Progress to date

Here’s an update on progress to get a blackwood growers cooperative established under the IGA. A recent trip around northern Tasmania confirmed my impression there is enormous potential for growing Australia’s premier native timber species in plantations on farms. There seems to be plenty of suitable land available to achieve my goal of a 3000 – 4000 ha blackwood plantation resource; land that is currently growing bracken and blackberries, or is being used for rough grazing, or E. nitens plantations. There is also a large pool of community interest in blackwood generally. There are even a few examples of successful blackwood plantations.

But connecting with the rural community continues to be a major challenge. Advertising and promotion seem to have a very low success rate.

Some farmers are keen to plant blackwood now and get the coop going, while others are supportive but need further incentives and indications that the forestry mess in Tasmania is being resolved and the industry has a future without politics and conflict.

The leaked report “Review of Forest Estate Scenarios” for the IGA ...

(TT here)

... briefly mentions blackwood and other so-called special species (p. 9-10), but fails to mention at all the possibility of growing blackwood in plantations or the fact there is a proposal to form a blackwood growers cooperative. This was disappointing.

Private tree-grower and farmer representation

The forest industry in Australia is dominated by State forest agencies and a few large corporate tree growers. Farm forestry in Australia is still in its infancy despite 40 years of trying. Within this context getting a tree-grower cooperative established is an uphill battle. The national body that represents private tree growers is the Australian Forests Growers. Unfortunately the farm forestry representation within Tasmania is poor and the general farmer representation (TFGA) has failed to adopt an independent forest policy position, so I can’t get any support from them.

Response from politicians and major players

If Tasmania was serious about developing whatever commercial opportunities it has then supporting a blackwood growers cooperative would seem to me to be a no-brainer. All we have to do is copy what the New Zealand farmers are doing. At the various IGA community meetings I have attended I was hoping to get responses like “This sounds interesting. Can we sit down and discuss this further?”, or “How can we make this happen?” Nothing like it! Am I surprised by this lack of interest? Not at all! But a mature independent approach to forest policy would be a good beginning for the Tasmanian Government and parliament.

As the tragedy, comedy and farce that is the IGA plays out I can only hope that difficulties of the past are finally resolved and we can see to the future. One ongoing risk is that when the Liberal Party next gains Government, it will all change again. So while we continue to log public native forests we will continue to have a highly politicised forest industry. That seems inevitable.

Regional Development funding

Another major obstacle relates to funding. I was informed by a number of Regional Development people that no forestry related projects would be supported using funding provided under the IGA, regardless of how commercially viable they are.  I find this position extraordinary.

RDA is currently in the process of developing separate Regional Development Plans for the north west, north and southern Tasmania. I hope I can get a blackwood growers cooperative on their list.

The road ahead

Steady progress is being made in promoting the blackwood growers coop.

I think one reason for the lack of recognition for the coop is the absence of any vision/plan for the future of the forest industry. Neither the forest industry, private forest growers nor the Government has yet to come up with a vision of the future post-IGA that includes commercial, social and political relevance. Until enough people start thinking positively about the future of the industry I suspect that ideas like a blackwood growers cooperative will find it difficult to attract attention.

I think the forest industry in Tasmania has a great future if the correct policies are put in place. The future of the forest industry rests upon private growers, both industrial and farmer. This requires significant changes in Government policy, and very significant changes in FT governance and management. Tasmania has many significant disadvantages as a commodity producer, so the industry focus needs to be on value and quality rather than volume and price. In New Zealand farmers own approximately 30% of the forest plantation estate. That is a significant resource by anyones reckoning.

Meanwhile I will continue to seek interest and support in the hope that these things will sort themselves out and some logic will eventually prevail.

• West Report confirms Tarkine’s World Heritage worthiness.
Mining Prospectivity Assessment report contains errors.

Tarkine National Coalition has welcomed the confirmation and recognition in the West Report that the Tarkine is worthy of World Heritage nomination.

“While it has been long recognised by many groups, the confirmation that the Tarkine has both National heritage and World Heritage values is an important independent recognition that government must now act upon”, said Tarkine National Coalition spokesperson Scott Jordan.

“ For too long the Tarkine has been under siege while governments allowed the destruction of important heritage values by logging and mining interests”.

“Both the Commonwealth and state governments can no longer hide behind a shield of ignorance. They must act immediately to protect the Tarkine through National Heritage Listing and a nomination for World Heritage Listing”.

The TNC has raised concerns with three serious errors in the Mining Prospectivity Assessment report.

Firstly, the report understates the number and impact of mines in development. The authors refer to nine mines in development while the TNC has been tracking 11 proposed mines in the Tarkine (from 56 exploration licences), and another four outside of the Tarkine.

Secondly, the authors refer to an industry preference for underground mining in sensitive areas. Unfortunately this is not borne out by the facts of the current proposals, as of the 15 mines planned in Tasmania, only three are proposed to be underground operations.

And thirdly, the estimates of the value of minerals in the ground are grossly misleading. By using a current market price to value minerals still in the ground the authors have wildly over-represented the value of the minable resource. Cost of extraction, technical and environmental barriers are all significant factors that must be considered in valuing a resource.

