Image for Government blindness spells doom for an ailing company

FRIDAY January 29 ...

• Stewart Hoyt, convenor for Forests of Lapoinya Action Group (FLAG): Government Conducts Phoney Forest War ...

Yesterday Minister Paul Harriss (TT, Comment 19 below) decried the waste of taxpayers’ money and public services due to their decision to prosecute a phoney forest war against a small rural community in Lapoinya.

All agree, it is a waste to grow more forestry debt and deplete scarce law enforcement services to babysit Forestry Tasmania in its decision to clear fell, incinerate and convert a small local community forest.

The Premier Will Hodgman and his Resources Minister Paul Harriss must bear the responsibility for authorizing this expenditure.

It is unnecessary.

Forestry Tasmania can and often does simply go elsewhere.

The issue is clear-felling and native forest habitat incineration and the consequent destruction of rare, endangered and threatened species and the local love of its forest.

When the forces of an entire State government are marshalled against so few, it is not a forest war, it is a slaughter.

For those who wish to further understand just how personal the issue of clear-felling is to everyday locals, please read Adrian’s letter to Joan Rylah below ...

Date: 22 January 2016 8:55:28 AM AEDT

Subject: Lapoinya protests

Dear Joan,

Please excuse me if this is not written very well, I am not used to sending emails, nor conversing with our local representatives but felt compelled to after events of recent days. As a brief history, I am a local to Lapoinya, am engaged with two children, 5 and 7 year old boys and another due in early March.

I have never voted Green, but unlike my partner, am not a dedicated Liberal voter. I tend to swing depending on policies but did however vote for you at last state election. I drove through on Tuesday and stopped to see what the commotion was with the protest held by FLAG.

I had been led to believe it was hard-core greenies trying to ban all forestry. I must admit I was somewhat shocked to find out there were almost nobody I would of thought of as greenies. Upon talking with a few I found retired forest workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, builders, farmers and people from a wide span of employments. Imagine if you could, the surprise when I then found out the native regrowth forest off Broxhams road was the source of the protest.

I couldn’t believe it.

We take our kids there all the time and have from when they were near enough to new borns. We have some amazing photos of them playing in and near the creek, looking for lobsters, hiding in the bush and learning to climb trees (the latter as they grew older obviouslyߘ„)

We only live two or three kms from the contentious coupe and I know there are other spots around, but after suffering a severe back injury in late 2013 whilst working as a mechanic, this spot became even more precious to me and my family. It was close, a great stress relief and such a beautiful area with everything you could ask for in native Tasmanian bush.

Even injured, and severely limited in my ability to get around, I could still teach my children about our unique habitat and even take them out at night to see the devils and quolls, possums, wallabies and even in recent years the occasional large grey forester roos.

They often asked about the types of birds but they are something I know little about. I was brought up on a farm at Boat Harbour and outdoors was what I loved from an early age. I guess that’s where my children’s love of nature comes from. Some of my earliest memories are going shooting and trapping with dad and my older brothers.

I felt I was going to cry.

Charlie, my five year old son couldn’t comprehend why his bush would be knocked down and burnt and to be honest neither could I. I have been led to believe this is the plan and then replanted with a couple of species of native gum. I tried to tell Charlie there were the pine plantations and some spots dairy farmers might let him and Ollie play or else some spots out behind Muenna but he quickly said “we can’t go out near Arthur River because it hurts your back dad”.

It shocks me that children seem to have more compassion than most adults. Sitting is extremely hard for me as I have three badly injured discs in my lower back and so far surgery hasn’t helped. I know that I am just one person and my opinion doesn’t count for much but I must admit I have been left completely shocked by this.

A small 49 hectare section of bush becoming such a topic of hot debate. Not just state-wide but on a national and international scale as well. I’ve been reading extensively on the internet about both sides of this for the last couple of days but from what I’ve learnt I’m led to believe the following: 49 hectares will be knocked down, harvested and then burnt. The harvested native smaller gums will go to TA-ANN, a Malaysian owned company to be turned into veneer, ply board and pulp.

