24 February, 2012

Milne: Forestry Tasmania’s overcutting exposed. Forestry Tasmania board must go

Green Pages (Australian Edition), 24 February 2012

Forestry Tasmania’s over cutting of Tasmania’s native forests has been exposed in the leaks around the independent analysis of wood supply contracts as part of the Intergovernmental Agreement, Australian Greens Deputy Leader Christine Milne said today.

“What has become clear is that Forestry Tasmania has overcut and over allocated the forest to such an extent that even with the retirement of two thirds of its contracted volume via Gunns, Forestry Tasmania cannot meet the remaining one third of its obligations.

“With an annualised shortfall of 39,000 cubic metres of veneer logs, what would have happened if Gunns and TA Ann were both still in the market?

“Forestry Tasmania would have been hung out to dry and one or other or both of the companies would have sued for breach of contract.

“Forestry Tasmania must be disbanded beginning with the Board which has overseen reckless destruction of forests, overcutting, over allocation in contracts and financial failure with the $18 million losses over the past two financial years.

“It is time for the Board to explain why it permitted the over allocation of the forests and then the overcutting whilst pretending that the forests are sustainably managed.

“Forestry Tasmania and Ta Ann should apologise to the forest activists who have been telling the truth about the forest practices that underpin their contracts.

“Far from being sustainably managed, Forest Practice Authority chief, Graham Wilkinson has made it clear that Forestry Tasmania’s current practices do not meet scientifically based requirements for the protection of threatened species.

“Forestry Tasmania has argued throughout the process that, provided it can continue to ignore scientifically based requirements for the protection of endangered species, it could still meet its contracts until 2030 provided no more areas were protected.

“Now we know that is a lie. It cannot. Even with no reserves, and unsustainable practices, Forestry Tasmania cannot fulfil its contracts from native forests.

“Forestry Tasmania must go.”

Green agenda on forestry peace 'shafted', says Milne

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), February 24, 2012

The first $20 million of forestry peace deal money is no longer linked to the forest reserve legislation.

The Greens are fuming about the Federal Government's latest change to the forest peace deal.

The first $20 million in regional development funding under the deal is no longer conditional on the success of legislation to create new forest reserves.

Greens Senator Christine Milne says it is a massive breach of faith.

"The loggers get their money, the regional development money flows and the conservation agenda is shafted."

"The people who are being taken for a ride here are the people who negotiated in good faith and believed that for Commonwealth money to be spent there would be conservation outcomes," she said.

She says it is an insult to conservation and industry groups which negotiated the $276 million peace deal.

"What does this mean for the agreement if it can be amended at whim without consultation, without anyone knowing what it means?"

"I think we've got a situation now where we've got an intergovernmental agreement that is meaningless."

But the Federal Minister Simon Crean says he made the change to put the faltering peace deal back on track.

"Really, this puts the onus back on those who have still got reservations to say 'do we want more of this or more of the unrest'?"

All but three of Tasmania's 15 MLCs say they will block the legislation unless green groups end their overseas campaigns against Ta Ann Tasmania.

Of the total funding package, $100 million is still linked to the legislation.

Mr Crean will meet MLCs this morning to win support for the forest peace deal.

Huon MLC Paul Harriss says the change to the peace deal will not change the minds of his colleagues.

"People will see through that, for goodness sake, you know, what does he take us for?"

"The whole $120 million in regional development money is nothing but a sop anyway and in essence it's blood money."

"We're talking close to a $1 billion industry in this state and to think that they can replace it with just $120 millions in regional development money is just a joke," Mr Harris said.

22 February, 2012

Ludwig retreats as arbiter on Tasmanian forests

The Australian, (paywall) February 22, 2012

BOTH sides in Tasmania's forest debate have been warned by the Gillard government that it will not intervene to impose a peace deal if they fail to reach agreement.

Federal Forestry Minister Joe Ludwig told The Australian he would not support a government-adjudicated outcome if negotiations between timber and green groups failed to reach agreement.

The stance is at odds with the understanding of key players in both the green and timber camps who had expected the state and federal governments to impose an outcome if they failed to reach an agreed one.

It appears to slap down state-owned logging company Forestry Tasmania, which has been drafting a compromise in case the two sides fail to strike a deal under the $276 million forestry inter-governmental agreement.

Senator Ludwig said he would not support an imposed solution, believing it would fail, and that his advice to industry was to negotiate a deal or lose the best chance of securing a sustainable future.

"You've got to negotiate; there is no alternative way," he said. "There is no plan B. It is up to the industry to work through the options, come to a concluded view and agree on an outcome.

