30 May, 2011

Green paper needs Reflex action

Ben Butler
The Age,  May 30, 2011

Wilderness Society protesters dressed in ‘Victoria’s Secret’ lingerie earlier this month to expose Victoria’s 'dirty little secret' – woodchipping native forests to make Reflex Paper that is sold in Officeworks. Photo: Edwina Pickles

REFLEX, Australia's best-known brand of paper, is set to lose its international green accreditation within the next two months unless its manufacturer can strike an unlikely deal with some of its fiercest enemies.

The loss of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification would force Australian Paper, which makes Reflex, to either abandon its public commitment to the FSC process or shift its sourcing from native forests to more expensive plantation timber.

News that Australian Paper's international certification is at risk will come as an embarrassment to Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh, who recently threatened to take forestry jobs away from the Yarra Ranges Council unless it ends a boycott of Reflex paper.

It also threatens Victoria's state-owned logger VicForests, a key supplier of native forest woodchips to Australian Paper.

Australian Paper's problem arises because FSC rules have been tightened since its certificate was issued five years ago. Under the new rules, the company must consult with stakeholders over logging in ''high conservation value'' areas.

Australian Paper's certificate expires on July 26, leaving it little time to reach consensus with environment groups, many of whom oppose logging in forests containing endangered species.

Complicating the process, one of the groups, Central Highlands-based MyEnvironment, has lodged a complaint about Australian Paper's auditor, Smartwood, with the FSC head office in Germany.

The complaint has sparked an international review of Smartwood, a division of environmental standards body Rainforest Alliance, that could lead to its authority to audit wood supply being revoked.

''My understanding is that we could, in theory, be suspended, but we're a long way from that,'' said Smartwood spokeswoman Anita Neville.

''If they find flaws in the system, corrective action is required.''

She said that under the ''annex 3'' system, which governs consultations over high conservation areas, ''100 per cent agreement'' between Australian Paper and environment groups was not required.

''You have to eliminate the worst cases of disagreement, and that's not always easy,'' she said.

FSC Australia chief executive Michael Spencer said that under the organisation's rules, Australian Paper needed to consult with all stakeholders with an interest in the forest, including environmental groups.

Asked what would happen if no deal had been struck by July 27, he said: ''My understanding would be, and I haven't dealt with this in the past, their certificate would lapse if it hasn't been renewed.''

MyEnvironment director Sarah Rees said Australian Paper had made contact with her on Thursday. ''We're really receptive to helping the company move its wood supply from native forest to the burgeoning plantation sector,'' she said.

In any case, she said, the Black Saturday bushfires had slashed the amount of wood left in native forests to about two years worth of supply.

''The real opportunity for the company is to get the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society and local environment groups standing by them saying, 'Job well done'.''

Australian Paper spokesman John Rider did not return calls.

Last year, chief executive Jim Henneberry publicly committed the company to FSC principles, including not obtaining wood from high conservation areas.

In a statement, VicForests spokesman David Walsh said the logging company ''supports Australian Paper's work to achieve certification to a range of industry standards - including its efforts to maintain FSC certification''.

29 May, 2011

Spring Street continued to bully uni over grazing

Melissa Fyfe
The Age, May 29, 2011

THE Baillieu government continued to bully Melbourne University over the controversial alpine grazing trial even after The Sunday Age exposed its threatening behaviour.

Emails tabled in Parliament show that weeks after it was revealed the Department of Sustainability and Environment had threatened the university's funding, senior government official Peter Appleford demanded action on a letter from two university academics to Environment Minister Ryan Smith.
The emails also reveal the university hit back, saying the academics were ''within their rights of academic freedom''.

The letter, signed by 110 scientists, was written by School of Botany scientists Libby Rumpff and Georgia Garrard using their university email addresses. It raised concerns about the trial's independence and methodology.

