeds the estimated yearly production of 150gl from the proposed desalination plant.
We may not even need the desalination plant if:
- More rainwater tanks were in use
- The sewerage water currently flushed out from ocean outfalls was recycled.
- Logging in Melbourne’s water catchments ceased, which would yield another 30gl of water per year.
At the very least, we need radically improved public consultation about options for Melbourne’s and Victoria’s water strategy rather than unilateral decisions made in Spring Street following secret deliberations.
Yarra Ranges Shire Council will fight state government plans for two logging coupes in a key Melbourne water catchment area.
The council last month voted unanimously to oppose logging earmarked for the Armstrong and Cement Creek catchments and has vowed to take the fight to the Premier and Environment and Water ministers.
The catchments flow into the Upper Yarra Dam, Melbourne's third biggest.
The council says logging has a detrimental effect on water yield because regrowth trees need more water and affect water quality.
Cr Samantha Dunn said it was poor policy to log water catchments, particularly in a time of record low inflows.
The State Government's commercial forestry arm, VicForests, has planned seven coupes in Armstrong Creek over the next two summers, another four in Cement Creek next summer and eight in the Thomson catchment this summer.
10 December, 2007
Thirty five people have today stopped logging in an area of old growth forest north of Cann River, near the Errinundra National Park, in the Cobon forest block. The protest co-incides with climate talks in Bali, where the Australian government is being urged to agree to deep cuts in emissions.
“Twenty percent of global greenhouse emissions are caused by forest clearing, yet in Australia, old growth logging is being sanctioned by both state and federal governments,” said spokesperson for the protesters Mark Tylor.
“We have a new Federal government who won an election on the climate change issue, yet old growth forest is still being destroyed. Most school children are able to tell you about the importance of old growth forests as carbon sinks, yet this basic lesson is apparently beyond our politicians who still are allowing this destruction to happen,” he continued.
The area contains old growth forest and is habitat for the endangered Sooty Owl. Environmentalists, who have been camping in the forest coupe all weekend, have heard the extremely rare owl at night. Today, two people have chained themselves to logging machinery, while another sits on top of a tripod erected over a logging bulldozer. A 30 metre high tree platform is attached to another machine preventing it from continuing work.
This blockade follows a number of forest blockades last week, where logging was halted in three logging coupes by protesters chaining themselves to machinery. Five people were charged on summons.
“Old growth logging is still continuing in East Gippsland despite the state government election promises to protect important areas of forest. We are one year out from the election, yet none of the places the Labor Government promised to protect have been placed in a reserve. It is about time our politicians were called into account” he concluded.
For more comment Mark Tylor (at the forest blockade) 0428 125 602
For information and updates 03 5154 0174
Thirty five people have today stopped logging in an area of old growth forest north of Cann River, near the Errinundra National Park, in the Cobon forest block. The area contains old growth forest and is habitat for the endangered Sooty Owl. Environmentalists, who have been camping in the forest coupe all weekend, have heard the extremely rare owl at night. Today, two people have chained themselves to logging machinery, while another sits on top of a tripod erected over a logging bulldozer. A 30 metre high tree platform is attached to another machine preventing it from continuing work.
This blockade follows a number of forest blockades last week, where logging was halted in three logging coupes by protesters chaining themselves to machinery. Five people were charged on summons.
“Old growth logging is still continuing in East Gippsland despite the state government election promises to protect important areas of forest. We are one year out from the election, yet none of the places the Labor Government promised to protect have been placed in a reserve. It is about time our politicians were called into account,” said spokesperson for the protesters, Mark Tylor.
“We have a new Federal government who won an election on the climate change issue, yet old growth forest is still being destroyed. Most school children are able to tell you about the importaince of old growth forests as carbon sinks, yet this basic lesson is apparently beyond our politicians who still are allowing this destruction to happen,” he continued.
“It is a sad indictment on the state of our government that it takes young people such as the ones in the forest today to physically stop this old growth forest logging by placing their bodies on the line,” he concluded.
For more comment: Mark Tylor (at the forest blockade) 0428 125 602
For information and updates: 03 5154 0174
08 December, 2007
The Age, December 8, 2007
For some time in Victoria it's been considered a given that on matters environmental the Government treats its citizens as idiots.
We host the fuel-burning Grand Prix. We nurse bucket-backs every summer, hauling grey water to our gardens while logging in water catchments continues. We prefer an energy-guzzling desalination plant on a pristine Gippsland coastline to water tanks and rebated grey water systems. And gouging a whopping crevice through a marine national park is considered a tremendously inspired idea.
But this week — as opponents of the dredging of Port Phillip Bay won the right to challenge the Government's channel deepening project in the Federal Court — took the enviro-cake. Environment Minister Gavin Jennings must have thought no one was listening when he said, apparently with a straight face, at the launch of the Two Bays environmental research into the health of Port Phillip and Western Port bays that water purity in the bay was being challenged by stormwater run-off and by increased salinity as the drought lessened the flow of fresh water in the bay.
This is the same state minister who recently signed off on the $763 million plan to dredge 22.9 million cubic metres of sediment from the bay's floor, stir up toxic sludge from the Yarra mouth, create 18 hectares of rock falls at the Heads, spawn algal blooms, damage crucial seagrasses and reduce fish stocks.
Could someone whisper to Minister Jennings that a little bit of stormwater and increased salinity won't be a patch on what his Government has in store for the bay if dredging goes ahead?
It is apparent the Government and the Port of Melbourne Corporation think they are dealing with a populace suffering collective amnesia. What else could explain the poker-face commentary surrounding Justice Mark Weinberg's decision to allow the Blue Wedges Coalition to fight them in the Federal Court?
The Dredges-R-Us mob shrieked about the $430,000 weekly fine (or $1.7 million if the fleet is already mobilised), they will face if dredging doesn't start on the date they decided on before the project was approved. Yes. That's right. The corporation began spending taxpayers' money contracting its dredging fleet before the Government approved it. And the Government, presumably, did nothing.
Why on earth does the corporation think it can hold the bay to ransom because of its arrogant assumption it would get its way?
As the chairman of the panel assessing the project, Dr Allan Hawke, said during the hearing, the corporation's decision to engage tenders in the unapproved project was done at its own commercial risk.
This should ring alarm bells for federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett in whom the ultimate fate of the bay is trusted and who must front the Federal Court in January to hear the Blue Wedges Coalition argue its case.
But this week the Yesterday's Men who have not caught on that the planet is buckling under the weight of nonsensical environmental destruction in the name of progress screamed It Wasn't Fair. The Blue Wedges Coalition was called "spoilers" by a chap in the Chamber of Commerce who didn't think clearly enough about his turbid choice of words. And the great mystery as to why there is such a rush to get this project moving continued to deepen.
Why, at a time the Port of Melbourne announces record container trade numbers through the port, is the corporation trying to persuade us that the port is at risk of becoming obsolete unless the shipping channel is deepened immediately?
