22 December, 2011

British firm blacklists Tasmanian timber

Conor Duffy, Environment Reporter 
ABC AM by December 22, 2011

PHOTO: The UK company says it only wants to buy timber produced in a responsible manner. (ABC News)

The Prime Minister's peace deal was supposed to end decades of conflict in Tasmania's forests but protests are continuing.

Now, a London company is boycotting timber products from the island state.

Last month it emerged timber from Tasmanian forests was being used on London Olympic building sites.

The purchaser of the timber products says it will no longer buy the Tasmanian timber from Ta Ann products due to lobbying by activists.

That has infuriated the company, industry and the State Government.

Tim Birch from Markets for Change was among the environmentalists who flew to London.

"Our investigations working with environmental groups in Tasmania clearly has shown that Ta Ann continue to source products coming from these vital forests, and so we went to London to visit a number of companies to inform them of exactly what was happening."

While the Prime Minister's peace deal does say there should be no logging in these forests, the areas are still being assessed to determine if they are actually high conservation value.
Forestry Tasmania says that under the deal it is allowed to keep logging in these areas to supply Ta Ann.
Nevertheless Ian Attwood, the managing director of International Plywood which bought Ta Ann's timber for the Olympics says his company is now boycotting Ta Ann's products.

"The reason we've stopped or we've suspended purchasing from Ta Ann is mainly because of the controversy around the logging in Tasmanian forestry," he said.

"The NGO's will have to be happy with any changes that they can make to enable the product to be purchased by us again."

Mr Attwood says he was concerned by what he heard from two activist groups: Markets for Change and the Huon Valley Environment Centre.

"We're not there to, you know, to savage the forests. We're here to try and buy product in a responsible manner."

That is hotly contested by Forestry Tasmania, Ta Ann and the Tasmanian Government.

The company's products are certified as sustainable under the international PEFC scheme.

David Ridley from Ta Ann is overseas, however his manager Greg Hickey says the company's practices have been misrepresented.

"It is concerning that they're going and targeting our customers, mainly because of the certification that we have which points to our environmental credentials."

"Our real concern is that if our customers don't buy from us then they're going to buy from potentially illegally-logged sources."

Ken Jeffreys from Forestry Tasmania has attacked the green groups for targeting Ta Ann's customers.

"We're talking about a situation here that is reminiscent of the 1930s, where if you didn't pay protection your shop was burnt the next day."

"Now the same is occurring today. The activists go these companies, they say unless you do what we want, we're going to blackball your products."

AM also has a letter Tasmania's Deputy Premier Bryan Green wrote to International Plywood urging them to continue buying timber from Ta Ann.

Mr Attwood says he found the arguments of the activists more persuasive.
Clearly the battles of the past are far from over despite the forest peace deal.

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