At the time the emails were written, the university was finalising a funding contract with the department for the now-stalled trial and was negotiating an extension of a long-term research agreement. The trial overturned Labor's ban on cattle in the Alpine National Park and was designed to explore how grazing may reduce fires.

In an email to Rick Roush, dean of the school of land and environment, Mr Appleford, an executive director of the department, said he was considering bringing the letter to the attention of Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis. The letter, Mr Appleford wrote, was ''inaccurate, insulting, accusing and closed minded''.

He wrote: ''Clearly the Department cannot let this go unchallenged. I am interested in your views about how I should proceed.'' In another email, department colleague Lee Miezis forwarded the academics' letter to Mr Appleford with the note: ''Perhaps Melb Uni needs to manage this person.''

Professor Roush replied to Mr Appleford the next day, March 18, saying the ''unanimous consensus'' of four senior members of the university's executive was the university could do nothing.

Professor Roush wrote: ''The signatories are legally entitled to affix their employment status on a letter about their area of expertise, and there is no claim about a university position. They are all within their rights of academic freedom.''

The emails, tabled in the upper house recently, were requested by Greens member Sue Pennicuik. The request followed The Sunday Age reporting that Mr Appleford had tried to blackmail the university. Mr Appleford urged the university to reconsider its concerns over the trial in light of a government contract ''worth millions of dollars annually''.

The government denied it had threatened the university and issued a statement saying The Sunday Age had ''misrepresented and taken out of context comments by a departmental officer''.

Ms Pennicuik told Parliament last week that, after reading the tabled documents, she believed The Sunday Age had reported the emails accurately. She said she was concerned about the continuation of threats.
The documents also show a flurry of emails the night The Sunday Age was writing the story. In several emails, Mr Appleford asks the university to deny any threats were made. In one email that he ''hopes stays between us'', he tells Professor Roush and Associate Professor Gerd Bossinger that ''depending on what type of article appears and what quotes are provided from university staff, if any, the department may be requiring an explanation''.

The state government has not indicated when the trial will resume. Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke ordered the cattle out of the park in April.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/spring-street-continued-to-bully-uni-over-grazing-20110528-1f9s7.html#ixzz1NjWTJlFe

24 May, 2011

Lingerie-clad protesters strip down for a cause

Nathan Mawby

Herald Sun , May 24, 2011

Cheeky wilderness warriors showed plenty of skin as they hit the streets of Melbourne in a chilly protest this morning.

Wearing nothing but lingerie, the group from the Wilderness Society braved temperatures of just 14.2C to spruik their cause at 9.30am today.

Protesters clad in Victoria's Secret lingerie outside Officeworks in Elizabeth Street. Picture: Bruce Magilton, Herald Sun
The protesters were voicing their opposition to the wood-chipping of Victorian native forests to make Reflex paper.

Spokesman Sean Vagg said the stunt was a chilly way to get the point across, but a lot of fun.

"It was very chilly, there was a lot of dancing to stay warm," he said.

Mr Vagg said many had asked if the group hired models.

"People had thought we hired professional models, but it was just us," he said.

Forest logging a big carbon culprit

Ben Cubby
The Age, May 24, 2011

STOPPING logging in old-growth forests, particularly in southern Australia, is one of the best ways of making timely cuts to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Climate Commission's first report.

Established forests store much more carbon dioxide than plantations, so cutting them down releases more heat-trapping gases, it concluded.

''In general, forests with high carbon storage capacities are those in relatively cool, moist climates that have fast growth coupled with low decomposition rates, and older, complex, multi-aged and layered forests with minimal human disturbance,'' the report said.

''This framework underscores the importance of eliminating harvesting of old-growth forests as perhaps the most important policy measure that can be taken to reduce emissions from land ecosystems.''

If Australia is to stabilise and reduce its emissions in time to make a contribution to global efforts to slow climate change, storing more carbon in the landscape is classified as a useful interim measure while the nation weans itself off fossil fuel-based electricity production. Ending logging ''yields some quick gains while the slower process of transforming energy and transport systems unfolds''.