Why, when the port has just comfortably docked the 77,000-tonne cruise ship Sun Princess, the biggest cruise ship ever based in Australia, do the Heads needs to be blown apart and channel deepened to bring in even bigger ships?
Why do the projected economic benefits — a paltry $2 billion to the national economy over 30 years — look increasingly flimsy? And why does it all keep pointing to the building of warships at Williamstown with Chinese steel?
What will it take for responsible custodianship of the planet to prevail? Dead penguins, starved of their anchovy feed, washed up on St Kilda beach? Dead fish rotting at Williamstown? A dead bottle-nosed dolphin beached off Sorrento?
This is precisely what we are talking about if the bay dredging goes ahead, and Garrett must ask for more time to consider the environmental implications of this idiotic project. It cannot go ahead.
Tracee Hutchison is a writer and broadcaster and Mornington Peninsula resident.
09 September, 2007
MATT RUCHEL, executive director, Victorian National Parks Association
The Age, 9/9/2007
National parks in Victoria generate hundreds of millions of dollars every year to regional economies from job creation, visitation and flow-on benefits. Compare this to taxpayer-subsidised logging and grazing of public land along our northern rivers, which represents less than 0.1 per cent of the region's economy.
Department of Sustainability and the Environment figures show that logging is up to 60 per cent over sustainable limits. This logging is occurring in river forests and internationally recognised Ramsar wetlands, which state and federal governments are trying to "save" from lack of water due to over-allocation to irrigation. It makes no sense to log them during the worst drought on record. National parks will not only secure the investment of governments, but also secure these wetlands and the myriad threatened species they support.
A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers found the Grampians National Park contributed more than $171 million to the regional economy and the new red gum forests are likely to do the same over time. Support will of course be needed to help affected logging businesses, and governments must provide adjustment and exit packages.
VEAC is seeking public comments on its proposals, and I would encourage anyone interested in protecting these magnificent wetland forests to go to the VEAC website to put in a submission. Alternatively, go to our website at redgum.org.au and have your say for the future.
The Age, 9/9/2007
The implication in Carmel Egan's article, "Warring parties turn sights on river red gums" (2/9), is that somehow the creation of a national park will deliver water to flood the forest.
Flooding the forest would require water, not national park status. In turn, having sufficient water available for flooding would require a return to a cycle of wetter weather, something that is not in our immediate control. It would also require (among other actions) Premier Brumby to abandon plans to pump Goulburn River water to Melbourne.
In the interim, it is rather obvious that parts of the forest require thinning so that there would be less trees competing for water and nutrients. The thinnings could be used as a renewable energy source — firewood. If the thinning was done commercially, it would not cost the taxpayer.
Creating national parks did not save the hundreds of millions of native animals that died in the fires of 2006-07 and the earlier fires of 2003. It is arguable that the reverse was the case, as national parks are essentially abandoned land.
There is little doubt that the red gum forests will suffer the same fate under a parks regime, as the current parks are neglected and overgrown disasters waiting to happen. More parks will add to our environmental problems. Parks as an environmental measure are a myth.
10 August, 2007
August 10, 2007
Construction of the nation's biggest pulp mill could start within weeks after Tasmanian environmentalists lost a crucial case against Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Federal Court yesterday.
"We are disappointed," said Geoff Law from the Wilderness Society, one of the parties that took the case against the federal minister.
"But now all eyes are going to be on Malcolm Turnbull," Mr Law said. "He has to make the decision on an extremely destructive pulp mill being built in a marginal seat in Tasmania where the majority of people don't want it."
Mr Turnbull is expected to give federal approval soon to the $1.4 billion mill being built by the forestry company Gunns. The mill's opponents are expected to wait to see whether he puts conditions on his approval before appealing.
The mill, which will be the largest chlorine dioxide bleaching mill in Australia, has been strenuously opposed by local wine growers, fishermen and farmers in Tasmania, as well as the ABC's gardening broadcaster Peter Cundall.
The mill will be built on the banks of the Tamar River and has been supported by both the Federal Opposition and the Federal Government.
It is also strongly supported by the Tasmanian Labor Government, which plans to pass legislation at the end of the month giving the mill the final go-ahead. Both the Tasmanian Government and Gunns say the pulp mill will meet the highest environmental standards in the world.
But Gunns withdrew from the state's independent assessment process in March this year, citing undue delays to the project.
It threatened to drop its plans for the billion-dollar project until Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon agreed to fast-track the approval process.
Under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Mr Turnbull is required to examine the effects the mill might have on marine species and migratory birds.
Scallop fishermen and the Wilderness Society have raised concerns about the estimated 64,000 tonnes of effluent that will flow daily into Bass Strait.
When the state's independent assessment review was scrapped, Mr Turnbull's department began its own review, telling Gunns that it would be completed by this month.
The Wilderness Society and a group of local businesses, calling themselves Investors for the Future of Tasmania, took the action in the Federal Court claiming that Mr Turnbull had not conducted an adequate review process.
Mr Lennon and Gunns say a new environment assessment has been done and outstanding concerns can be dealt with.
07 August, 2007
The Age, August 7, 2007
Remarkably, both the Australian Government and Labor Opposition have now realised the importance of natural forests to solving the global warming problem. This is a good thing because the Kyoto Protocol is unfortunately blind to the role played by natural forests in the global carbon cycle.
But there is some way to go before Australia has consistency between its national and international forest-climate policy responses. The recently announced Labor forest policy for Tasmania does not recognise the link between forests and the global warming problem.
The Australian Government has recognised this link but is attending to forest-climate issues only at the international level. Both policy positions need to be reconsidered as they reflect a lack of scientific understanding about the role of natural forests in helping to regulate the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is not surprising as our understanding of carbon in natural forest has been transformed in recent years through scientific research and little of this new knowledge has yet filtered into popular literature and policy circles.
The forest debate in Australia remains dominated by conflict between those who see the forest as a source of raw material (woodchips) and those who value the forest left intact for nature conservation. We need to update the forest debate to reflect current concerns and the growing imperative that we solve the global warming problem. This means that forest policy, nationally as well as internationally, must begin to reflect the role of forests as part of a co-ordinated greenhouse-gas mitigation strategy.
In addition to reducing our use of fossil fuel, the other major mitigation strategy is to increase the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by natural processes through protecting and restoring the world's natural forests.
Natural forests are an important part of the global carbon cycle. They are buffers that soak up excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and store it in the biomass of trees and in the soil. Forests are an essential natural mechanism for stabilising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in the short and long term.
One hectare of mature, tall, wet forest can store the equivalent of 5500 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is about the same as the annual carbon dioxide emissions from 1300 cars. Even less productive dry forests and woodlands store significant amounts of carbon. Most of the carbon in a natural forest is stored in the woody biomass of big old trees, dead wood on the forest floor, and in the soil. It is easy to forget about the carbon below ground: in the tree roots and associated fungi, other micro-organisms and decomposed plant material. These represent significant stocks of carbon that are continually replenished through natural ecosystem processes.
