26 July, 2011

Tree-sitter takes fight for rare possum to new heights

Adam Carey
The Age, July 26, 2011

A FIGHT to end logging in native forests in Victoria's central highlands has intensified, with conservationists entering a patch of forest they claim is habitat to the endangered Leadbeater's possum and forcing a halt to work there.
Dozens of demonstrators entered a logging coupe on Sylvia Creek Road in the Toolangi State Forest yesterday morning, where a lone protester has stationed himself high in the forest canopy in a move to stall timber harvesting.

Police made no move to evict the "tree-sitter" from his perch yesterday, leaving him huddled in a sleeping bag 50 metres above ground on the edge of a patch of freshly clear-felled forest. Long ropes were strung from the tree trunk to the loggers' bulldozers, which sat idle in the coupe below.

A VicForests worker approached the protesters and asked them to leave the area, but they refused.

"This is one of the few areas that wasn't burnt on Black Saturday … so it's really important to all of us standing here that it is preserved for our children and for the habitat," Karina Doughty of local action group Warburton Environment said.
VicForests, the Victorian government's commercial forestry arm, began logging 19 hectares of forest at Sylvia Creek Road last Friday.

It had planned to log 22 hectares, but cut the coupe's size after the Department of Sustainability and Environment found it contained old-growth forest last week.

Senior VicForests employee Stuart O'Brien told demonstrators the coupe was part of a mixed-age forest that contained only a handful of old-growth, hollow-bearing trees. Those trees would be preserved, he said. "We've done pretty extensive surveying here and we've excluded about three hectares where those old-growth trees are," Mr O'Brien said.

A key aim of the protesters is the preservation of the remaining habitat of the Leadbeater's possum, which is endemic to the central highlands. About 1000 of the animals are believed to exist today after as much as half of its habitat was wiped out in the Black Saturday bushfires.

VicForests is prohibited from logging hollow-bearing trees under a Department of Sustainability and Environment plan to protect the endangered possum's habitat, but conservationists say the plan is inadequate.

"So much of the forest has been so heavily hit by fires and also by past logging that the amount of habitat for Leadbeater's possum is really vanishing very quickly," Australian National University ecologist David Lindenmayer said.

25 July, 2011

Is the Tasmanian Forest Deal a Dud?

Media Release
Prue Acton and Noel Plumb, South East Region Conservation Alliance, 25 July 2011

The South East Forests Cannot Wait Any Longer

The South East Region Conservation Alliance has said that it doubts the announcement of $250 million for forest conservation in Tasmania is sustainable, politically or environmentally.

“Sadly, it looks as though it is a dud that will cause the Gillard Government enormous political pain,” said Prue Acton and Noel Plumb, spokespersons for the South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA).

“We can no longer be confident that reform of the Tasmanian logging industry will be a blueprint to protect the South East Forests (covering the NSW south coast and Victoria’s East Gippsland), the critical next step in forest protection around Australia.”

“We are deeply disappointed that this deal does not clearly set out a quick and certain path to end native forest logging in Tasmania and elsewhere. It does not even stop the present targeted destruction of high conservation value forests identified by scientists and the community.”

“This looks like another massive waste of taxpayer’s money, prolonging the death throes of an unsustainable industry rejected by most Australians. (Galaxy Poll May 2010)”

“The money, part of more than one billion dollars announced in the Clean Energy Future policy just two weeks ago to protect biodiversity and carbon stores, needs to be used to genuinely protect forests, not to prop up a doomed woodchip driven industry. Saving forests, not destroying them, is the most cost effective way to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions and save our wildlife.”

“The Gillard Government now needs to urgently intervene to stop the woodchip monster that is eating the South East Forests as well as fixing up the dud deal in Tasmania.”

“We are calling on Prime Minister Gillard to immediately engage the NSW and Victorian Governments on the protection of the South East Forests.”

“The critical role of native forests in protecting biodiversity and fighting climate change has been highlighted by scientists around the world”

 “ Yet, at this very minute, intensive logging is threatening to wipe out the last coastal koala population on the NSW south coast and is simultaneously threatening the future of tourism based on Australia’s ‘Wilderness Coast’ stretching from Bermagui to Bairnsdale in Victoria. (See below) “

“The once mighty spotted gum forests of Bermagui, home to the last coastal koalas, are being destroyed right now for export woodchips to Japan. For years the local community has begged the Federal and NSW Government to protect this forest and the those of Mumbulla, Tathra, Tanja, Murrah and Gulaga as home to the last south coast koala colony, with no more than 50 koalas left.”

 “Lying at the northern entrance to Australia’s wilderness coast, recently declared by Martin Ferguson as an international tourism landscape, these forests are also winter feeding grounds of the last remaining Swift Parrots. The parrots and our coastal koalas are both on the knife edge of extinction.”