"If they want to continue this industry in Tasmania, the IGA gives them the best opportunity to do that. The IGA is the only way forward for this industry. The federal government does not have a magic wand."

Signed by the state and federal governments last August, the IGA set up an independent process to assess how much forest was worthy of protection, and how much timber was needed to meet existing contracts.

Peak green groups, including The Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania, are expected then to negotiate an agreed position with industry groups, such as the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Sawmillers Association.

FIAT has suspended its role and expectations grow that the process will reveal far less room than thought to protect more forests while honouring contracts.

Forestry Tasmania chief Bob Gordon has been working on an alternative proposal that could be imposed by government should the negotiations fail.

But Senator Ludwig was unwilling to back this option, saying both sides needed to accept that they needed to focus on achievable outcomes, not "wish lists".

He planned to give that message to industry bodies on his Tasmania visit this week, and urge them to accept that to be sustainable the industry needed to change. "There is no silver bullet that will fix this industry because it has been in decline for some years," Senator Ludwig said. "It will look different from what it was 10 years ago. There is no market for some products and so the participants (in the talks) do need to recognise that they have to come and find an outcome."

Senator Ludwig will tour the operations of veneer maker Ta Ann, whose contract for 265,000 cubic metres of logs each year to 2027 has become key in the IGA process.

It was too early to say if aid to the Malaysian company to add greater value to less timber, and to use more plantations, might figure in a solution, he said.

14 February, 2012

Adding insult to injury

Colin Smith, St Kilda
The Age, letter, 14 Feb 2012

DAN Caffrey (Letters, 13/2) makes the reasonable point that "use of a waste resource can only be good for everyone, so long as the practice does not encourage harvesting of native timbers for the sole purpose of producing biofuels."

Unfortunately, that is exactly what it does mean. We bought this argument about making good use of sawmill waste when woodchipping began. Some decades later - seeing half the biomass of demolished forests left on the ground to be incinerated, and 90 per cent of the logs that were taken out being chipped rather than sawn - we swore never to fall for that one again. This move is about finding a new excuse for the maceration of our forests, and adding insult to injury by having it blessed as a source of green power.

Forest soils are depleted

Freya Headlam, Glen Waverley
The Age, letter, 14 Feb 2012

AS SEVERAL letters note (The Age, 13/2), the two independents' decision to allow the burning of forest waste to count as creating renewable energy is a bad one for many reasons.

The main reason, however, is that it is not sustainable. The removal of so much organic matter means a progressive decline in the quality of forest soils. The leaves, twigs, small branches and sawdust left on the forest floor gradually break down to form a layer of humus that returns nutrients to the soil, improves its texture and protects it from erosion by wind and rain. This material helps the soil retain moisture, so that it acts like a giant sponge, holding rainwater and only slowly releasing it over many months. By contrast, after clear-felling, rain runs off from bare ground.

If we remove material from the forest floor, we are gradually running down our forest soils; the depleted forests will decline in quality and produce less and less (rain, timber) each passing year.

Nordic countries choose bioenergy

Andrew Lang, Lismore
The Age, letter, 14 Feb 2012

LISTENING to the Greens, one would think bioenergy was solely electricity from native forest residues. In reality it is heat, electricity and transport fuels from many sources of wastes and residues, including municipal wastes and sewage, using a number of technologies. Bioenergy is the major renewable across the European Union, and the largest source of renewable energy globally after hydro power. In Denmark, biomass generates three times the energy as wind does. In Sweden it produces more energy than any other single source. But in Australia, where biomass (not including forestry waste) could supply 30 per cent of our energy, its coherent development has been blocked for 10 vital years by the Greens and their offshoots - supposedly the environment's custodians.

13 February, 2012

Making the most of waste

Dan Caffrey, TraralgonThe Age, letter, 13 Feb 2012

WHILE some might be cringing at the thought that Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor have modified their views to now support sawmill waste being considered a biofuel, and hence eligible for inclusion as such in the carbon tax proposals, I have no such reservations. At the moment, sawmills are discouraged from using mill waste and sawdust to power an electricity generator, because they can't get carbon credits for doing so. Thus a huge amount of sawdust gets buried and ends up decomposing to methane, a 21 times more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This use of a waste resource can only be good for everyone, so long as the practice does not encourage harvesting of native timbers for the sole purpose of producing biofuels. Surely this kind of safeguard can be built in to an agreement. A lot of timber mills are trying to be greenhouse friendly and the Oakeshott-Windsor move would encourage this.