Forests contain about three to four times more carbon than is now in the atmosphere. About half the world's forests have been cleared for agriculture and human settlement. Much of what is left is commercially logged for timber products; especially woodchip for pulp-based products.
Forests that are commercially logged store about 30 per cent to 40 per cent less carbon than unlogged forests. If we were to halt further deforestation and allow the world's forests that have been logged to naturally regrow, the amount of carbon taken up and stored in these ecosystems would make
a significant contribution to solving the global warming problem. Plantation timber can be grown on land that has already been cleared and used to meet the demand for pulp and related wood-fibre products.
If global warming really is the mother of all environmental problems, then perhaps the time has come to bring to an end the clearing and logging of natural forests. This will make a significant and cost-effective contribution to solving the global warming problem. We must not forget that the laws of science apply universally and do not recognise political boundaries. Whether a natural forest is in Tasmania, Victoria or Papua, it performs the same kind of role in the global carbon cycle and in helping to regulate atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.
All the signs are that sooner or later the carbon that is stored in natural forests will be assigned an economic value and become part of the global carbon market. When this happens, companies will be allowed to offset some of their carbon emissions by investing in forest protection. Once the carbon in forest ecosystems has a market value, companies that are fossil-fuel hungry (such as steel and aluminium producers) will seek to take advantage of offset opportunities in natural forests to give themselves more time to maintain production levels while making the transition to greenhouse-friendly energy sources.
For this reason, I predict that as the impact of global warming increases in the coming years, the market values of carbon in natural forests will dramatically increase. It will be ironic if Australia's natural forests are taken out of wood production not by conservationists but by international corporations.
Of course, before this can happen in a substantial and enduring way, the international rules have to change. But this process has already started at least in terms of recognising the need to prevent deforestation in developing countries, and voluntary investments in forest conservation are already occurring.
Brendan Mackey is a professor of environmental science at the Australian National University and an expert in ecosystems and the impact of climate change on biodiversity.
05 August, 2007
The Age, August 5, 2007
The tiny Leadbeater's possum, Victoria's state faunal emblem, could be extinct in a few years if its numbers continue to plummet.
The population of the tiny nocturnal animal has dropped sharply since it was listed as critically endangered in 1996 — despite a decade-long joint federal and state recovery plan to save it.
Research by Professor David Lindenmayer, of the Australian National University, has revealed that since the plan was imposed, the Leadbeater's possum population has halved to around 2000.
The Australian Conservation Foundation's Lindsay Hesketh says unless logging bans are introduced to protect the Leadbeater's habitat, Victoria will go "the same way of Tasmania, which lost its state emblem, the Tasmanian tiger, years ago".
The possum, found only in a small area in the state's Central Highlands, lives in the hollows of old mountain ash trees that can take 200 years or more to grow. An unknown number were killed earlier this year when VicForests bulldozed large firebreaks through Leadbeater's monitoring stations following the Christmas fires.
The firebreaks and other clear-felled coupes prevent breeding with nearby colonies as the possums can only jump from branch to branch in the forest understorey.
Most people have never seen the Leadbeater's possum. The last one held in captivity at Healesville Sanctuary died in 2006. Even in colonial days sightings of the possum, which has a distinctive black strip along the spine of its 20-centimetre-long body, were rare.
It was thought to be extinct after the swamps and wetlands around Bass River in south-west Gippsland were drained for farming in the early 1900s. The possum was rediscovered in 1961 near Marysville and adopted as Victoria's faunal emblem.
Professor Lindenmayer, who has been researching the Leadbeater's for more than 20 years, said the Government must improve the recovery plan, especially the creation of management areas and protection zones.
"If you have two fires in less than 20 years in a wet forest, then that forest is gone forever, and with it about $500 million in logging revenue every year. It's been crucial to 'act now' on this for the last 20 years," he said."
01 August, 2007
Letter, The Age, 1/8/07
If Tricia Caswell would like to suggest that a comparison between industrial forestry practices in Tasmania and Victoria is reasonable, she needs to spend more time in Tasmania. We do not have the benefit of an environment protection authority. What we have is a forest practices code that has been repeatedly ignored by contractors, so that streams have been trashed, regulations for buffer zones ignored and, according to a recent Federal Court ruling, the habitats of several endangered species severely compromised. None of this is likely to be improved if the increased native timber supply for the proposed pulp mill is realised.
The Age, 1/8/2007
Tricia Caswell is right. Forest policy needs a national view and a holistic approach to effectively face the challenges. Australia has 164 million hectares of forest. About 2 per cent is in Tasmania. Much of the public debate centres on timber harvesting in tall, wet, old-growth eucalypt forests on public land. These are a relatively small part of the total forest area. They are important habitat for many animals and plants, and some are in significant wilderness areas.
However, the latest State of the Environment Report indicates that tall, open forests are relatively intact (about 87 per cent of the pre-European distribution remaining) and well protected (34 per cent in reserves) with the remaining areas well managed.
The imperative for forest biodiversity conservation is now largely on private land. Many of the forest types under-represented in the reserve system are in shorter-stature, drier forests and heavily cleared woodlands now used for agriculture.
The notion that forest management problems can be solved simply by transferring lands to conservation reserves is also simplistic. Much of the debate is over timber harvesting.
However, fires, climate change, pests, diseases, feral animals and urban development are bigger threats to forest biodiversity, water and other forest values. They need to be managed, whether timber is harvested or not.
Despite past periods of heavy utilisation, native forests continue to provide many values and services. If these values are to be maintained and improved, we need a vision that transcends simplistic notions of production versus protection and a comprehensive forest policy based on a renewed commitment from all levels of government with sufficient resources for effective implementation.
The Age, August 1, 2007
Tricia Caswell's claim that Australia's logging industry "may be the most carbon positive industry on the planet" (Opinion, 30/7) is deeply disturbing. Recent studies estimate that at least 150 tonnes of carbon is released per hectare following logging operations in mixed-age Australian forests. On average, 90 per cent of native forest wood removed from Australia's forests ends up in paper products, which release carbon dioxide within three years.
Caswell is right that we need environmentally, socially and economically sustainable decision making, but the 80 to 90 per cent woodchip-based logging industry we see today is not the answer. The Government is in the international arena pushing for forest protection — it is time the same approach is taken at home.
30 July, 2007
July 30, 2007 (letter not published)
Tricia Caswell’s account of the native forest sector (30/7) only further illustrates the native forest industry’s failure to manage their market risk. Make no mistake about what the native forest sector is really afraid of, its not green votes, nor is it native forestry’s contribution to 18.6% of global greenhouse emissions, but rather its the rising power of the plantation sector to supply saw logs and woodchips and the sectors right to competitive pricing for its investors.
Mum’s and Dad’s have sunk their valuable super funds into these schemes across Australia and they deservedly want their returns, however in order to get them, plantation wood needs to be competitively priced, but how can it be when the native logging industry receive their land, water and roads for next to nothing, unlike the plantation sector.