For further comment: -

Prue Acton      SERCA                        02 6494 5144 or 0419 393 203
Noel Plumb     ChipBusters                  0425 23 83 03

Tasmania in $274m forests deal

Andrew Darby, Hobart
The Age, July 25, 2011

PEACE is closer to being secured in the decades-long fight over Tasmanian forests after a $274 million government package aimed at ending most logging of native forests was agreed on at the weekend.

But while the deal hammered out between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings has the full backing of industry, it has been criticised by the Greens.

The deal puts into effect principles already agreed on by the two sides to shift the industry out of most public native forests, to protect many of those forests in national parks, and to compensate those forced to leave.

Tasmania's forests debate has been a defining national green issue since the 1980s, marked by repeated attempts at settlement that have only bought temporary truces.

Ms Gillard said the conflict had at times been "very bitter indeed", but the deal would ensure complete agreement could be be reached, she said.

Changing commercial conditions — chiefly the rejection of native forest woodchips by the Japanese — drove the industry and green groups into talks.

The package confirms the reservation of 430,000 hectares of native forest around the state.

Among areas protected will be the hotly disputed very tall forests that fringe the World Heritage wilderness, the Tarkine rainforests of the island's north-west, and a sprinkling of mountainous coastal forests around the east coast.

"People do want to see appropriate protection for ancient and iconic forests, for areas of high conservation value, and the agreement that has been struck . . . does enable us to do it," Ms Gillard said.

With the lion's share of funds to come from the Commonwealth, the package's big ticket items are $85 million for workers and contractors who lose their jobs in industry restructuring; $120 million in extra regional development money for Tasmania; and $43 million to implement the changes.

The deal ensures existing major logging contracts can be fulfilled from forests outside the protected areas, but halves the key sawlog quota.

The strategically important Triabunna woodchip mill, bought by the wealthy environmentalists Jan Cameron and Graeme Wood last week, is to keep operating.

But its chips will need certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, which means an end to the mass woodchipping of old-growth areas.

Ms Giddings called for an end to environmental protests targeting the industry, saying the agreement marked an end to debate over logging in old-growth forests. "It is clear that against the tide of changing market conditions, doing nothing is not an option," she said.

The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania said the deal delivered it certainty and security. "We do fully support the agreement," chief executive Terry Edwards said.

Green groups said they backed the governments' decision to reach an important decision. But one of the negotiators, Phill Pullinger of Environment Tasmania, said critical points still lay ahead in translating the weekend's federal-state heads of agreement into a fully operational process.

The Tasmanian Greens, who hold the balance of power in the state's Parliament, reserved the right not to support some elements of the agreement, which may need to be legislated.

And national Greens leader Bob Brown derided the agreement as a "Labor-Labor-loggers" outcome. "The popular expectation that a 610,000-hectare system of wild forest national parks would be established, as the loggers were bailed out of their failing industry, has been dashed," Senator Brown said.

24 July, 2011

PM signs historic forest peace deal

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation),  July 24, 201

The latest attempt at a peace deal for Tasmania's forests has been agreed to by both the Tasmanian and Federal Government.

Industry has backed the plan, but it has already been rejected by the Greens at both a state and federal level.

It comes after nine months of negotiations between conservation groups and the forest industry.

The agreement effectively halves the Tasmanian timber industry and moves it almost out of native forest logging.

The package highlights are:

  • $85 million in immediate assistance to forest workers and contractors to exit the industry permanently.
  • $120 million over 15 years will be provided for regional development projects to diversify the Tasmanian economy.
  • $43 million will be given to the State to buy back native wood contracts, which would include Gunns.
  • 430,000 hectares of native forest is to be put into informal reserves protected from logging.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard signed the historic heads of agreement with Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings in Hobart today.

"We have put cold hard cash on the table to get it done," Ms Gillard said.

"This is a very significant step forward in a process that is aimed at trying to end the conflict that has caused so much conflict, for so many, for decades in this State," Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings said.

Ms Giddings has until the end of the year to verify and protect 430,000 hectares of native forest from logging, which will be placed in an informal reserve immediately.

"As Prime Minister I've always said I'm all about jobs and this is about supporting jobs in Tasmania. But it is also about securing an environmental outcome," Ms Giddings said.

The deal has been forced on the industry because its markets have collapsed.

A decade-long campaign by conservationists aimed at international woodchip buyers started the rot and the global financial crisis brought the industry to its knees.

At the same time the biggest industry player - Gunns - decided to get out of native forest logging to win approval for the Tamar Valley pulp mill which will take plantation timber.