Over the past century, between 15 and 20 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions were released by chopping down forests and clearing scrub, the report notes, citing the CSIRO and international research.

In Australia, recent estimates show that eucalyptus forests in cooler regions such as southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania have a carbon-carrying capacity of about 640 tonnes a hectare. In their natural condition, about 33 billion tonnes of CO2 can be stored in these forests, but about 56 er cent of them have been logged.

If the logged areas were allowed to grow undisturbed again, about 7.5 billion tonnes of additional carbon dioxide could be stored in them again.

23 May, 2011

WHAT DO YOU THINK: Yarra Valley loses potential 80 jobs after Reflex boycott

Alex Munro
Leader Newspapers, 23 May 2011

WHAT DO YOU THINK: Yarra Valley loses potential 80 jobs after Reflex boycott - Lilydale & Yarra Valley Leader - News - Leader News : http://leader-news.whereilive.com.au/news/story/paper-stand-fallout/

THE state’s peak timber industry body has pulled out of plans to move their head office and 80 potential jobs to the Yarra Valley because of council’s decision to boycott Reflex paper.

The revelation came as Cr Chris Templer broke ranks to attack Yarra Ranges Council’s April 27 decision to sign the Wilderness Society’s ethical paper pledge, calling it a mistake based on an ideological opinion.

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh confirmed last week that an offer to move VicForests’ main office to either Yarra Glen or Healesville had been withdrawn because of council’s support of the pledge.

“The proposal was under active consideration, however in light of the council’s recent decision to take the so-called ethical paper pledge I have since written advising them that the relocation is off the table,” Mr Walsh said.

“The council has been hypocritical in seeking to attract VicForests while actively campaigning against a product that forms part of its core business.”

It is believed councillors discussed the pledge again at a meeting last week and re-affirmed their support for it.

Mayor Terry Avery said relocating VicForests to the valley would have demonstrated commitment to expanding employment and stimulating economies directly affected by Black Saturday. “We are disappointed that Minister Walsh has chosen to establish a direct link between the two unrelated issues,” Cr Avery said.

Yarra Glen Chamber of Commerce and Tourism president Bob Curtis furiously condemned signing the pledge, saying the town would welcome VicForests with open arms.

“The council needs to revoke this decision immediately, and then beg the government and VicForests to bring the office out here,” Mr Curtis said.

“Their green protest has just cost 80 potential jobs for towns that are in absolute need of them.”

MyEnvironment director Sarah Rees said it was deplorable for the State Government to blackmail the council over its decision to represent the rights of its constituents.

Has the council made a mistake? Tell us what you think at the end of this page.

21 May, 2011

Council gags on Reflex vow

Anne Wright
Herald Sun,  May 21, 2011

A COUNCIL has been warned to lift its ban on a brand of paper or risk losing 45 new jobs.

The State Government said a proposal to move the VicForests corporate offices into the Yarra Range Council's area would be "off the table", unless it started using Reflex paper.

A letter from Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh to Yarra Ranges Council chief executive Glenn Patterson, seen by the Herald Sun, commended the proposal for the VicForests corporate office to move, which would create 45 jobs.

Mr Walsh then says the proposal will be "off the table" unless the council stopped its Reflex boycott.

The threat originated from the council's signing an environmental pledge to stop using the brand because it is made from native forest, which is against the council's policy.

But Mr Walsh said Reflex was a product of Australian Paper, an "important client" of VicForests, and any council signing the "so-called ethical paper pledge" from the Wilderness Society would miss out on the move of the VicForest jobs.

"In my view, council has been hypocritical in seeking to attract VicForests while actively campaigning against a product that forms part of its core business," he said.

But Yarra Ranges mayor Terry Avery said the council joined the Wilderness Society's pledge to not use Reflex paper, and opted for an Australian product line also manufactured by the Australian Paper.