Native forests receive heavy subsides on transport, advertising and other externalities hence how they can sell ancient forests for as little as 11c a tonne. The plantation sector and its investors cannot compete until the government regulates a competitive policy on wood price and an end to tax payer, subsidised, native logging. Ultimately, the market will shut down native forestry a lot faster than ‘greenies’ on account of the obligation plantations have to their investors and governments have to manage this major economic discrepancy.
The Age, July 30, 2007
Ahead of the federal election, the Liberal and Labor parties have set their policy sights on sustainable forest industries in Tasmania - and the jobs, skills, economies and environmental values that go with them. These are issues for the whole of Australia.
With global warming a major issue, this approach is unsurprising - production forestry, with its vast array of wood and paper products may be the most carbon positive industry on the planet. Trees, their roots and soil all store carbon, much of which stays stored in the wood and paper products we use every day. It is simply not true that all the carbon in trees turns to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere when a forest coupe is harvested and relatively little energy and water is used in the extraction and manufacture of native hardwood products. Both parties have declared there will be no further extensions to reserve systems in Tasmania. They both refer to the history and science of the Regional Forest Agreements settled in the 1990s. Both refer to the need for viable forest industries in 21st century Australia.
It is worth placing this in the Victorian context. Only 10 per cent of the state's forests are available for production and a meagre 0.14 per cent are harvested in any one year. Native hardwood trees sequester carbon during their growth phase and most are organically grown with no chemical fertilisers. Local seeds are collected for regeneration as close to the original as possible with two trees planted for every one harvested.
Native forestry is efficient and makes good use of the resource - on average a third to sawn timber, a third to residue for woodchips and a third left on the forest floor. Compare this with most mining operations where resource efficiency is often very tiny.
Going to a coupe harvest is like going to the opera. There are spectators all around, activities are heavily regulated and monitored. No rainforest is harvested, big trees are not harvested. There are buffers along streams and special protection zones for biodiversity. The application of the forestry code is audited by the Environment Protection Authority. Each year compliance has improved. Last year it was 93 per cent - high by any industry's standards.
All of this is State Government business. The Government owns and manages our state forests, where nearly all Victorian native hardwood is sourced. Victoria and Australia have world-class sustainable native forest management. Most production forests in Australia are regrowth - regenerated coupe by coupe. We have world-class forest reserves in national and state parks.
In Victoria the availability of the hardwood resource has been continually reduced over 30 years. Mostly this is the result of establishing reserves, the introduction of new management regions, codes and the development of sustainable yield measures.
The Government's policy framework, Our Forests Our Future in 2002, reduced the resource by 31 per cent in one go after a review of sustainable yield.
The promise of securing the resource at this new level of 567,800 cubic metres has never been kept. Parks have been extended and we have the devastating effects of bushfires in 2003 and last summer. This has reduced the Victorian native timber resource to 500,000 cubic metres at most.
Such reductions and unmet promises to maintain a long-term baseline resource affect the security and scale of the industry and the capacity to gather confidence, skills, investment and eventually, its very survival.
If we close the industry down, demand for timber products will not disappear, far from it. Our national trade deficit in wood and paper products of $2.1 billion, as part of an $18 billion industry, will increase.
We will import more illegal or unsustainably harvested wood and wood products from tropical rainforests. We will have pushed our economies, jobs and communities offshore and the global environment will be the poorer for it. Plantations are held high as the total solution to forest wars. There are many reasons why this is simply not so. There is the threshold question. Why are monocultural plantings, often with few indigenous species, declared better environmentally than perpetually regenerated locally specific native forests?
Regenerated native production forests continue to provide for the local animals and birds, flora and fauna. Plantations of pine or even blue gums cannot do the same job.
Plantations most often provide woodchips for pulp, for paper and other composite wood products. They do not provide the range of quality of timber sawlogs that native forests do. Local conflicts over the availability of land, soil types and depth, rainfall, damaging bugs, silvicultural practices, labour costs, complicated planning regulations and the relatively low priority given by governments have not made plantation development easy.
It's a long time since I have felt that one-dimensional, protest-based environmental campaigns will get us to where we need to go so our grandchildren have a functioning planet to live on and functioning communities to live in. The tree has become the totemic symbol of every kind of environmental issue. The single issue, anti-forestry campaigns will not solve the tough sustainability issues that face us.
If you are a local anti-forestry campaigner, you are an environmental campaigner. Your only job is to save the forest. There are other big questions you never ask. Such as: "What are the environmental, social, and economic consequences of annihilating native forest industries in Australia?"
Tricia Caswell is the chief executive officer of the Victorian Association of Forest Industries.
25 July, 2007
Peter Campbell, Surrey Hills
Published in the Heraldsun and The Age, July 25, 2007
Once again we are faced with the unedifying spectacle of Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull both playing political football with Australia's forests.
Kevin Rudd has just fully endorsed John Howard's forest policy which supports the destruction of remnant majestic old growth forests in both Tasmania and South East Australia. He has done this to curry favour with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union in the run up to the federal election.
Deforestation and land clearing accounts for around 10 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, yet Kevin Rudd is doing nothing to stop this, despite the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which identifies protection of forests as a key global strategy for combating climate change.
Malcolm Turnbull says he recognises the importance of forests as carbon stores, yet he also supports the ongoing destruction of Australia's forests and the resulting export of 4 million tonnes of woodchips from Tasmania and 1 million tonnes from Victoria each year. The Howard government is allocating $200 million to protect forests in South East Asia, but is unwilling to protect Australian forests that store up to 1200 tonnes of carbon per hectare.
Carbon dioxide emissions from logging in Victoria in 2004-2005 were almost 10 million tonnes which is equivalent to emissions resulting from an additional 2.4 million cars onto Victoria’s roads each year.
The solution is remarkably simple. We need to protect all remaining old growth forests to preserve both their intrinsic value and the carbon they store.
Unfortunately, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull can only see woodchips rather than our trees.
13 June, 2007
The Weekly Times, 13 June 2007.
On World Environment Day I decided to take a trip to see how the carbon extraction facility up the road was going. Upon arrival I was greeted by one of the carbon utilisation experts, who guided me around the plant and showed me how they produced carbon storage units. Where was I? No, not at some high-technology factory, but a timber harvesting operation in the state forest.
The carbon utilisation expert was a timber harvesting contractor and the carbon storage unit a log. People need to realise that while planting trees is part of the solution in slowing climate change, by using wood and paper products from forest operations that are sustainably managed they are doing even more for the environment.
This means cutting down trees. Once they are cut down, the carbon within them is stored in the wood, whether it be turned into paper or timber. This is where Australia’s forests are at the top of the ladder, because they are managed with strict regulations to ensure that they are replanted with trees for future harvests. These trees are harvested at 60 to 100 years old, al an age before the tree starts to decline and release carbon.
If they are left there forever, they will eventually release the carbon they have stored. On top of this we have a growing plantation base that will absorb and store even more carbon.