"What is fundamentally different here is this isn't Government telling people what to do. This is stakeholders coming together recognising that the industry has changed," Ms Gillard said.

The negotiations failed to mandate how long the strategically important Triabunna woodchip mill should keep operating.

Conservationists and industry are yet to sign the deal, that should be done within two weeks.

The Greens have rejected the package.

"This is not an agreement that we will go along with. It gives $148 million to the loggers in the financial year but does not permanently protect 1 hectare of what the Prime Minister calls ancient and iconic forests," Greens leader Senator Bob Brown said.

Senator Christine Milne says the agreement sells out the public expectation that there would be a breakthrough in the 30-year conflict.

"That opportunity has now been squandered. Appeasement as a strategy has never worked and it won't work in this case and now it's going to be over to the market," she said.

The Wilderness Society which was a key player in the peace talks says it supports the compensation package and will work to make sure the forests are protected.

"It is our intention to be sure that the detail that still needs to be worked through to end up in the actual inter-governmental agreement provides for the protection of the forests," campaigner Vica Bayley said.

The timber industry says it is a compromise driven by necessity.

"I don't think there's anyone that will say they got everything that they wanted. It's been a genuine negotiation process and like any negotiation process there's had to be some compromise," the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chief executive, Terry Edwards said.

But industry wants one further guarantee.

"That there will be peace in our forests and in our markets as a result of this agreement."

22 July, 2011

Anger as logging begins at controversial Sylvia Creek forest near Melbourne

Friday, 22 July 2011

VicForests has sent the chainsaws into the Sylvia Creek forest on Melbourne’s north east fringe, despite conceding that the area contains old-growth trees more than 110 years old.

Over 100 people protested at the site near Toolangi last weekend, forcing both VicForests and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) to conduct new surveys to check the forest’s environmental values.

“DSE has confirmed the logging coupe contains old growth trees, even though VicForests and Government Minister Louise Asher insisted last week that it was not old growth forest,” said Wilderness Society forest campaigner Luke Chamberlain.

"We demand an acknowledgment from the then Acting Premier that she has either been deceived by VicForests or she herself has misled the public.  Louise Asher must apologise to the people of Toolangi."

“As a result of community action, VicForests has been forced to remove three hectares of old growth and rainforest from their logging plans, but they have sent the chainsaws into the remaining forest today.”

DSE and VicForests claim that the area being logged is not suitable habitat for the endangered Leadbeater's Possum, but expert scientists and conservationists disagree.

“Over half the Leadbeater's Possum’s forest habitat was destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires, so every last bit that survives is incredibly precious, and essential to this tiny animals’ survival,” said spokesperson for local group ‘My Environment’ Sarah Rees.

“The criteria the government is using to identify Leadbeater's Possum habitat are too conservative. We’re talking about Victoria’s wildlife emblem, we should be making sure they multiply and flourish, not simply cling on to the edge of survival.”

“The local community is up in arms about losing this beautiful, high conservation value forest, and is planning further protests.”

The Burned Area Emergency Response Report (BAER) commissioned by the Brumby Government after the 2009 bushfires recommended preserving refuge areas such as those in Toolangi for biodiversity recovery.

Note: photos of Leadbeater's Possum available on request

For comment

- Luke Chamberlain, The Wilderness Society    0424 098 729
- Sarah Rees, My Environment Inc.    0438 368 870

17 July, 2011

Forests soak up third of fossil fuel emissions: study

Marlowe Hood (AFP)
Via Google News, 15 July 2011

PARIS — Forests play a larger role in Earth's climate system than previously suspected for both the risks from deforestation and the potential gains from regrowth, a benchmark study released Thursday has shown.

The study, published in Science, provides the most accurate measure so far of the amount of greenhouse gases absorbed from the atmosphere by tropical, temperate and boreal forests, researchers said.
"This is the first complete and global evidence of the overwhelming role of forests in removing anthropogenic carbon dioxide," said co-author Josep Canadell, a scientist at CSIRO, Australia's national climate research centre in Canberra.

"If you were to stop deforestation tomorrow, the world's established and regrowing forests would remove half of fossil fuel emissions," he told AFP, describing the findings as both "incredible" and "unexpected".
Wooded areas across the planet soak up fully a third of the fossil fuels released into the atmosphere each year, some 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon, the study found.

At the same time, the ongoing and barely constrained destruction of forests -- mainly in the tropics -- for food, fuel and development was shown to emit 2.9 billion tonnes of carbon annually, more than a quarter of all emissions stemming from human activity.

Up to now, scientists have estimated that deforestation accounted for 12 to 20 percent of total greenhouse gas output.