All of the smaller rare species and man ferns will not be harvested but simply burnt, then replanted with just type, gums. No effort will go toward trapping and relocating any of the endangered native animals.

Four of the six members of Forestry Tasmania’s board have somewhat co-incidentally decided to leave the day after Tuesday’s peaceful protest. What does this say? I know that Tasmania has a terrible history of going from one extreme to another but every single local person

I have spoken to, police included have all said the same thing. Why not use a low quality coupe to meet demands and then selectively log this area. I appreciate how busy you must be, and media are great at altering what people say, but from what I heard of you before the last State election, and after reading your maiden parliamentary speech, I find it very hard to believe you condone this.

Please consider other options and save this small forest. To hear from people on Tuesday who were in there late seventies, whose parents were involved in the last selective logging in that same coupe, and hear the emotion in their voice, left me nothing but confused by this.

You stated that you “strongly believe compassion for others is the glue that holds community together” in your maiden speech.

If this is how you show compassion, by sticking it to the locals and sticking up for a foreign owned company? Our small community is destined to go the way of Muenna. Low quality forestry plantations and maybe some dairy, soon after that, just low quality plantations. I wait somewhat apprehensively for your reply, and would very much appreciate a reply from you, not an automatic response or even better, call in for a cup of tea and a chat.

Yours sincerely,

Adrian, Lapoinya

• John Biggs in Comments: #19. “Every time a protester enters the coupe at Lapoinya, Forestry Tasmania has to suspend operations in order to protect the safety of workers, and the protester.” Mr Harriss, that is not true. FT doesn’t have to suspend operations. People standing by are not stopping anyone from working, they are not obstructing or damaging machinery. They only “prevent”: people from working because that is your edict. You and FT seem to be deliberately inflaming the issue.

TUESDAY January 26 ...

The blind leading the blind ... Premier Will Hodgman and his Forests Minister Paul Harriss ...

When representatives of industry, timber workers and the conservation movement signed an accord back in 2011, some of us hoped Tasmania’s crippling forest wars were over.

With an election still years away, supporters of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement thought its whole-of-community approach to forestry might become the new standard. But they overlooked the smouldering resentment of a certain Member of the Legislative Council.

Peace was the last thing on Paul Harriss’s mind in March 2014 when, having been elected to the lower house, he became resources minister. To him, the TFA was simply the previous government’s craven surrender to green extremism.

Righteous indignation fuelled his drive for harsher penalties for forest protest. He lost the battle for mandatory penalties in parliament, but won four-year maximum prison sentences when his bill passed in November 2014.

Now, after a long pause, the wars are back. In the first skirmish last week, two people ( Four with Bob Brown and another man’s arrest yesterday ) were arrested at a coupe near Lapoinya in the state’s north-west.

FT’s former chairman Bob Annells

The resignation of FT Chairman and three directors ...

In the middle of the Lapoinya confrontation Forestry Tasmania’s chairman, Bob Annells, and three of the remaining five board members resigned. The minister said these were just personal matters. That’s hard to believe, but if it’s true the timing was awful.

When he took the helm of Forestry Tasmania in 2012, Annells understood that an organisation in crisis, as it has been for many years now, does not need enemies.

For three years, despite some traumatic downsizing, the company’s staff and board have been steadily building new paradigms around its role, including its dealings with country communities. Throughout last year they worked hard to win over the people of Lapoinya.

My parents had a farm near Lapoinya when I was born. I don’t remember living there, but I do know what it’s like to grow up in the bush. You can build a deep, powerful affinity with it, such that if it’s threatened you won’t like it. You may feel compelled to oppose its removal.

Jessica Hoyt, now a nurse living in Hobart, can’t see Lapoinya as others do – as production forest with no special values – because it was her childhood home. Asked about the proposed harvesting after her arrest under the new laws, her simple, passionate response was “it’s wrong”.

When first announcing its workplace protest bill the government said it was targeted at forest “extremists”. Its first two victims have been Hoyt and a retired Wynyard anaesthetist, also with strong personal ties to the district. If these are extremists then I don’t understand the word.

The root cause of FT’s problems lies in politics ...