I am not attacking alternative attempts to raise awareness of the matter of climate change, but want people to realise that forestry, when practised as it is in Victoria, is a benefit to the environment and not a threat as some would have you believe.
11 June, 2007
Letter in The Age, Sunday 11 June 2007
I could not contain my anger when reading Scott Gentle's letter about "natural carbon storage" (The Age, 10/6). Allow me to firstly correct this spokesman for the timber industry. While a certain amount of carbon is indeed stored in timber when a tree is cut down, a great deal of carbon is also released by the decomposition of all the leaf matter, smaller branches and roots that the loggers can't profit from and thus leave behind.
Further, any timber or timber product — including paper — that is subsequently burnt releases still further carbon. But let's be serious for a moment. Does Mr Gentle argue that cutting down trees to store the carbon as timber furniture is more effective than simply allowing the tree to live?
Please, stick with your tired old lines about loggers' jobs. Arguing for deforestation on environmental grounds is not your forte and is an insult to anyone with an IQ above 30.
10 June, 2007
Letter to The Age, Saturday 10 June 2007
On World Environment Day (5/6), I decided to take a trip to see how the carbon extraction facility up the road was going.
Where was I? No, not at some high-technology factory, but a timber harvesting operation in a state forest. The carbon utilisation expert was a timber harvesting contractor and the carbon storage unit a log.
People need to realise that while planting trees is part of the solution in slowing climate change, by using wood and paper products from forest operations that are sustainably managed they are doing even more to help the environment. This means cutting down trees. Once trees are cut down, the carbon within them is stored in the wood, whether it be turned into paper or timber.
07 June, 2007
The Age, 7 June 2007
Coming back along the Princes Highway after a visit to the NSW south coast last week, we were staggered by the huge number of trucks loaded with logs coming out of Victoria bound for the Eden woodchip terminal.
I heartily agree with the sentiments expressed by Peter Campbell (The Age 6/6) in his concerns for what such a massive logging operation is having on biodiversity, endangered species, catchment water loss and greenhouse emissions. Isn't it time we considered these concerns as being more important than that of supplying the Japanese with woodchips made from old-growth forest for uses such as wrapping and toilet paper?
05 June, 2007
Indonesia is among the world's top three greenhouse gas emitters because of deforestation, peat land degradation and forest fires, a World Bank and British Government climate change report says.
Increasing global temperatures had already caused prolonged drought as well as heavy rainfall with flooding and tidal waves in Indonesia, putting the archipelago's rich biodiversity at risk, said the report, released yesterday.
"Emissions resulting from deforestation and forest fires are five times those from non-forestry emissions," it said. "Emissions from energy and industrial sectors are relatively small, but are growing very rapidly. This may lead to harmful effects on agriculture, fishery and forestry, resulting in threats to food security and livelihoods."
The report precedes this week's G8 summit in Germany, where global warming is a big item on the agenda.
Indonesia's total annual carbon dioxide emissions stand at 3.014 billion tonnes, the United States, which is the world's top emitter, is at 6.005 billion tonnes, followed by China at 5.017 billion tonnes, according to the report.
Indonesia's yearly carbon dioxide emissions from energy, agriculture and waste are around 451 million tonnes, and forestry and land use change are estimated to account for a staggering 2.563 billion tonnes, said the report, Indonesia and Climate Change: Current Status and Policies.
Indonesia's rainforests are being stripped rapidly because of illegal logging and palm oil plantations for bio-fuels, and some environmentalists say they could be wiped out altogether within the next 15 years. According to some estimates, the country's forests, a treasure trove of plant and animal species, including the endangered orang-utans, have already shrunk by an estimated 72 per cent.
Forest fires, often deliberately lit by farmers as well as timber and oil palm plantation owners, are a regular occurrence on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo during the dry season.
Indonesia's neighbours have grown increasingly frustrated by Jakarta's failure to tackle the annual dry season fires. Last year these fires triggered fears of a repeat of the months of choking haze in 1997-98, which cost the region billions.
"Indonesia's lowland tropical forests, the richest in timber resources and biodiversity, are most at risk," said the report. "Fires from peat land have become the largest contributor to haze."
Indonesia will host the next annual Kyoto Protocol meeting in Bali in December.
The World Bank report said perhaps the largest risk for Indonesia from climate change was decreased food security because of changes in rainfall patterns and soil moisture.
04 June, 2007
Letter, The Age, 4 June 2007
The recent high score awarded to the logging industry by the EPA for complying with environmental requirements (Age, Business 4/6) unfortunately doesn't take into account the huge impact that logging and burning native forests has on biodiversity, the survival of endangered species such as Leadbeaters Possum, or the resulting loss of water from our catchments.
Reporting high compliance levels with the weak and substandard Code of Forest Practice is hardly a commendable outcome. I have witnessed at first hand numerous breaches of the Code, and the rampant forest destruction that results even when the Code is adhered to. For example, most habitat trees left recently logged Yalmy forests in East Gippsland have now died.
The Government is wasting a lot of taxpayers money doing questionable audits on an industry now almost exclusively focussed on producing low-value woodchips that are nearly all exported. The audits don't include the huge carbon emissions that result when the logged forests are burnt. These native forests should be protected both to address climate change, and to ensure they can be enjoyed by future generations. Treating them like de facto plantations is just not on.
Logging audit gets high score
The Age, Business Section, June 4, 2007
The 2005-06 Environment Protection Authority audit of native forest harvesting has found a 93 per cent compliance with the Victorian Government's environmental requirements.
The main aim of the audit is to assess compliance with the Code of Forest Practices. The state's commercial forestry arm, VicForests, is now responsible for the harvest and regeneration of native forest areas.
A total of 45 coupes, about 10 per cent of those harvested in 2005-06, were evaluated, including six in Melbourne's water supply catchments. A coupe is a designated logging area of between five and 40 hectares.
Assessment criteria included the potential risk to the environment from slopes, soil erosion and the silvicultural system used, and special land protection requirements.
The EPA audit found the average coupe score for code compliance was 93 per cent, higher than the 2005 audit (91 per cent) and higher than the coupe scores of previous audits (90 per cent in 2004 and 87 per cent in 2003).
Coupe scores ranged from 80 per cent to 100 per cent. The best performing region was Latrobe, which averaged 96 per cent for 17 coupes.
The audit team observed a number of positive practices. These included the quality and detail of documentation, greater attention to habitat tree retention, improvements in boundary tracks and improvements in rainforest identification.
No severe environmental impacts were recorded, but six major, 43 moderate and 27 minor impacts were found, mainly in roading, reserved area protection buffers, snig and forwarding tracks and log landings.
In general, more than 90 per cent compliance was found in coupe planning, landscape values, water yield protection, habitat trees, management of flora and fauna areas and reserved area protection buffers.
Code areas where non-compliance was more persistent were log landings and dumps, boundary tracks and reserved area protection filters. A total of 15 coupes (33 per cent) did not comply with soil standards.