The big surprise, said Canadell, was the huge capacity of tropical forests that have regenerated after logging or slash-and-burn land clearance to purge carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"We estimate that tropical forest regrowth is removing an average of 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon each year," he said in an e-mail exchange.

Adding up the new figures reveals that all the world's forests combined are a net "sink", or sponge, for 1.1 billion tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of 13 percent of all the coal, oil land gas burned across the planet annually.

"That's huge. These are 'savings' worth billions of euros a year if that quantity had to be paid out by current mitigation (CO2 reduction) strategies or the price of carbon in the European market," Canadell said.
The international team of climate scientists combined data -- covering the period 1990 through 2007 -- from forests inventories, climate models and satellites to construct a profile of the role global forests have played as regulators of the atmosphere.

In terms of climate change policy, the study has two critically important implications, said Canadell.
The fact that previous science underestimated both the capacity of woodlands to remove CO2, and the emissions caused by deforestation, means that "forests are even more at the forefront as a strategy to protect our climate", he said.

It also follows that forests should play a larger role in emerging carbon markets, he added.
"The amount of saving which are up for grabs is very large, certainly larger than what we thought," Canadell said.

The UN-backed scheme known as REDD -- Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation -- allots credit to tropical countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa that slow rates of forest destruction.
It also provides a mechanism for rich countries to offset their own carbon-reduction commitments by investing in that process.

Two decades was not enough to discern possible long-term trends due to year-on-year variability due to fluctuations in weather, insect attacks and other factors.
But the tropics did show a clear decline in the capacity to soak up CO2 due to a so-called "once-in-a-century" drought in Amazonia in 2005.

The region suffered an even worse drought in 2010, beyond the time frame of the study.
The breakdown over the last decade for CO2 removal was 1.8 billion tonnes each year for boreal forests at high latitudes, 2.9 billion for temperate forests, and 3.7 billion for tropical forests.

Once deforestation and regrowth are taken into account, however, tropical forests have been essentially carbon neutral.

16 July, 2011

Wilderness wolf dons woodchipper's clothing

Andrew Darby, Hobart,
The Age, July 16, 2011

A CONTROVERSIAL former head of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society has been hired to run a strategic woodchip mill bought by two wealthy environmentalists.

Wotif founder Graeme Wood and Kathmandu creator Jan Cameron have hired green hard man Alec Marr to manage the Triabunna mill, which chipped millions of old growth trees he had tried to save.

As general manager, Mr Marr will negotiate on behalf of the pair, who with their surprise $10 million purchase have dealt themselves in on historic peace talks on native forest logging.

Once the chief defendant in a civil prosecution launched by Triabunna's seller, Gunns, and forced out of the Wilderness Society last September in a power struggle, Mr Marr's choice amazed industry observers.

''Alec Marr is going to be a woodchipper?'' said Timber Communities Australia state manager, Barry Chipman. ''It is probably a fitting way to end a bizarre week.''

Senior Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz said: ''This is Green cronyism and triumphalism at its ugliest.''

Mr Marr declined to comment, but Mr Wood said Mr Marr's personal views of the timber industry would not matter. ''His job is to implement the Forest Statement of Principles, and to work with all industry players to reopen the mill,'' Mr Wood told The Saturday Age.

Green and industry groups have been in talks for more than a year in an effort to end 25 years of conflict.

In their latest deal they agreed to protect up to 430,000 hectares of Tasmania's public native forest, but still operate some sawlog and veneer mills.

Woodchips are claimed to be crucial secondary income for the surviving timber operations, and the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania wants Triabunna to keep chipping until at least 2027. The association's chief executive, Terry Edwards, warned that if the mill was not kept open, the industry would not be able to back the deal.

But with Japanese export markets increasingly rejecting native forest chips, Triabunna, on the state's east coast, was shut by Gunns and its last 120,000 tonnes sold to China at a discount.

When it reopens under new ownership, contentious timber is unlikely to enter its gates.

Mr Wood said his original view was that the chip mill should operate for three to five years before the site was turned into a tourist development.

''Having spoken to government people, that may have to go out,'' he said. ''But there is no way of knowing that until we have detailed discussions.''

Now Mr Marr, a blunt and at times abrasive negotiator deeply experienced in dealing with government and industry, will be leading those talks.

Mr Wood tried to reassure local people that the new owners of the mill wanted to build a strong future beyond the woodchipping of native forests. ''There are not any simple problems in the world,'' he said. ''They are all complex, and they can all be resolved.

''Our longer-term goal is to look at regional development and fit in with that. We believe Triabunna will be good for tourism and wine, and it's an early starter with the [national broadband network] NBN. Plus it's a lovely part of the world.''