Undermining the effort

Annie Damelet, Surrey HillsThe Age, letter, 13 Feb 2012

IN ADDITION to Rob Oakeshott's and Tony Windsor's support for burning native forest wood waste, which will lead to more greenhouse gases, federal Labor announced support for a new brown-coal and gas-fired power station in Victoria (''Ferguson grants extension for contentious power plant project'', The Age, 10/2). Such a station would belch out copious greenhouse gases for some 40 years. The carbon tax that was supported by the independent MPs is trying to achieve an 80 per cent (based on year 2000 emissions) cut in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Please, let's have some consistency.

A retrograde move

Amelia Young, BrunswickThe Age, letter, 13 Feb 2012

THE intention of Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor to allow native forests to be burnt to generate electricity is a backwards step. Support for the ailing native forest wood-chippers would be better transferred to truly renewable sources of energy including wind, solar and geothermal. Burning native forests for power sends our best carbon stores skywards, making climate change worse. If forest furnaces are allowed, this country's moves to a cleaner economy will be jeopardised.

Plenty of sun, plenty of wind

Dr Adam Lucas, science & technology studies
University of Wollongong, NSW
The Age, letter, 13 Feb 2012

ONE would think from the general lack of progress on developing renewable energy in Australia that there's not enough sunshine or wind to make the move from one of the world's dirtiest electricity sectors to one of the cleanest. Recent decisions by independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott to ''disallow'' a key element of the carbon package (''MPs' change of heart on tax'', The Age, 10/2), that is, the regulation that stops the burning of native forests being counted as renewable energy, appear to suffer from the same misconception. Burning native forests for electricity is not a sustainable form of land use. Native forests are among Australia's most valuable carbon sinks and a source of dwindling biodiversity. They should not be sacrificed for short-term economic and political gain. Wind and solar remain the cheapest and cleanest alternatives.

03 February, 2012

The World Today - Tassie's timber industry facing tough times

Felicity Ogilvie
The World Today, February 3, 2012

ASHLEY HALL: An independent report has found that the Tasmanian forest industry is under severe pressure because of the collapse of international woodchip markets.

The report concludes that a series of factors have led to the collapse of woodchip exports to Japan and the Government can't say when new markets to China are likely to emerge.

Compounding the situation, the state's only native forest woodchip exporter has temporarily shutdown, forcing some sawmillers to lay off staff.

Joining me now is our Hobart correspondent Felicity Ogilvie.

Felicity, you've been at a briefing with the Premier this morning. What has he said about why - what she said - about why these woodchip markets to Japan have collapsed?

FELICITY OGILVIE: Well, Ashley there have been various reasons why the woodchip markets to Japan have collapsed. At the forefront is the forefront is the fact that Tasmania used to export a lot of native forest woodchips but the Japanese customers now prefer plantation timber because it makes better pulp.

There are other significant factors as well. The high Australian dollar is one and there has also been factors that weren't specifically mentioned in this report but about environmentalists campaigning against the Tasmanian forest industry in Japan.

ASHLEY HALL: Now the woodchip market is a big employer in Tasmania. What effect is this having on the industry and job security there?

FELICITY OGILVIE: Well, it is have a shoot impact at the moment because woodchips are actually a by-product from saw logs, things that make flooring or timber that is used in the construction industry or to make people's kitchens.

And what has happened is that saw mills around the state that are cutting up saw logs, they can't export their wood chips at the moment because the only native forest woodchip exporter in the state has had to temporarily shut down because it simply cannot have the markets it needs to export the woodchips.

So the Premier estimates that it could be up to 3,000 jobs on the line in the native forest industry in Tasmania at the moment and she said that there is even if the woodchip exporters could reopen up in Tasmania, that the situation is dire because the markets aren't there at the moment.

This is a bit of what she had to say.

LARA GIDDINGS: Because the problem is, we don't have the market to sell the woodchip to, though we are hopeful that we will be able to sell woodchip to China but we need to be able to sell it in the volumes that enable our industry to be sustainable and for the foreseeable future, that is not looking very likely.

ASHLEY HALL: Tasmania's Premier Lara Giddings. And Felicity what is the Government doing to address the situation?

FELICITY OGILVIE: Well Ash, in the future the Government can't say when it will be but it looks like there will be quite a strong market for Tasmanian woodchips in China, but at the moment the Chinese aren't paying enough to have that as a sustainable option.

But the Deputy Premier is going over to china and Japan to meet with different companies to I guess spruik the Tasmanian market over there in a hope that that could in some way solve this problem with woodchip exports from Tasmania.

ASHLEY HALL: Felicity Ogilvie, thankyou for joining us from Hobart.