Regeneration of 25 coupes harvested in 2002-03 were found to be 88 per cent compliant with the code, with 16 coupes (64 per cent) fully compliant.
A spokesman for the Australian Conservation Foundation said the ACF had not had the time to assess the audit.
The EPA also announced that an independent review of the annual forest audit program would be undertaken this year and be completed by October.
The Age, Business Section, June 4, 2007
Forestry bodies have welcomed the recognition by the Prime Minister's emissions trading task group of forestry's role as a weapon against the threat of climate change.
A3P, the National Association of Forest Industries and TPA said they were pleased that the task group acknowledged timber's role as a carbon offset and as a storer of carbon through timber products.
The Kyoto Protocol assumes that all carbon within a tree is emitted on harvest, but the task group states that carbon remains locked in the timber until it decays.
A3P is the body for the plantation pine and paper industry, while NAFI represents the native forest sector and TPA plantation hardwood companies.
A3P chief executive Neil Fisher said objections to the inclusion of plantations in abatement schemes usually centred on water use. However, revegetation had a negligible impact on water availability, he said.
Also, accounting was not as difficult as claimed. The NSW greenhouse gas abatement scheme had successfully acknowledged the carbon sequestered in new forests.
Mr Fisher said the report also recognised the potential impact on emissions-intensive and trade-exposed industries, such as the pulp and paper sector.
He welcomed two other recommendations:
- The proposed allocation of permits over five years to offset emissions-intensive and trade-exposed industries.
- Any emissions trading scheme must be broad in scope and capture as much of the economy as possible.
"In fact, if half of Australia's new homes were built predominantly with wood products, over 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved," Ms Murphy said.
TPA's chief executive, Allan Hansard, said the industry was ready to move forward in trading carbon offsets.
"Tree plantations are sequestering over 20 million tonnes of CO2 each year," he said.
A working group was co-operating with government on an industry-based carbon certification scheme.
"Carbon credits must also be tradeable and have a guaranteed life," Mr Hansard said.
The task group says a national emissions trading scheme could be up and running in Australia by 2011.
16 May, 2007
The Age, Opinion, May 16, 2007
Labor got pounded in 2004. Tact and ticker are need for 2007, writes Natasha Cica.
Inching daily closer to the federal election, Labor should not be dazzled by the beautiful set of polling figures that Maxine McKew just scored in the star seat of Bennelong, nor dwell too long in the mines of Western Australia and big city boardrooms.
Tasmania and its forests tend to be left off mainland maps - but only a fool would do that now. Partly because the northern seats of Bass and Braddon are must-wins for Labor: both were lost on forestry policy as the first falling dominoes in Mark Latham's 2004 election defeat. And partly because a Saulwick poll released last week measured first-preference House of Representatives support for Labor in Tasmania at just 36 per cent, compared with 44.6 per cent in 2004. That poll unhelpfully did not deliver the two-party-preferred picture, and indicated 13 per cent of voters were still undecided, but it's fair to say Labor would prefer a trend in the opposite direction. So would the Coalition, whose lower house primary vote was measured by Saulwick at just 34 per cent, down 9 per cent from 2004.
John Howard's riposte to the Bennelong survey was "that poll didn't tell me anything I didn't know" - words he must also have muttered in response to this sampled snapshot of Tasmanian voting intentions in Bass, Braddon and beyond. No fools, both Howard and Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull have visited Tasmania in the past fortnight to press flesh and wedge Labor on this front. Hard cop Howard mainly stuck to forestry-dependent communities in Tasmania's north, labelling opponents of Gunns' proposed Tamar Valley pup mill a "noisy minority" (measured by another poll at almost half the local population) and holding the jobs-equals-logs line. This was a calculated attempt to punch a hole through the somewhat greener deal Rudd cut before Labor's April national conference with Tasmania's pro-logging Premier, Paul Lennon, and the powerful CFMEU, who both walked straight into Howard's arms at the last election. The contours of the final policy product remain to be seen, but part of the promised package involves conserving more forests.
Soft cop Turnbull took a different tack. First, he deflected questions about the democratic dimensions of the Federal Government's environmental assessment process for the pulp mill, which requires all public submissions to be sent through Gunns - a corporation notorious for running the "Gunns 20" litigation against environmentalists, and recently hoist (again) on the pointed pen of Tasmanian novelist Richard Flanagan, writing for The Monthly and London's Daily Telegraph.
Turnbull quickly turned to whacking Lennon's Labor for neglecting its environmental responsibilities on Macquarie Island, a world heritage area ravaged by rabbits and rats. "This is a state government that has put $15 million into (Hawthorn) Football Club but is not prepared to put one cent into an island that has been part of Tasmania since 1825," thundered Turnbull, singing from almost the same songsheet as cultural commentator Leo Schofield, now resident in rural Tasmania.
After the bloodletting surrounding Lennon's March fast-tracking of the pulp mill - featuring hardline attacks on the reputations of local objectors, including a former Supreme Court judge, a senior CSIRO scientist, 14 University of Tasmania specialists in ethics, governance and law, an award-winning broadsheet journalist and a dissident state Labor parliamentarian - Schofield mounted his own protest.
He denounced Lennon as an "uberbogan" who brings ridicule to his office, attracting "nothing but scorn and disdain from thinking members of our population", and who "seems to think anyone who admires a tree or who is moved by poetry and beauty is a dickhead or worse".
Apparently appreciating that Tasmania has historically been both Australia's poorest state and home to its boldest environmental activism, Howard and Turnbull have walked and chewed gum at the same time, playing to two different galleries. To beat that, Rudd and environment spokesman Peter Garrett will need to go one better - uniting Tasmanians on forests. Rudd made the wise opening move of drawing Lennon and friends into his consultative tent. Federal Labor must also ensure its forestry policy passes Rudd's own future test, setting young Tasmanians up for working futures in the 21st century, not the 20th or worse. All this will demand enormous reserves of ticker and tact. But if all else fails, Team Rudd can always fall back on Greg Combet's winning line from ABC TV's waterfront epic Bastard Boys: "Change hurts, John."
Natasha Cica is director of management and communications consultancy Periwinkle Projects.
14 May, 2007
Independent Online Edition
14 May 2007
In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 8 million people flying from London to New York. Stopping the loggers is the fastest and cheapest solution to climate change. So why are global leaders turning a blind eye to this crisis?
The accelerating destruction of the rainforests that form a precious cooling band around the Earth's equator, is now being recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Carbon emissions from deforestation far outstrip damage caused by planes and automobiles and factories.
The rampant slashing and burning of tropical forests is second only to the energy sector as a source of greenhouses gases according to report published today by the Oxford-based Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of leading rainforest scientists.
Figures from the GCP, summarising the latest findings from the United Nations, and building on estimates contained in the Stern Report, show deforestation accounts for up to 25 per cent of global emissions of heat-trapping gases, while transport and industry account for 14 per cent each; and aviation makes up only 3 per cent of the total.
"Tropical forests are the elephant in the living room of climate change," said Andrew Mitchell, the head of the GCP.