Tree saviour named as Tasmanian mill boss

Andrew Darby, Hobart
The Age, 16 July 2011

About turn … Alec Marr will run Triabunna woodchip mill. Photo: Jason South
TASMANIA'S forest industry, still reeling from the sale of a strategic woodchip mill to two environmentalists, has been shocked to learn who will run it - the green hard man Alec Marr.

The Wotif founder, Graeme Wood, and the Kathmandu creator, Jan Cameron, have hired Mr Marr, a former Wilderness Society boss, to manage the Triabunna mill that chipped millions of old-growth trees he tried to save.

As their general manager, Mr Marr will negotiate on behalf of the pair who, with their surprise $10 million buy, dealt themselves into historic peace talks on native forest logging.

Advertisement: Story continues below
Once chief defendant in a civil prosecution launched by the seller of Triabunna, Gunns, and forced out of the Wilderness Society, Mr Marr's selection amazed industry observers.

''Alec Marr is going to be a woodchipper?'' the Timber Communities Australia state manager, Barry Chipman, said. ''It is probably a fitting way to end a bizarre week.''

The Liberal senator Eric Abetz said it was ''Green cronyism and triumphalism at its ugliest''.

Mr Marr declined to comment but Mr Wood said Mr Marr's personal views of the timber industry would not matter.

''His job is to implement the forest statement of principles and to work with all industry players to re-open the mill.''

Green and industry groups have been in talks for more than a year to craft the statement of principles and end 25 years of conflict. Their latest deal agreed to protect up to 430,000 hectares of Tasmania's public native forest but still operate some sawlog and veneer mills.

Woodchips are claimed as crucial secondary income for the surviving timber operations, and the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania wants Triabunna to keep chipping until at least 2027.

The association's chief executive, Terry Edwards, warned that if the mill was not kept open, the industry would not be able to back the deal.

With Japanese export markets increasingly rejecting native forest chips, Gunns shut Triabunna in April. When it re-opens under new ownership, contentious timber is increasingly unlikely to enter its gates.

Mr Wood said his original view was that the chip mill should operate for three to five years before the site was turned into a tourist development.

''Having spoken to government people, that may have to go out,'' he said.

Now Mr Marr, a blunt and at times abrasive negotiator, will be leading further talks.

Mr Wood tried to reassure residents about a future beyond woodchipping. ''We believe Triabunna will be good for tourism and wine,'' he said.

Forests reality swayed Gunns

Greg L'Estrange, Gunns Ltd
THE MERCURY, 16 July 2011

THERE is little point in the Tasmanian native forest industry crying that the sky will fall in because of Gunns' decision to sell the Triabunna sawmill to a non-industry investor.

The sky fell in probably two years ago. This is just the latest bit of debris to fall.

It shows that it is high time Tasmania came to grips with what Gunns has been saying for the past 18 months - that the industry in Tasmania needs significant structural change if there is to be a long-term future in native forestry.

It was a very difficult decision made by Gunns to sell an asset historically pivotal to southern Tasmania's native forest sector, and what has been the economic hub of the Triabunna community.

We gave Aprin time beyond the deadline, and worked hard with them to make it happen.

My first obligation is to Gunns' shareholders, and for reasons fair or foul Aprin could not get their finance in order in time. Aprin now knows what Gunns has known for some time.

Financial backers won't risk the pressure inflicted on them by interest groups, and why should they run that risk for an investment in a declining industry?

Whether we like it or not, native forestry in Tasmania is in serious trouble, and the negotiations over the forest principles are possibly the only way to soften the impact of that fallout.

It was on this basis that Gunns made a condition of sale to Triabunna Investments that the mill continue to operate as required for the Forest Principles Agreement to work. We insisted on this and it was accepted.

This was no sell-out of the industry.

We could have done that 12 months ago if we wished but we have worked tirelessly and consistently to try to achieve a successful outcome for the industry, consistent with the forest principles.

We marketed the sale of Triabunna to numerous customers and industry peers. There was no interest.

This was no backflip by Gunns. We have consistently stated that we are exiting from native forests and that we were working to achieve an orderly exit from our facilities in line with the forest principles.

And now, even in the absence of an industry operator to purchase Triabunna, we have still ensured an outcome consistent with those principles.

Industry signatories to the principles were consulted in relation to our decision to sell Triabunna to Jan Cameron and Graeme Wood. There was no resistance provided the facility had the opportunity to operate consistent with the principles.

That is what has been achieved.

We would hope that a successful implementation of the principles leads to a sustainable future for the Triabunna mill.

The success or failure of that now lies with the signatories of the principles and governments to implement.

It is difficult for all Tasmanians to see the harsh realities of a once proud industry on its last legs.

It is a reality that Gunns has had to face and which it has tried to soften in its actions to accelerate out of a fading industry and carve out a new future in plantation pulp production.

