Image for Is Australian Sustainable Hardwoods just another Ta Ann ... for the plantation resources?

*Pic: The ASH sausage-sizzle last week …

First published July 12

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) has recently expressed interest in establishing a timber mill near Burnie in northern Tasmania … but one wonders if this announcement was bona fide or a political play to pressure the Victorian government into submission.

Of course the Tasmanian Liberals - with their desperate forestry mindset - have their arms wide open to any proposal, but what could this be for the benefit of Tasmanians?

ASH has been claiming that if the Heyfield Timber Mill resource quota was further reduced it would have to shut up shop.  Howeverit seems the Victorian government has reached an in-principle agreement with ASH shareholders to buy the mill, subject to due diligence checks.

This means the Heyfield operation will continue on, albeit in a smaller capacity.

Australia’s forestry politics is in a pretty sorry state when a government uses taxpayers’ assets to bail out an ailing industry.

The Heyfield mill saw its long-term future in plantations, but that is considered a 20-year journey involving millions of dollars to retool for lower-grade timbers in the interim.

An ASH executive, a Mr Hurley, “said the company was considering moving its equipment to Tasmania, and had been in discussions with that State Government for 12 months”.

Moving their equipment south suggests they would come set up for hardwood sawing rather than the softer timbered nitens!

No doubt the Tasmanian Liberals got wind of what happening with ASH in Victoria some time ago, and seems to have rushed to it with a resource proposition; hoping to encourage ASH to establish something in Tasmania.

But what are the Liberals using as a lure?

An executive of ASH did state in an ABC interview that the company was only interested in the use of plantation timber in Tasmania, and later ASH said “the company would look to source wood from Forico, Forestry Tasmania and “a third player”.

Who is the mystery third player?

Guy Barnett has also used weasel words by saying that an ASH project would not be assisted with subsidies, though incentives may be considered.

Shrouded in mystery and questions, it seems more Liberal secrecy and deception is in the wind.

Sustainable Timbers Tasmania will need to obtain timber resources at a minimal expense if they are to convince anyone of viablility. It would seem that the sale of the Tasmanian public hardwood plantations is mixed up in that equation somehow?

This all seems a bit fishy because the sale of the hardwood plantations is what STT needs to keep it afloat.  So the concept of selling a resource for a song to an interstate company doesn’t add up.

To date no ASH proposal has been put forward to Tasmania, though one would think there would have to be massive incentives in order to make such a mill profitable. That could mean anything like a one-sided contract of low-cost resources, free infrastructure supplied to site, no payroll taxes, dirt-cheap power supply, or even the likelihood that the timber workers may come from the present Heyfield Mill.

How will Tasmania benefit from such a new mill?

Too many unknowns at this stage!

Though given the state’s track record on dodgy forestry contracts and loose incentives, it probably won’t be good for Tasmanian taxpayers.

*Ted Mead has been a wilderness campaigner in Tasmania for over 35 years. Forestry and its ongoing assault on our primeval natural regions has consumed much of Ted’s resources as he was constantly out there documenting the industry’s impacts. Although there has seen great gains in conservation across the state, Ted understands there is still much work to do for the preservation of the island’s treasured wild places.

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