Scientists say one days' deforestation is equivalent to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying to New York. Reducing those catastrophic emissions can be achieved most quickly and most cheaply by halting the destruction in Brazil, Indonesia, the Congo and elsewhere.
No new technology is needed, says the GCP, just the political will and a system of enforcement and incentives that makes the trees worth more to governments and individuals standing than felled. "The focus on technological fixes for the emissions of rich nations while giving no incentive to poorer nations to stop burning the standing forest means we are putting the cart before the horse," said Mr Mitchell.
Most people think of forests only in terms of the CO2 they absorb. The rainforests of the Amazon, the Congo basin and Indonesia are thought of as the lungs of the planet. But the destruction of those forests will in the next four years alone, in the words of Sir Nicholas Stern, pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than every flight in the history of aviation to at least 2025.
Indonesia became the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world last week. Following close behind is Brazil. Neither nation has heavy industry on a comparable scale with the EU, India or Russia and yet they comfortably outstrip all other countries, except the United States and China.
What both countries do have in common is tropical forest that is being cut and burned with staggering swiftness. Smoke stacks visible from space climb into the sky above both countries, while satellite images capture similar destruction from the Congo basin, across the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo.
According to the latest audited figures from 2003, two billion tons of CO2 enters the atmosphere every year from deforestation. That destruction amounts to 50 million acres - or an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland felled annually.
The remaining standing forest is calculated to contain 1,000 billion tons of carbon, or double what is already in the atmosphere.
As the GCP's report concludes: "If we lose forests, we lose the fight against climate change."
Standing forest was not included in the original Kyoto protocols and stands outside the carbon markets that the report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed to this month as the best hope for halting catastrophic warming.
The landmark Stern Report last year, and the influential McKinsey Report in January agreed that forests offer the "single largest opportunity for cost-effective and immediate reductions of carbon emissions".
International demand has driven intensive agriculture, logging and ranching that has proved an inexorable force for deforestation; conservation has been no match for commerce. The leading rainforest scientists are now calling for the immediate inclusion of standing forests in internationally regulated carbon markets that could provide cash incentives to halt this disastrous process.
Forestry experts and policy makers have been meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week to try to put deforestation on top of the agenda for the UN climate summit in Bali, Indonesia, this year. Papua New Guinea, among the world's poorest nations, last year declared it would have no choice but to continue deforestation unless it was given financial incentives to do otherwise.
Richer nations already recognise the value of uncultivated land. The EU offers €200 (£135) per hectare subsidies for "environmental services" to its farmers to leave their land unused.
And yet there is no agreement on placing a value on the vastly more valuable land in developing countries. More than 50 per cent of the life on Earth is in tropical forests, which cover less than 7 per cent of the planet's surface.
They generate the bulk of rainfall worldwide and act as a thermostat for the Earth. Forests are also home to 1.6 billion of the world's poorest people who rely on them for subsistence. However, forest experts say governments continue to pursue science fiction solutions to the coming climate catastrophe, preferring bio-fuel subsidies, carbon capture schemes and next-generation power stations.
Putting a price on the carbon these vital forests contain is the only way to slow their destruction. Hylton Philipson, a trustee of Rainforest Concern, explained: "In a world where we are witnessing a mounting clash between food security, energy security and environmental security - while there's money to be made from food and energy and no income to be derived from the standing forest, it's obvious that the forest will take the hit."
02 May, 2007
May 2, 2007
Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out any further protection of Tasmanian old-growth forests, leaving any pre-election bidding on the contentious issue to Labor.
Mr Howard said the 2005 forest deal struck with the Tasmanian Government over jobs and forest protection should not be disturbed. "I'm against any change to the existing deal, full stop," he told The Age.
"I think the present deal is a good deal and my worry is that you will get attempts to lock away further areas, which will endanger jobs, and I'm against that."
In the 2004 federal election, Mr Howard outbid the ALP with a proposal to save 170,000 hectares of old-growth forest and offer an industry restructuring package. When it was signed in 2005, the $250 million Tasmania Community Forest Agreement protected about 140,000 hectares of old-growth forest, missing its benchmark for some of the most contentious tall eucalypt forests.
Since then Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon has raised the prospect that some of those trees could gain protection under a federal Labor government.
Mr Lennon said if value-adding timber projects could be achieved, that would allow his Government to consider conserving forests that had been subject to political debate.
Last weekend the ALP agreed to a platform that includes further protection of Tasmanian old-growth forests, rainforests and other ecosystems.
But the industry flatly opposes further protection. "The bottom line is that any further forest reservation is going to lead to significant job losses," said Terry Edwards, chief executive of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania.
Mr Howard said it appeared that federal and state Labor leaders had reached some understanding to buy out timber workers' jobs in Tasmania.
"I don't want to hear any weasel words about undoing the compact that was reached two years ago," Mr Howard said.
The Wilderness Society said Mr Howard was missing an opportunity to make good on his 2004 promises. "He said he would save the tall old-growth of the Styx and the Florentine valleys, and instead he is destroying these forests," said the society's campaign manager, Geoff Law.
"He's also missing a colossal opportunity to deal with climate change by locking away the carbon in those forests."
01 May, 2007
May 1, 2007
The use of timber floors in new homes has won another last-minute reprieve after the Victorian Government decided not to enforce a deadline for the introduction of green regulations.
Changes in energy-saving regulations that were to take effect from today would have added to pressure on builders to use concrete slabs rather than timber floors.
Timber floors were exempted from five-star energy efficiency standards when the rules were introduced nearly two years ago. But the timber floor exemption deadline has been extended until August 31 amid concerted lobbying from the building industry. Builders argue the end of the exemption would add to costs and reduce consumer choice.
It was the second reprieve the industry has received after an earlier 12-month extension. Only last week both the Building Commissioner Tony Arnel and Planning Minister Justin Madden said the exemption would end on April 30.
The Housing Industry Association's executive director Victoria, Caroline Lawrey, welcomed the extension but said it needed to be timed to the introduction of software — which is due for release in July — that calculates energy use and rates timber floors more favourably than the previous software version.
Mr Arnel said the exemption was not extended due to delays in the software's introduction. He said some builders and suppliers may "require a little more time" to prepare for five-star but doesn't expect more extensions."
May 1, 2007
Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd:
Kevin Rudd's well-oiled Labor machine is out to tame Tasmania - and exorcise Mark Latham's disastrous electoral legacy.
The winter cold is sweeping into the Upper Florentine, a seasonal change that makes this remote Tasmanian valley seem even more forbidding.
From the Florentine's furthest ridges, you can look out to a long westerly horizon untroubled by any human presence, and watch the rain march towards you in lines of gray from distant mountain ranges.
Shafts of sunlight occasionally break through clouds to spotlight otherwise untracked ground. The shrieks of black cockatoos and currawong song coast across the treetops to meet chainsaw buzz and machinery clank.