The linkage with the tactics of the environment groups also can't be ignored. They have influenced our customers and our funders.

There's no point crying foul. Gunns has just done what we have to do to get the business back on to a stable footing. That means a commitment to get out of native forestry.

We have honoured that commitment but worked to try to ensure an ongoing industry outcome for those that wish to continue in the native-based industries. And we will continue to do that.

Tasmania needs to imagine a future with not just a pulp mill, not just a national park and winery tourist industry, not just a world-class art gallery. It needs to work hard to broaden its economy and make it truly sustainable for years to come.

So I say to the industry, start some joint problem-solving.

Do this for the sake of the communities struggling to come to terms with unforgiving change.

They need your leadership now more than ever.

Marr to manage chip mill

The Mercury, 16 July 2011

THE new owners of the Triabunna woodchip mill have appointed controversial former Wilderness Society executive director Alec Marr general manager of the venture.

Mr Marr has been prominent in the native forestry debate and recently fell out with the Wilderness Society after an annual meeting upset an opposing faction.

He was a member of the Wilderness Society for 30 years and set a tree-sitting record at Farmhouse Creek in 1986 before taking part in numerous protest campaigns.

Triabunna Investments director Graeme Wood said Mr Marr was chosen because of his intimate understanding and knowledge of Tasmania. "I think Alec has probably matured or changed his attitude since the implosion of the Wilderness Society," Mr Wood said.

"I think he probably sees the world slightly differently now.

"Here's his great opportunity to prove that this is the case.

"He understands and knows all of the people in the various groups.

"We would be hard pressed to come up with anyone else who had such an understanding of the issues."

Mr Wood said it was Mr Marr's responsibility to look at the investment from a non-partisan point of view.

"If he doesn't do that then he will lose his job," he said. "We needed somebody with their feet under the table now and we needed to keep the momentum going on this."

15 July, 2011

Logger blames Gunns for pain

The Mercury, 15 July 2011

PROUD forestry operator Michael Woods is from a generation that does not ask for help.

Men like him just roll up their sleeves and get on with the job.

But having to sack his two sons from his log-harvesting business Eastern Tiers this year as the company that he built over two decades collapsed around him left the 52-year-old in a position he never thought possible.

"I'm seeing a psychologist to help me through it," he said.

"I'm a baby-boomer -- the generation raised on having a cup of concrete and hardening up if you're having a problem.

"But this, this is something different altogether. This is bloody hard."

Mr Woods's sons were forced to leave their Triabunna home, heading to the North-West where they found work.

Leaving the East Coast town is something Mr Woods said he is also forced to consider after Gunns announced it had sold its Triabunna woodchip mill to buyers with plans to transform it into a tourism hub.

Mr Woods said that after closing down his business he remained about $800,000 in debt, despite receiving an $815,000 exit package from the Federal Government to quit the haulage and harvesting sector and selling about $6 million worth of machinery.

"The future here is uncertain, working in Western Australia, in mining, is probably one of only a few options right now," he said.

"I'm selling scraps of firewood just to put bread and butter on the table, because the industry's been destroyed and with this sale of the mill the future's just too uncertain."

To say Mr Woods feels hatred for Gunns is an understatement.

With his teeth clenched he yesterday said he held them responsible for the collapse of his business, through painfully low payments and a sudden exit from native forests.

He also held them responsible for his family's pain with the uncertainty created through the sale of the Triabunna mill.

"What they've done, they've ruined me," he said.

"I'm 52, I've absolutely worked my butt off and created a business that's successful.

"We had a succession plan in place but one company, just one company, has ruined my life and my family's -- I'm not the only contractor who feels this way."

Mr Woods said financial worries and the town's uncertainty were affecting his daughter Hannah, 11.

"From a family's perspective it's terrible," he said. "My youngest, Hannah, was sitting on the jetty the other night writing a list of ideas of how to help Mummy and Daddy get money."

Mr Woods's wife, Glamorgan Spring Bay councillor Jenny Woods, said Hannah suggested she become a contestant on the TV game show Deal or No Deal.

"We have children who are suffering because of this deal," she said.

14 July, 2011

Greenies buy woodchip mill

Andrew Darby, Hobart
The Age, July 14, 2011

The Triabunna mill near Hobart, which has been bought by Jan Cameron and fellow green entrepreneur Graeme Wood.

Photo: Steven Siewert
TASMANIA'S timber industry is in shock after two wealthy environmentalists bought a woodchip mill, giving them a strategic grasp of the controversial native forest logging industry.

Jan Cameron, founder of outdoor wear group Kathmandu, and online travel entrepreneur Graeme Wood paid $10 million for Gunns' Triabunna mill, on the coast east of Hobart.