"We feel strongly that the pledge is an accurate reflection of our commitment to sustainability, protection of the environment, corporate social responsibility and local community needs," Cr Avery said.

He said the council would not back down.

"We are disappointed that Minister Walsh has chosen to establish a direct link between the two unrelated issues," he said.

Opposition resources spokesman John Lenders said the Government was threatening jobs in the local community.


18 May, 2011

Forest peace deal shaky

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 18 May 2011

The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has rejected suggestions the Federal Government has not done enough to further Tasmania's forest peace talks.

There is concern the fragile talks to ban almost all native forest logging in Tasmania are on the brink of collapse.

The Wilderness Society has temporarily walked away from the negotiations.

It is demanding clear funding commitments from both the Federal and State Governments to aid the process, saying they have been lax for not already doing so.

But Julia Gillard disagrees.

"I certainly believe the federal government has done enough," she said.

The State Opposition's Peter Gutwein claims government commitment to the process has been a farce.

The single litmus test for money from the Federal Government was brought down last week.

Only $300,000 was earmarked in the federal budget to keep negotiations running.

Meanwhile the Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim has admitted he shares the frustrations of the Wilderness Society.

He says the Greens still support the negotiations but aren't happy with the level of progress.

"From the Greens point of view the frustrations, and we share the frustrations, are in part from the Wilderness Society relate to the fact that the moratorium that was proposed in the original statement of principles is yet to be fully implemented and I think that's a frustration of many people," he said.

And Environment Tasmania says it also blames government inaction for the Wilderness Society's decision to walk away from the forest peace talks.

Phil Pullinger, from Environment Tasmania, says he is not surprised by the move.

"We share the frustrations of the Wilderness Society and some of the other organisations that are involved in this process at the lack of government action to date, we do think its now time for government action and strong government action to turn this set of principles and this opportunity that exists into reality."

Forest Peace Undermined

Reporter: Martin Cuddihy
ABC 7:30 Report Transcript, Broadcast: 18/05/2011

The historic peace deal between Tasmanian loggers and conservationists appears to be on the brink of possible collapse.

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The historic peace deal between Tasmanian loggers and conservationists appears to be on the brink of possible collapse. One of the key players, the Wilderness Society, has suspended its involvement in the negotiations meant to end the decades-old conflict. The green groups' blaming both the state and federal governments for its withdrawal, as Martin Cuddihy reports from Tasmania.

TERRY EDWARDS, FOREST INDUSTRIES ASSOC (to Vica Bayley): You bloody caused all the trouble, you mongrel.

MARTIN CUDDIHY, REPORTER: There's no love lost between the timber industry and green groups. Today was no different. The latest confrontation stems from a decision by the Wilderness Society to suspend its involvement in peace talks.

VICA BAYLEY, WILDERNESS SOCIETY: We are expressing our frustration by stepping back from the process, by suspending our involvement in these talks.

TERRY EDWARDS: The whole thing may blow up in everyone's faces and we may end up without a forest peace process at all.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Forestry is more than a polarising industry. It's a decades-old dispute, one that has seen mass protests and rallies, arrests and even violence.

Last year's peace deal was hailed as a breakthrough. It was meant to ban all work in high conservation value forests and phase out logging in native forests.

The agreement was brokered by Our Common Ground, a new player that helped bring together loggers and greenies. In truth, it was more like a cease-fire than a peace treaty. But at the time there was a mood of optimism.

DAVID BARTLETT, TASMANIAN PREMIER (Oct. 2010): They have persisted and have made this once-in-a-generation opportunity come to fruition.

PHILL PULLINGER, ENVIRONMENT TASMANIA (Oct. 2010): We do believe that we've now got a unique opportunity to move beyond the decades of conflict over our native forests.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: But despite the opportunity, the Wilderness Society pulled out late yesterday. It believes federal and state governments are dragging the chain.

VICA BAYLEY: What we need to see is a clear commitment from government that they are on board, that they will back this agreement, that they make serious commitments about protecting our forests and restructuring an ailing industry.

