Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 73
Forestry Tasmania have really made a mess for themselves this time. An article in The Australian last thursday, by Matthew Denholm, exposed the truth behind Forestry’s contract with Ta Ann. The contract they had made with Ta Ann is basically selling a product that doesn’t exist. That’s right. There simply is not 265,000 cubic meters per year of veneer wood available in the native forest estate of Tasmania. There they trying to push back on conservation outcomes because of contracts and they themselves can’t even meet the contract anyway! And they’d be thanking their lucky stars that Gunns Ltd left the native forest industry of their own accord. If there isn’t even enough wood for Ta Ann, who knows how they expected to supply over double that amount had Gunns Ltd still been in the game.
How did Forestry Tasmania think they would supply Ta Ann with wood that wasn’t there? Lets hope they weren’t thinking of doing any sneaky cutting of wood they weren’t meant to, a little from a wildlife reserve here or a streamside buffer there?
When calculating how much wood you have, the trick is that you can’t just include 100% of the forest that is in the State forest system. Because to do that would mean no streamside buffer zones, no wedge-tail eagle nest buffers, no wildlife corridors. (surely that is not what FT had in mind?). Now, in Tasmania we have the Forest Practises Code (FPC). It outlines some rules for all those conservation measures. Really it is highly inadequate and for a state that claims “world’s best practise” it really leaves a lot to be desired. For example a river (class 1) here in Tasmania is currently getting a 40 meter buffer. When in some other Australian states that would be 100m. Class 4 creeks, like the one just near my tree, get what’s called a Machinery Exclusion Zone, meaning the machines can’t go closer than 10 meters, but it doesn’t necessarily exclude other types of disturbance within that zone. So, really the current Code is not super great for conservation outcomes as it is. Yet, even then, Forestry Tasmania only allocated 10% of the wood in the forest estate to be taken up by such buffers, zones and other inaccessible areas. Well, this is a gross underestimation. They should have been looking more at the 30% figure, or at least 20%. You would think that it would be important to get the calculations right before you went around signing contracts for that wood. Now they are in even more of a pickle. Because not only did they overestimate the amount of wood with the current Code, they didn’t leave room to move. And that was not wise, considering they would have known that the FPC was subject to regular review.
A recent review of the FPC has indicated that tighter restrictions are needed. The review found that the FPC was not providing protection for endangered species. (You and I could have told them that of course, with all the Tasmanian devils in this coupe that are going to lose their homes!). The Forest Practices Authority is particularly concerned about native bird species that require hollows for nesting. So, how did Forestry Tasmania respond? Well, John Hickey from FT was quoted in the Australian as saying that a much more “pragmatic” approach was needed. That’s right, we really can’t concern ourselves too much if the Tasmanian devil is going to go extinct or not, when we have the more important duty of supplying wood to a Malaysian company so that they can make veneer! Well, it’s not really a very convincing argument. At least, it certainly hasn’t convinced me to stop caring about the devils! And it didn’t manage to convince Graham Wilkinson chief of the Forest Practices Authority either. Graham said (as reported in The Australian) that you can’t go against the scientifically proven data and they would not be willing to water down scientifically based requirements. Endangered species need to receive more protection. The new FPC changes will increase the area inaccessible to logging to about 40%. Creating a further shortfall for Forestry Tasmania to sort out for their unviable contract with Ta Ann. The FPC review was no surprise and they should have left a bit of room for it, rather than selling off every last scrap of forest in the entire state (and more).
“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.” Christine Milne said in her press release about the issue.
Forestry Tasmania should be abolished. As Senator Christine Milne said ”
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.” They cannot be trusted. They have not only sold away all of our forests and even some that aren’t there. They also have shown clearly now where their true loyalties lie. If they are willing to say that we should not bother protecting endangered species, that we should instead prioritize contracts, then it is clear that the organisation will never be able to deliver true conservation outcomes. For this reason, it is anyone’s guess why the organisation would be given the responsibilities of both logging and preserving the forests. There is a clear conflict of interest. And in addition they have shown themselves to be simply incompetent at managing our forests time and time again. It is time for them to go.
And as far as Ta Ann’s contract is concerned, well, the new information about wood supply certainly changes the way it should be viewed within the IGA process. How can the negotiation process take into account a contract that can’t be meet even without any new reserves? The contract is going to have to be renegotiated. And since a whole lot of changes are going to have to be made anyway to make up for this debacle, then they might as well make the additional changes needed to meet conservation outcomes. The Australian reported that with the FPC changes, there would only be about 177,000 cubic meters a year available for Ta Ann. The company is currently requiring about 330,000 cubic meters of wood (to create 265,000 m3 of veneer). If they have to change the way they operation to account for the short fall of 100,000 m3 they might as well do so to account for the loss of wood from the 572,000 hectares, so that it can be protected, as it should be. Surely not that difficult, since it would amount to less cubic meters than the current short fall anyway.
Perhaps it is time for Ta Ann to change their business model? The company clearly has no future in the ongoing destruction of native forests, especially when they are marketing it as environmentally friendly. Even they are admitting that their customer’s are not going to accept forest destruction anymore, claiming to have lost 50% of their Japanese customers due to the environmental concerns. They cannot survive by logging native forests, the wood isn’t there, the customers don’t want it anyway and the rest of the world certainly doesn’t want them to either. So, it seems to me that the timing is perfect now for them to transition out of native forests. And for the government to make sure they do, because otherwise Forestry Tasmania might well find it’s self on the end of a law suit. Ta Ann could certainly considering suing FT for the signing of a contract for wood that wasn’t even available.
I think if the Premier wants so desperately to see a solution, as she seems to be claiming, she will be doing everything she can to get Ta Ann out of native forest as quickly as possible.