The wealthy pair outmanoeuvred a local logging company to clinch the deal. The rival bidder cried foul, saying its offer was worth an extra $6 million.

Jan Cameron. Photo: Nic Walker 
The purchase could bring a game-changing shift in the native forest logging debate, putting the pro-environment pair in a powerful position.

Ms Cameron and Mr Wood are closely allied to green groups and strongly opposed to native forest logging in Tasmania.

Under a proposed peace deal between the federal and state governments, up to 430,000 hectares of forest would be protected in exchange for some continued logging.

Gunns said yesterday the mill sale agreement provided for it to be leased to an industry operator as a woodchip export business - satisfying a condition of the interim peace deal that says the mill stays in the industry.

Premier Lara Giddings said woodchips sent to Triabunna provide vital secondary income to sawmillers and veneer producers in southern Tasmania.

But while Ms Cameron confirmed the mill would continue operating for an unspecified period during the transition out of native forest logging, she and Mr Wood have indicated that its long-term future will be as a tourism destination. "It's a very unexpected development for both of us I think," said Ms Cameron. "We don't have any certainty about what's going to happen."

She said the writing was on the wall for the native forest logging industry, which has lost key Japanese buyers because the wood is not sustainable under international certification.

News of the purchase was broken on ABC radio to the amazement of the rival bidder, the O'Connor family's Fibre Plus. "To give the woodchip mill to two of Australia's richest people … for a $6 million discount compared to what they were asking from us is gut wrenching," Ron O'Connor said.

"Our industry is dead and finished without the mill."

Fibre Plus was two weeks over a deadline to complete the purchase from Gunns, despite obtaining approval for a controversial state government loan.

Analyst Robert Eastment, of IndustryEdge, said it appeared Gunns, which is on a debt reduction drive, opted for the certainty of Mr Wood and Ms Cameron's offer.

Mr Wood has been under media scrutiny after he gave $1.6 million to the Greens in the last election campaign.

Mr O'Connor said opposition to his family's bid by the Greens and independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie had made raising finance difficult. "The four major banks are very scared of their image," he said.

Environment Tasmania said it believed Triabunna could be part of a lasting forest agreement. "We continue to be committed to working constructively with unions, timber contractors and the timber industry to deliver that," said director Phill Pullinger.

The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania said the purchase had created confusion, and that without Triabunna's continuation, the peace deal would have no standing.

Ms Cameron is one of Australia's wealthiest women, with a fortune estimated at more than $300 million after she sold out of Kathmandu in 2006. Mr Wood's fortune, made from the travel reservation site Wotif.com, has been estimated at more than $370 million.

12 July, 2011

Forestry industry surprised by changes

Ben Cubby
Sydney Morning Herald, July 12, 2011

BURNING native timber will no longer be counted as a form of renewable energy under the federal government's carbon price plan, leaving sections of the forestry industry in limbo.

The future of a proposed biomass power plant generating renewable energy certificates from burning woodchips at Eden, on the NSW south coast, is now uncertain.

The plant's operator, South-East Forest Exports, said it had received no hint of the decision before the plan was made public on Sunday.

The company had already lodged an environmental impact assessment for building the plant next to its woodchip mill, but now is unsure if it can recoup its costs.

''There's never been any discussion with the government; it came as a surprise to us,'' said a company spokesman, Vince Phillips. ''Mike Kelly is the local member and he has said he is right behind the industry. We believed him.''

The plant, to be built on Jews Head at Twofold Bay near Eden, was to have burned up to 51,000 tonnes of wood per year.

Green groups have long opposed the classification of timber as a source of renewable power, arguing that trees left growing in the ground are more effective carbon sinks than trees cut down and burned to create electricity.

The company was arguing, with the support of the state's forestry industry, that the wood offcuts not suitable for export could be used on the site to generate power, making use of material that would otherwise have decomposed, releasing carbon dioxide emissions for no financial gain.

Renewable energy certificates would be generated in the process, and these could then be sold on to energy suppliers.

But that has now been ruled out by an amendment to the renewable energy target regulations in the government's new carbon legislation.

''In some cases the wood will still get burned for energy, in other cases it will decompose, or we would sell it for landscaping,'' Mr Phillips said. ''We could go ahead with the plant anyway and not generate [renewable energy certificates], we could run it off plantation timber - those are the options.''

The Australian Forest Products Association said many commercial forestry operations were unfairly excluded from the new carbon plan and the government's Carbon Farming Initiative. There should be recognition of the carbon stored in products made from timber, the association said.

The Wilderness Society said the amendment of the renewable energy target was a recognition that logging should not be justified as a source of fuel for power stations.

