The concept of the Hayfield sawmill relocating to Tasmania to process low-grade Eucalyptus nitens plantation logs into high value-sawn timber products signals a welcome technological development in the processing of plantation timber and highlights the short-sightedness of the Hodgman Government’s sell-off of publicly-owned nitens plantation resource to subsidise Forestry Tasmania’s native forest logging operations.

The Wilderness Society called on Mr Hodgman to reconsider the plantation sell-off, saying pulp plantations should remain in public hands so as to maintain Government control of the resource and ensure it is made available to Tasmanian-based business.

‘While further detail is required, it is welcome news that the technological, product development and market issues associated with creating solid wood products from pulp plantations are being resolved,’ said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.

‘Plantations are currently the most profitable sector of the timber industry, with overall growth in timber exports and logging activity attributable to the plantation sector.

‘Given plantations are the best performing sector of the timber industry with new prospects regarding high-value processing in Tasmania, it makes no sense to flog-off Forestry Tasmania’s plantations to subsidise native forest logging.

‘Forestry Tasmania’s plantations were established with taxpayer’s money at great expense to the environment and climate, in many cases replacing oldgrowth and rainforests.

‘Privatising a public asset is a serious consideration at the best of times, but when it cuts off newly discovered opportunities for the future and the profits are simply used to prop-up short term cash flows, it starts to look ridiculous.

‘Premier Hodgman should reconsider his plan to subsidise Forestry Tasmania through a fire-sale of its lower grade plantations.

‘The revelations by owners of the Heyfield Mill that they have the technological capacity to make pulp plantations into high-value products and have identified markets where they can sell these products is new information that should make Mr Hodgman think twice.

‘Mr Hodgman should reconsider his plan to subsidise Forestry Tasmania through a sell off of a public plantation resource that offers a significant opportunity for a future Tasmanian timber industry.

‘It would be tragic if government lost control of that resource for a short term subsidy.’