TERRY EDWARDS: There's no doubt the Wilderness Society position makes the reaching of an agreement that much more difficult than it was before their withdrawal.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Other signatories, particularly the Forest Industries Association, are fuming at the decision to suspend involvement.

TERRY EDWARDS: This seems to be much more about the Wilderness Society wanting to pursue their agenda outside of the negotiations process.

LARA GIDDINGS, TASMANIAN PREMIER: What it shows is when the going gets tough, the Wilderness Society walk out.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: It's not the first time the Wilderness Society has pulled out of a forestry peace deal. Twice in the 1980s and '90s, with the Salamanca agreement and the regional forests agreement, both similar sorts of peace deals, the organisation withdrew when negotiations weren't progressing favourably.

With respect, you didn't actually address the question there. I said you have pulled out of two of these agreements previously. Is this just simply a stunt?

VICA BAYLEY: We make our decisions based on what we believe are going to deliver real outcomes.

NICK MCKIM, TASMANIA GREENS LEADER: I think the Wilderness Society's genuinely frustrated about the lack of progress and I understand that frustration, but the Greens still do support this process.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Six weeks ago, the facilitator of the talks Bill Keelty handed down an interim report, but as yet there's been no response from either government. In a fortnight, some of the peace delegates are scheduled to meet with the Government in Canberra. The Prime Minister insists she's upheld her end of the bargain.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: Well, I certainly believe the Federal Government has done enough. What I would say to the people in Tasmania, the representatives who have been sitting around a table, is: now is not the right time to walk away from that table.

PHILL PULLINGER: Despite today's setback, remaining players are vowing to continue the peace process. This agreement is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Tasmania to both protect our native forests and to get a strong future for the timber industry.

TERRY EDWARDS: We remain committed to trying to produce an outcome from that process and we will continue to participate positively in that process with a view to trying to achieve an outcome.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: And there remains the looming threat that the whole peace deal could fall over, meaning a return to the days of conflict in Tasmania's forests.

LARA GIDDINGS: If there's any danger of it falling apart, it's because parties at the table walk away, just like the Wilderness Society have now.

TERRY EDWARDS: It's very tempting for the other signatories to now decide to walk in and out of the process whenever we feel like it. If it's good for the goose, it's good for the gander.

Tasmanian logging pact hits hurdle

Andrew Darby

The Age, May 18, 2011

Tasmania's once-in-a-generation forest peace talks have been rocked by the decision of a key green group, The Wilderness Society, to suspend its involvement citing a lack of action.

Talks eight months ago reached agreement on a historic blueprint to end conflict over the island's contentious wild forests, but a logging moratorium is yet to be fully implemented, months after it was due.

It is the first loss of a central participant from the year-old talks between industry, unions and green groups.

Environment Minister Tony Burke warned last night that now was not the time to be leaving the table, and federal government help would only be possible if the groups kept working together.

''The only reason that we have an opportunity for an outcome that works for jobs and conservation is because of the goodwill that's been shown in the community-led agreement,'' Mr Burke said.

The peace talks have identified 570,000 hectares of high conservation value forests in Tasmania up for protection as the biggest timber company, Gunns Limited, ends native forest logging.
Premier Lara Giddings said the state government had protected 98 per cent of contentious high conservation value forests, with just 2 per cent remaining to fill legally binding contracts and to keep forest workers employed.

But The Wilderness Society's Tasmanian campaigns manager, Vica Bayley, yesterday showed reporters a logging access road into public old growth forests of the Esperance Valley in the island's south-east.
Mr Bayley said the road was built this year, while the moratorium was supposed to be in place.

''This is a classic case of what we've been seeing across the high conservation value reserve proposals in Tasmania,'' he said of the road, which pushed through tall eucalypt dominated wet forest, ending about 100 metres from the boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

''A moratorium is always about the 2 per cent that was going to be logged, not the 98 per cent that wasn't being logged,'' he said.