''For us, this is an anomaly that has been sitting in the system now for about eight years,'' the society's national campaign director, Lyndon Schneiders, said.

''These biomass plants are really a last-ditch attempt by the native forest logging industry to hold themselves up, because their ability to export woodchips is drying up.''

Anti-woodchipping group ChipBusters said it was a setback for the industry, but was dismayed there was not more recognition of the carbon sequestration potential of forests.

"Why tax other big carbon polluters but not the woodchip industry, an industry that is subsidised to destroy our enormous carbon stores, our forests," a spokesman, Noel Plumb, said.

"The Gillard government will not even cut the fuel subsidy for logging trucks that take the old growth forests from distant wilderness areas to the chipmill."

11 July, 2011

Carbon tax set to put value on Tasmanian forests

Felicity Ogilvie
PM, abc.net.au, Monday, July 11, 2011 18:18:00

STEPHEN LONG: In Tasmania there's hope the carbon tax will finally put a price on the value of carbon stored in native forests.

A forestry peace deal between environmental groups and the forestry industry has recommended the creation of new reserves in Tasmania.

Under the carbon tax the trees in those reserves could attract carbon credits.

Felicity Ogilvie.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Environmentalists have spent years arguing that Tasmania's native forests shouldn't be logged.

PHIL PULLINGER: The forests in Tasmania are some of the most carbon dense forests on the face of the planet. They contain up to and over 1000 tonnes per hectare, 1500 tonnes per hectare of carbon.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Now Phil Pullinger from Environment Tasmania is hoping to take advantage of the carbon tax.

PHIL PULLINGER: The carbon tax is generating revenue from some of Australia's biggest polluters and one of the streams that they've allocated that revenue is a biodiversity fund for projects that are aimed at protecting and restoring native forests.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Mr Pullinger has spent more than a year brokering a peace deal with members of the forest industry and unions.

They've decided that large scale native forest logging in Tasmania will end and that 430,000 hectares of new reserves should be created.

They've handed the peace plan to the state and federal governments who are yet to work out how to implement the deal.

One of the key issues is compensation for the loggers, and Terry Edwards from the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania is confident the carbon tax will provide some of the money.

TERRY EDWARDS: Tasmania will after the, even before the current forest peace deal is concluded have the highest reservation of forest in any state of Australia.

And that ought to be recognised by the Federal Government through the biodiversity fund to recognise the carbon that accumulates in those trees which is removed for very long-term storage through carbon sequestration.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Lawyer and carbon trading expert Martijn Wilder explains how he thinks the peace plan can tap into the carbon tax.

MARTIJN WILDER: The scheme will cover projects to protect native forests from clearing or clearfelling. So if under the peace deal it can be shown that the clear intention here is to stop the logging of our forests in order to protect the native forest, then there will be carbon available for that.

There is a slight timing issue. If - you cannot go and find an existing native forest, say look that forest has a lot of carbon in it and we can therefore sell that carbon because that's already in place. That's not an additional activity.

But certainly where you are protecting native forests from clearing or clearfelling you'll be able to get credit for that.

FELICITY OGILVIE: But a spokesman from the Climate Change Minister's office says the Federal Government doesn't envisage the biodiversity fund in the carbon tax being used as part of the Tasmanian forestry peace deal.

The Tasmanian Greens Senator Christine Milne says that doesn't mean that the state can't make money from the new reserves.

CHRISTINE MILNE: There is a real possibility that Tasmania can have it both ways.

Tasmania can benefit immediately from protecting high conservation value forests and having the Commonwealth buy out the contracts and retire those contracts and then work in the future towards putting forward carbon farming projects for avoided degradation in remaining forests as can private land holders.

FELICITY OGILVIE: But the carbon in Tasmania's forests isn't recognised under the Kyoto Protocol. So as Martijn Wilder explains the carbon credits won't be worth as much as they could be.

MARTIJN WILDER: Those credits with the most value will be the Kyoto consistent credits and those will be eligible for the large polluters to buy to help offset their emissions.

Whereas the non-Kyoto credits will be something that's counted more towards people's voluntary obligations so if for example you took a flight on Qantas and you wanted to offset your emissions.

FELICITY OGILVIE: They may not be worth as much as they could be but scientists say the forests are mitigating climate change.

Pep Canadell is a CSIRO scientist who's the executive director of the Global Climate Project.

PEP CANADELL: New data is showing that forests around the world and that includes forests as vigorous as the ones in Tasmania are removing a third of the total fossil fuel emissions that are emitted every year.

So that with forests and the conservation of forests are at the forefront of climate change mitigation.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The State and Federal Governments are still considering how many new forest reserves should be created as part of the Tasmanian peace deal.

STEPHEN LONG: Felicity Ogilvie reporting from Hobart.