Photograph taken on Burnie wharf, November 2012: Logs destroyed from sitting around with nowhere to go

Photograph taken on Burnie wharf, November 2012: Huge amounts of fresh logs being stockpiled

The Tasmanian Greens today highlighted major discrepancies in forest policy by highlighting the piles of whole logs for export, while at the same time smaller contract operators cannot access sufficient resource.

Greens Forestry spokesperson Kim Booth MP said that it is impossible to fathom how thousands of tonnes of millable blackwood logs are left on the wharf to split and rot, while at the same time Forestry Tasmania is claiming there is a shortage of specialty timbers.

Mr Booth also raised concerns that now some of these stockpiled logs are being sold as firewood, again incurring a massive loss to the public purse.

“Forestry Tasmania has stockpiled on the Burnie wharf, amongst other places,  tens of thousands of tonnes of both eucalypt and blackwood logs, only to leave them rotting and splitting in the sun, which is inexcusable,” Mr Booth said.

“Despite losing $27 million last year, Forestry Tasmania somehow thinks it is okay to allow this ongoing waste, while they are also claiming that there is a specialty timber shortage.”

“The Greens are calling on Forests Minister, Bryan Green, to intervene and require Forestry Tasmania to either leave blackwood standing, or they ensure it is made available at commercial rates to Tasmania’s country sawmillers.”

“We also seek answers as to how much public monies Forestry Tasmania will lose on the blackwood and eucalypt whole logs piles on Burnie wharf

“We also seek clarification as to whether any contractor who has received exit package funding, is still operating in the native forest industry by carting logs?”

“There must be no further market interference and subsidies, which are destroying future mill logs, ruining efficient operators, propping up the inefficient and wasting public money,” Mr Booth said.

Kaingaroa Forest - the largest plantation in the Southern Hemisphere.

Napier, a major export port for soft wood forest products.

• David Obendorf: Industrial-scale Forestry in New Zealand

The New Zealand Government began planting exotic forests in 1899 near Rotorua to address growing timber shortages as slow-growing native forests were exhausted.

In the 1930s, vast areas of cleared land were planted with Pinusratiata. The largest plantation was the 290,000-hectare Kiangaroa forest on the North Island. As these plantations matured, timber processing industries were established.

In 2006 softwood plantation forests of various ages covered a total area was 18,000 km2 or 1.8 million hectares of New Zealand. In that year log harvesting produced 18.8 million m3 of timber; this is projected to rise as high as 30 million m3 per annum after 2010.

The value of all forestry exports (whole logs, woodchips, sawn timber, panels and paper products) for the year ended 31 March 2006 was $NZ3.62 billion and $4.65 billion by 2011.

Australia accounts for just over 25% of export value, mostly paper products, followed by Japan, South Korea, China and the United States. Within the New Zealand economy, forestry accounts for approximately 4% of national GDP. On the global stage, the New Zealand forestry industry is a relatively small contributor in terms of production, accounting for 1% of global wood supply for industrial purposes.

In the 1980s the NZ government sought to sell their State forests to private interests.

Several Maori tribal groups took the Government to court to prevent the sale, arguing that they were the traditional owners of the land, that the land had been wrongfully taken from them, and that the government should retain the land until a settlement of the claims had been reached.

It took 20 years to reach settlement of those claims and to see the forest lands returned to their traditional owners.

On 1 July 2009, ownership of the Kaingaroa Forest passed to a group of Maorii as the traditional land owners, in partial settlement of their claims that the Crown breached the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.

The forests themselves (the trees) continue to be owned by a private company (Kaingaroa Timberlands Ltd), which holds a forestry licence over the land.