''Despite aspirations for a moratorium, we still have roading operations, we still have logging operations, and of course we've still got resultant conflict in the forests.''

Mr Bayley said the government's proposed carbon tax could be used to ensure protection of these forests, which were some of the country's largest carbon stores.

Small Tasmanian green groups have made increasingly strident protests against continued logging, including disrupting the loading of ships, and shutting down the state's timber agency, Forestry Tasmania.

The suspension of involvement by The Wilderness Society comes only six weeks before independent facilitator Bill Kelty is due to deliver a final report from the peace talks to the Gillard government, which will attempt to balance the protection of wild forests with timber business sustainability.

Mr Kelty could not be reached for comment.

03 May, 2011

Fears for possum's fate

Maroondah Weekly, 03 May, 2011

AN ecology expert has warned that Victoria's fauna emblem, the Leadbeater's possum, is under threat from proposed logging in some Yarra Ranges forests.
Australian National University ecology professor, David Lindenmayer, said he "can't believe" that areas across central Victoria with significant numbers of the threatened possum were being targeted for logging.

He backed Yarra Ranges Council's opposition to VicForests' plans to log 20coupes near conservation reserves that protected threatened species.

The plan outlines 144 logging coupes including Toolangi, Powelltown, Noojee and Marysville in the east of Yarra Ranges Shire.

"Surprisingly there is some small patches of old forest important to the animal being targeted by VicForests for harvesting - a couple of areas have significant numbers of Leadbeater's possum," Professor Lindenmayer said.

He is part of an ANU team monitoring the possums in the region. He estimates about 1000 Leadbeater's possums remain in Victoria - the possum's only known address in the world.

Small numbers lived in Toolangi, despite the area being "belted" by bushfires and logging in the past 100 years, he said.

The species faced a high probability of extinction within 30-50 years unless logging stopped in its ever-shrinking habitat.

The council last week also voted to sign The Wilderness Society's ethical paper pledge not to use native-forest sourced paper.

The society's ethical paper campaign allows groups to pledge not to support Australian Paper and its Reflex product until the company stops using native-forest timber pulp.

Cr Samantha Dunn, who moved the motion, said the pledge wouldn't cost the council, which already uses paper from recycled and plantation timber sources.

VicForests spokesman David Walsh said about a third of timber from Victoria's forests was sold for furniture and flooring, but not parts of a tree that could be used for high-value products.

"Much of the wood that does not meet the high standards required for sawlog is utilised to produce quality writing and office paper."

02 May, 2011

Do you agree with Yarra Ranges Council ban of Reflex paper?

Kimberley Seedy
Lilydale & Yarra Valley Leader, 2 May 2011

YARRA Ranges Council is encouraging consumers and other councils to follow their lead in boycotting Reflex paper.

Councillors agreed last week to sign the Ethical Paper Pledge to encourage consumers of paper not to buy Reflex until its makers stop using native forest timber pulp in their products.

At last week’s meeting, Cr Samantha Dunn proposed the council support the ban.

The campaign against Reflex, started by the Wilderness Society in February, encourages organisations to sign a pledge “to protect Melbourne’s water supply, prevent the extinction of iconic species, and halt the daily release of large amounts of carbon dioxide in Victoria’s forests”.

Cr Dunn said the decision would have no financial impact on the council because it did not use Reflex.

But Cr Chris Templer said it wasn’t appropriate to target a specific company.

Cr Len Cox backed the campaign, saying: “The fact that old growth forests are being logged at all is a disgrace.”

Australian Paper, manufacturer of Reflex, has started a website defending its practices.

It states more than half of total fibre needs are met from plantation wood, recycled pulp and wastepaper from kerbside collections, and the rest is sourced through VicForests, a State Government enterprise responsible for the sustainable harvest and commercial sale of wood from state forests.

Do you agree with Yarra Ranges decision to ban Reflex paper?