Image for How can you not despair?

*Pic: Rob Blakers’ pic of a single logging road snaking into forest ...

Once again - for around the fifth decade - they are at it ...  How is it possible that this is not resolved after all these decades, after all those million-dollar inquiries, after all the billions of your money - taxpayers’ money - poured into this blackest of black holes. It is, of course, Forestry. Yesterday all the usual suspects led by Minister for Forests Paul Harriss ramped it up, blissfully, ignorantly dismissive of the ageless truth: Every action inevitably leads to a reaction; it is impossible (for me at least) not to agree with Cassy O’Connor’s observation yesterday:

The reason there is a shortage of special species timber in Tasmania is that for decades, Forestry Tasmania and Gunns’ Ltd allowed myrtle, sassafras, celery top and blackwood to burn on the forest floor in the aftermath of clearfelling operations for woodchips. Successive majority governments knew this was happening and did nothing about it.  Specialty timber craftspeople were absolutely the forgotten forest workers in the industrial native forest clearfelling and woodchipping era.  Beautiful timber was left charred in clearfelled coupes.  That is why there’s a resource shortage today.

… Here are the arguments … All over again …

• Special species volumes
Paul Harriss, Minister for Resources
16.09.15 8:31 pm

The Government has received preliminary advice which shows the availability of special species timber is less than half what Labor and the Greens claimed would be available through the jobs-destroying Tasmanian Forest Agreement.

The special species sector was told the TFA would deliver 12,500m3 of special species each year – 10,000m3 of Blackwood and 2,500m3 of other minor special species timbers, including Myrtle, Sassafras, Celery Top Pine, Silver Wattle and Huon Pine.

Under the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, the former Government identified specialty craft timber zones as an alternative source of special timbers to the areas which were locked up in reserves.

When the resource predictions for those specialty craft timber zones were comprehensively demolished by experts, ENGOs identified an additional 24 contingency harvest areas.

Concerns were raised when it was found that a number of these special timber contingency areas were button grass plains and others had already been logged.

As part of our Forest (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014 we said we would get a detailed analysis done as part of the development of a Special Species Management Plan.

The Government has now received preliminary advice on analysis by Forestry Tasmania on availability of special timbers in the Permanent Timber Production Zone.  This work was carried out at the request of the Special Timbers Sub-Committee of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Forestry.

The preliminary advice shows the total yield is just 40 per cent of the promised volumes for Blackwood, Sassafras, Myrtle and Silver Wattle.

While these figures are preliminary, it confirms what an appalling con-job the TFA was. We welcome Labor’s offer of a bipartisan approach to special timbers and their support for our Plan to try and undo the damage.

This advice underscores the need to access areas outside the Permanent Timber Production Zone for a sustainable harvest of special timbers.

Areas under consideration include, under special circumstances, Regional Reserves and Conservation Areas, including some small areas of these reserve types added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in the 2013 boundary extension.  These are areas that have been managed for timber production for over a hundred years.

The Government is committed unequivocally to the protection of the Outstanding Universal Values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. While the Government supports access to special species timber from Regional Reserves and Conservation Areas, we do recognise that this will only be part of the solution being developed through the Special Species Management Plan.

Any harvest of special species timber from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, will be at a very low level, targeted at augmenting the supply of minor species special timbers, and undertaken in a manner that supports the maintenance of the area’s Outstanding Universal Values.

This new information on the availability of special species timber in the Permanent Timber Production Zone does not change our commitment to protecting the Outstanding Universal Value of the Tasmanian Wilderness, but it does underscore the need to retain access to some resource from within reserves.

What we are talking about here is ensuring the survival of Tasmania’s highly valued craft and boat building sectors through provision of tightly controlled, sustainable access to a highly valuable resource from small areas within Regional Reserves and Conservation Areas.

This is the sensible position that we will discuss with the World Heritage Committee Advisory Bodies when they visit Tasmania to inspect the World Heritage Area later this year.

- See more at: http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/pr-article/special-species-volumes/#sthash.bOHCjIZO.dpuf

• Minister Harriss in Denial on TWWHA Logging
Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens Leader and Forests spokesperson
16.09.15 8:26 pm

Resources Minister, Paul Harriss, has made it clear the government plans to blunder on and log in protected areas, including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA), in contravention of explicit advice from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee that to do so would threaten World Heritage values.

Minister Harriss is deluded if he thinks UNESCO will believe, “this Government remains unequivocally committed to the protection of the outstanding universal values of the TWWHA”  when he makes it clear this government is committed to logging the wilderness.

You simply can’t have it both ways - you cannot both damage and protect World Heritage values.

The reason there is a shortage of special species timber in Tasmania is that for decades, Forestry Tasmania and Gunns’ Ltd allowed myrtle, sassafras, celery top and blackwood to burn on the forest floor in the aftermath of clearfelling operations for woodchips.

Successive majority governments knew this was happening and did nothing about it.  Specialty timber craftspeople were absolutely the forgotten forest workers in the industrial native forest clearfelling and woodchipping era.  Beautiful timber was left charred in clearfelled coupes.  That is why there’s a resource shortage today.