The Florentine is on the fringe of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It's where tall, old-growth forest borders the island's uninhabited south-west. And on some of the valley's upper slopes, logging is under way as it has been in more accessible reaches of the Florentine for generations.
Since October, Ula Majewski's friends in the group Still Wild, Still Threatened have been blockading in the Upper Florentine. There have been 23 arrests so far. And loggers, supported by Barry Chipman's Timber Communities Australia, have been cutting it. They are extracting high-value sawlog and veneer timber, along with a great weight of logs for woodchips.
These people stand at opposite poles of Tasmania's intractable forests dispute. Neither Majewski nor Chipman are happy with Labor's new forests platform. But it is in a domain such as the Upper Florentine that this reinvented strategy will be tested.
Tasmanian forests policy came to symbolise the collapse of Mark Latham's Labor at the last federal election. It split the ALP in the final days of the campaign, was rejected and then ditched.
Nearly three years later, the ALP appears to have learnt a lesson. Last weekend the party's national conference agreed to a resolution with enough broad support to allow hope within the party that it could succeed. The platform, on which Labor's more detailed federal election policy will be built, calls for a sustainable forest industry in the state, with no overall job losses, and further protection of some forests.
So what will this mean for the Upper Florentine?
In early 2004, Latham flew over these forests by helicopter as Labor leader on a two-day tour in which he was first hosted by the industry, and then Greens leader Bob Brown.
Latham pointed to the existence of other protected forests in the area as proof that there was a reasonable balance, only to drop a bombshell on the Tasmanian Labor government, forest industry and unions in the election campaign's last days. He vowed to end logging in the "overwhelming majority" of Tasmania's old-growth forests - 240,000 hectares of forests with disputed high conservation values, offering an $800 million package.
It was a gamble that was trumped by Prime Minister John Howard. Within 48 hours, Howard announced his own package that would protect 170,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest. But, crucially, he had the support of the industry, the union and even some desperate state Labor figures.
Again, the bidding included the Florentine.
After the Howard Government convincingly won the election, development of what was called the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement took another six months. The industry was offered $250 million in restructuring money to develop plantations and help country sawmills retool.
The Coalition claimed that its extra 170,000 hectares of reserves would take the total area of Tasmania's old growth now in reserves to 1 million hectares.
In fact these "old-growth" reserves include scrubby coastal dry forests and melaleuca swamps as well as myrtle rainforests. Many of these old-growth trees were also left outside the level of protection given by a national park or world heritage listing.
Gains in the protection of rainforest were countered by losses among tall eucalypts where the community forest agreements fell far short of their own benchmark. Contentious areas of the Upper Florentine and nearby Styx missed out. Instead of reserving the 18,700 hectares. pledged at the election, the agreement set aside only 4730 hectares.
The battle over the symbolic trees of Tasmania - tall, old-growth eucalypts - was unresolved. The king of the forest, old-growth eucalypt regnans, gained only 970 hectares in protection under the Howard package. About 44 per cent, or 5800 hectares was still available for logging.
This is part of the legacy for the next election. This, and an industry already in upheaval as Tasmanians await the decision on the $1.5 billion Gunns pulp mill, which will generate employment, and consume more native forest.
Despite the cold and wet, Majewski and Still Wild, Still Threatened have been out in the Upper Florentine trying to draw attention to what she calls "this beautiful forest" for about six months. Access to it has been restricted. Sporadically, small groups of protesters walk in to the logging coupes and erect precarious seats in trees to halt work.
The state agency, Forestry Tasmania, describes this forest as an important source of valuable eucalypt sawlogs, veneer and special species timbers. "Ninety per cent of the Upper Florentine remains unavailable for harvesting," says assistant general manager, Steve Whiteley.
But groups such as Majewski's are arguing for an end to all old-growth logging, not only for these forests' physical attractions, but because as carbon sinks they enter the climate-change equation.
Against them stands the industry group Timber Communities Australia. "TCA said loud and clear that the boundary has been achieved," says Chipman, the organisation's Tasmanian manager. "There is no room to rejig. We cannot accept one more hectare of forest being reserved."
As they absorbed the new Labor platform, each side focused on the role in its development by Michael O'Connor, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's forestry division national secretary.
Famously, O'Connor stood on the same stage as Howard on the eve of the 2004 election. Images of Tasmania's forestry workers cheering Howard helped the Liberals pick up two seats in the state.
The ALP is not about to make the same mistake twice.
Before last weekend's ALP national conference, Brown suggested that O'Connor should get the boot from Labor. Instead he was given the stage to publicly back the new platform.
"I can, with 100 per cent support, recommend this (deal) to the (ALP) conference but more importantly recommend it to our members." O'Connor said at the weekend.
It was a deal struck behind doors with Rudd, O'Connor and Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon. It ensures Labor consults Lennon and the union before announcing its final forests policy.
"We are concerned about any secret deal between Mr O'Connor and (Opposition Leader) Kevin Rudd," says Majewski.
For his part, Chipman says that despite respect for the CFMEU, Timber Communities Australia is worried about two elements of the ALP platform: the proposal to increase protection of some forests, and the pledge that there would be no overall job losses.
"We would much prefer to see job enhancement," he says.
O'Connor just seemed glad to have a platform he could put his name to. "At the last election we had a ludicrous policy," the union leader says. "It was put together without any understanding of its consequences. To us, what we have now is a resumption of a sensible policy development process where agreements are made, and commitments are kept."
Lennon, who also rejected the Latham policy, has signed on for Kevin Rudd too. "The platform provides no concern to me," he says. Instead, he sees useful trade-offs ahead.
"I want value-adding timber projects in Tasmania, employing Tasmanians," Lennon told the ABC. "If we can achieve that, then that will enable us to give the necessary consideration to conservation of other areas of forests that in the past have been subject to political debate."
Labor's shadow environment minister, Peter Garrett, denies that any deal has been struck to protect jobs. But in the bitter politics of Tasmanian forests, the industry worries that it will again be caught in a struggle for votes - perhaps this time for Greens' preferences.
Federal Forests Minister Eric Abetz stoked these fears as he warned against taking the risk of supporting Labor.
"There are some strong and loud voices at play which are determined to shut down the forest industry, no matter that it has great environmental and economic credentials," Abetz says.
Labor's task in developing the policy - in deciding whether a forest such as the Upper Florentine will finally be protected, or its loggers' jobs - is full of hazards.
The novelist Richard Flanagan wrote a long essay on the state forest industry's power that was published yesterday in The Monthly magazine. His conclusion? The battle for the forests in Tasmania is as much about free speech and democracy as it is about wild lands.
THE ALP PLATFORM
- Labor supports the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement.
- Labor is committed to sustainable economic, environmental and community outcomes for Tasmania's forests, based on the principles of: a sustainable forestry industry plan, developed in consultation with unions, industry and the Tasmanian Government and based on the use of plantation timber, selective use of native timber, value-adding and downstream processing; no overall loss of jobs in the forestry industry; further protection of identified Tasmanian high-conservation- value, old-growth forests, rainforests and other ecosystems.