But Lapoinya, which for all I know may be a perfectly legitimate harvest, is a side issue. The root cause of Forestry Tasmania’s problems won’t be found in native forest operations, but in politics.

The TFA opened a door to a big market expansion via Forest Stewardship Council certification. We don’t yet know the outcome of the FSC application, but the government couldn’t have helped their cause by “ripping up” the TFA and raising protest penalties.

Then came news late last year of the “authorised” sale of 50,000 hectares of hardwood plantations – the backbone of Forestry Tasmania’s long-term viability – to “offset losses” for two more years. How is that different from a receivers’ fire sale when a bankrupt business is being wound up?

Sustainability of wood supply is a key requirement for FSC certification. Losing control of that plantation resource raises questions about the company’s capacity to meet its legislated targets.

When a government is elected, it has a responsibility to govern for all. Will Hodgman should know that hostility towards portfolio stakeholders is no basis for a ministerial career. He should not have put Harriss in charge of forestry operations.

But it was the blind leading the blind. The premier has for many years echoed Harriss’s extreme pronouncements. Held captive by their shared ideological spin, Paul Harriss and Will Hodgman have dug themselves a deep, dark hole, and it’s only getting deeper.

Their only way out is to repudiate their present attitudes and policies, but for them that would obviously be a bridge too far. Their mindless intransigence may prove fatal for Forestry Tasmania.

• *Peter Boyer is a Tasmanian journalist with a special interest in climate and energy. This article is also published today in Mercury as: Talking Point: Smouldering resentment ignites new inferno in forest wars

See Peter Boyer’s writing at:

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• Mark Temby in Comments: A personal observation I’ve had from the first day of the Hodgman government was the speed of enacting the enabling legislation to criminalise and gaol these protesters. My goodness, I never saw so many alert “independent” Legislative Councilors keen to put their stamp of approval on legislation. These are the same ones who drag their knuckles on every other change, hide beneath their cloaks of independence and, together with the government, reject moving forward at every other opportunity.

• Download former Greens Leader Kim Booth’s takedown of Paul Harriss’ ‘lie’ on ABC Local Radio: HERE and HERE

• John Biggs in Comments: … As to the economics, economist John Lawrence estimated that the Lapoinya operation will not make any money at all, but cost the people $250,000. So we destroy what the local community desperately wants for a net loss to the taxpayer. And by the way, when MLC, Harriss declared a pecuniary interest he had been given gifts by Ta Ann. And now as the relevant minister he is delivering for Ta Ann. Surely a serious conflict of interest. Does anyone know of any connection between Harriss and Ta Ann? Has anyone in the Liberal Govt and in FT any integrity at all?

Dr Kevin Bonham: Lapoinya Scrapes The Barrel Of Tasmania’s Forests Conflict  Tasmania has seen some big environmental contests down the years.  Lake Pedder, the Franklin dam, Farmhouse Creek, Wesley Vale, the Bell Bay pulp mirage, Ralphs Bay.  The latest flashpoint, Lapoinya, isn’t one of them.  To many veterans on either side it must be astonishing that we now have a barney over the logging of forty-nine hectares of regrowth - that anyone would bother protesting it, let alone getting arrested over it, or on the other hand that anyone would bother with the logging or arresting.  To put it into perspective, bushfires in Tasmania have burnt almost 900 Lapoinya-coupes worth of native vegetation in the past fortnight alone. The Lapoinya argument seems like nothing more than a vintage example of Sayre’s Law (the contest is so bitter precisely because the stakes are so small).  Behind what has become a comically petty contest in the context of the battles of the past, however, are some players with a bigger game to play.  But before I get onto specifics of Lapoinya (then all that), I’d like to look at how we got here …

• Steve Biddulph in Comments: Thanks to Peter Boyer for this great perspective and inside story. “If these are extremists then I don’t understand the word” is a wonderful observation. And attributing the whole thing to bloody mindedness by Harriss has the ring of truth. Its a tiny coupe, being logged at a loss, even before police time is taken into account. And its destruction is deeply opposed by a local community who love their valley and care for it well. Everything good about Tasmania is on the line once again.