It has precisely nothing to do with the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, as Mr Harriss asserts.

There is no argument to log in the TWWHA.  There is every argument for shifting focus towards blackwood and wattle plantation resources, finding alternative approaches and exploring the use and sustainable supply of other species of timber that are suitable for fine furniture and craft making in Tasmania.

- See more at: http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/pr-article/minister-harriss-in-denial-on-twwha-logging/

• No excuse for logging reserves, let alone World Heritage
Vica Bayley, The Wilderness Society
16.09.15 4:18 pm

The Wilderness Society today rejected Government’s renewed articulation of the case for logging inside the World Heritage Area saying there is no case for logging in any reserve, let alone one recognised as World Heritage.

In response to a Dorothy Dixer, Minister Harris today demonstrated his fundamental lack of understanding of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement (TFA) and continued to flout the July decision of UNESCO that called for logging to be prohibited in the World Heritage Area.

‘As Minister responsible for tearing up the TFA, Mr Harriss as a remarkable propensity for misinterpreting it and then pointing to his interpretation to establish some industry-focussed fact,’ said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society

‘The TFA did not set a level of supply of rainforest timbers, but established a collaborative, consensus-based process to assess likely demand, potential markets and finalise an agreed plan about how much timber could be supplied and from where it could be supplied.

‘As the specialty timber sector has traditionally been a by-product of clear-felling and woodchipping of vast areas of oldgrowth and rainforest, a model that glutted the market with heavily subsidised wood, there was never any expectation that historical levels of supply could, would or should continue.’

‘Specialty timber supply was subsidised by woodchipping and because the market was flooded with timber, tens of thousands of tonnes of usable celery top pine, myrtle and sassafras was burnt on the coupe floor, wasting decades of supply.’

‘Minister Harriss displays an inability to grasp the complexities of this issue. By drip feeding bits of information like an overview of potential supply, he’s telling his version of only a tiny bit of the story.

Meanwhile, Government should accept UNESCO’s July decision urging an explicit ban on logging in the World Heritage Area and immediately announce what steps it will take to implement this request and by when.

‘There is no place or case for logging inside the World Heritage area and UNESCO have made this clear in its last unanimous decision. Government must accept this, not re-run another embarrassing, failed argument.

‘The best way to meet UNESCO’s request is to upgrade reserve status of land inside the World Heritage Area to national park or equivalent.

- See more at: http://www.tasmaniantimes.com/index.php/press-releases/#sthash.qxqNNTqh.dpuf

• Peter Adams in Comments: Has anyone ever done an audit of what the supposed speciality timbers are used for? We keep hearing about the craft and boat building people needing these timbers. When I used to go down to Geeveston to purchase myrtle logs, the best ones (I was told) were always quickly sold to a couple of blokes who milled them up and sold them interstate as floor boards. My guess is that the majority of speciality timbers go out of the state in this fashion. Can someone prove me wrong?

• Gordon Bradbury in Comments: Here is the Government’s twisted logic (which they believe UNESCO will understand and support): We run a taxpayer-funded community service forest industry giving away trees.  This creates an artificial demand which therefore justifies: •  Cutting down more trees; •  Wasting even more taxpayer’s money; •  Sacking teachers, nurses and other public servants; •  Charging electricity customers to help pay for cutting down trees; •  Wasting vast amounts of Parliamentary time in debate, enquiries and reports; •  Wasting numerous State elections fighting over the forest industry instead of fixing health, education, roads, etc… •  If we stop cutting down trees the sky will fall; •  Vilifying anyone who questions or opposes the above. And our industry and political leaders stand shoulder to shoulder in support of this waste and stupidity. The word moronic doesn’t do justice to the situation. That the vast majority of the beneficiaries of this corrupt system are supportive or remain silent is staggering. That the vast majority of those directly and indirectly disadvantaged by this corrupt system - which is pretty much every Tasmanian - also remain silent is what creates the sense of despair for those of us who understand.

Cassy O’Connor: Groom Content to Pillage TWWHA

• John Maddock in Comments: More years ago than I care to remember (actually, eleven) Timber Workers for Forests researched and published “Tasmania’s Specialty Timber Industry Blueprint for Future Sustainability”, which you can read HERE. As part of our research, four members met Steve Whiteley, then in charge of special species, with the aim of discovering how much special species actually existed. If he knew, he didn’t tell us. When we asked to see maps, all we got were several A4 sheets which covered the as-yet unlogged areas. Looking back, I doubt that FT had bothered to do an audit, even though it is possible that their photo interpreters could make fairly accurate assessments. FT currently has a tender for 32 logs and sawn boards, HERE. If you click on “Tender Prices”, you will find a listing of recent prices. There is no question that FT has an egregious record on special species.  Getting into the WHA will not improve it. Perhaps Tasmanian crafts people should turn away from special species and concentrate on design as a selling point, using our magnificent non-special species.