“We know that iron ore costs about 20-30% more to mine in wet western Tasmania than in the Pilbara, and that the Magnesite Resource in the Arthur/Lyons area valued at $39.7billion in the Mining Prospectivity Assessment report is effectively un-minable, with two companies having walked away from the project and the current lease holder unwilling to proceed past the initial exploratory drilling”.

“If the resource values in the report were in fact real and achievable, there would have been a metals rush long ago. Even at the current record prices for iron tin, tungsten and copper we are seeing only a fraction of these resources being held up as viable, and then only in short term mines such as the Mt Lindsay 8-year open cut.”

“What would have been more useful would have been an actual assessment of net value to the state through royalties from actual minable resources, although I suspect that given the low rate of royalty returns and the high cost of state infrastructure, those figures would not support mining in the Tarkine over tourism and carbon trading”.

Company Announcements Platform
Australian Securities Exchange
Further to Gunns Limited’s (the “Company”) announcement on 19 March 2012, the Company provides the following update.
Equity Raising

It is the Company’s intention to undertake an equity raising of sufficient size to significantly reduce its debt facilities and thereby strengthen its balance sheet. The proposed capital raising by the Company is not yet finalised in a number of key respects, although it is expected that the raising will be approximately $400 million and may involve the placement of shares to new investors.

Investors have encouraged the Company to raise sufficient equity capital to provide it with the desired flexibility in its approach to financing the Bell Bay Pulp Mill. Additional financial flexibility is likely to result in a superior outcome in the Pulp Mill financing. In addition, the Company believes that its ongoing non-core asset sale program will be enhanced by a material strengthening of its balance sheet.

In preparation for the equity raising, the Company is working with its advisors Moelis & Company in undertaking a detailed review. This review includes the ongoing non-core asset sale process, bank facilities and the financial metrics relating to the Bell Bay Pulp Mill. Concurrently the Company is preparing the necessary documentation relating to the equity raising and likely shareholder meeting to approve aspects of the proposed recapitalisation that is under consideration by the Company.

Suspension from Trading

The Company requests that its suspension from trading continue until the details of the proposed equity raising, and associated preparation of documents have been finalised. The Company expects to be in a position to provide a further update to the ASX and the market regarding the proposed capital raising on 2 April 2012.

• Clive Stott : Forestry burns – give us the facts

Forestry Tasmania makes out it is doing great things by informing the people via a website when it feels like having a burn.

We won’t even go into the spin about why they have to burn ... that would make you doubly sick in my opinion.

Each day we get a map that shows the forestry industries proposed burns; here is yesterday’s:


Then we get a 2nd map that shows only what current FT burns are alight on the day:


Count the dots. Where have the dark green FIAT dots gone east of Launceston in the first map?

All of a sudden some low intensity smoky burns disappear off the radar because the only burns now being divulged are the FT’s burns in progress.

Did FIAT light their burns or didn’t they? How large were they? Are they still burning, or are they extinguished? Where did any smoke travel?

Why are the people of Tasmania only being provided with FT burn information? Does it make a difference if you are admitted to A&E with FIAT smoke, is this why it is all so secretive?

FT claims they do not have access to this information. Rubbish I say. You can’t tell me the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing when it comes to such enormous quantities of deliberate smoke circulating around our state.

On the other hand perhaps they don’t, and perhaps this is why year after year we get smoked out by the forest industry.

DHHS are claiming it is up to the people to manage their smoke health. No, it is up to DHHS to make sure our environmental health is protected. The Health Act is very clear.

In 2012 I believe it is time the forest industries as a whole stopped trying to hide their burns.

This has been going on for over 40 years.

Put all the forestry burns up on the map please.

• ABC Online: Secret Report

The State Government is keeping secret a key review of Tasmania’s forestry industry.

Professor Jonathan West was appointed by the State and Federal Governments to head a comprehensive independent review to guide the forest peace deal.

But the long-awaited release of the 2,000-page report last Friday came without Professor West’s final summary of the findings.

It is understood the former Harvard academic heavily criticised state-owned Forestry Tasmania in his chairman’s report.

The State Government is not saying why it has withheld the information.

Instead it has indicated Prof. West went beyond his brief, saying all of the forestry reports under the terms of reference have been released.

He briefed Cabinet on his findings yesterday.

The parties negotiating a deal to end most native forest logging also have not seen the report.

The Deputy Premier says the Cabinet briefing given by Prof. West contained no new information.

Bryan Green has told ABC Local Radio the report contained Jonathan West’s personal reflections on the 30-year forestry debate.

“But [it was] designed for the Government to consider in line with the reports, the factual reports that have been provided and, from that point of view, it talks about the relationship between the unions, the ENGOs, the industry, obviously Forestry Tasmania.”

Mr Green says the Greens Leader, Nick McKim, was present at the cabinet briefing with Prof. West.

The Greens have been contacted but have been unavailable for comment.

ABC Online here