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• John Hawkins:

18th January 2013.
Secretary
Mr Stuart Wright
Phone (03) 6212 2250
Fax: (03) 6231 1849
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Dear Mr Wright

After an enormous effort my submission in three parts to the Legislative Council Committee was completed and submitted yesterday.

Thank you for your phone call acknowledging receipt.

I have now had a short time to scan the Government’s submissions and attachments that were submitted to your Chamber in the last 48 hours.

I am totally and utterly appalled by such behaviour which from a government is unconscionable. 

The demand for a “quickie” in decision making trashes “process” which enables vested interests to hide their agenda by using devious pollies to facilitate their cause over the Christmas-January holiday period.

To-day is the last day that the public has an opportunity to comment on the Proposed Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill 2012 and the Tasmanian Forest Agreement.

In the very recently submitted material by the government there are 158 pages of Amendments.

Schedule A for example has 295 land parcel lots that have to be assessed very carefully.  This cannot be done in a few hours, or even a few weeks.  Other attachments add to the considerable number of pages of new material to be analysed and critiqued. My time is voluntary and not paid for, and those who help and advise me also have other professional occupations.

There is still vital missing information that would help the Legislative Council Committee. 

For example in Schedule A, Column 6 has been left blank.  Is this where the public would have learned what exact forest type belonged to which land lot parcel?  The public have been given no insight into forest type in no less than 295 land parcels.  There is an accepted process for this.

In the Regional Forest Agreement of 1997, there were 50 forest communities listed.  The TASVEG project had identified far more communities subsequent to that Agreement (at least up to 77).  One or other of these government recognised documents has to be used and added to Schedule A for each of the 295 land parcel lots. So that the public can see which land lot parcels contain which forested listed types? Given the other columns in Schedule A it then would be possible to discern exactly what future is projected for each.  It is quite possible that larger lot sizes contain a mixture of forested listed types (i.e. one lot size is 26,000 + ha). 

Schedule A has 8 columns with no title heading to any of the columns.  Why not?

For example Column 5 almost always lists “Native forest harvesting”.  Does this mean that this activity is prohibited or allowable?  The difference between Yes and No is palpable.

Where is the Integrity Commissioner when you need him?  His ability to investigate such matters has been constrained by your own House and its legislation, drawn up by those now sitting on this Committee

There is no information for the 52 forest coupes listed on Schedule B in the Amendments.  Only the initiated will know where these are located, what their size is, what type of forest grows on them, when they are intended to be logged.  This is not acceptable.

Not to have this information makes a mockery of the entire process.
 
The data is available from Forestry Tasmania’s data base they will not make it available to the public, further unconscionable behaviour by this rogue Government Agency who must be called to account.

The maps which are to be attached to the Bill should it proceed to legislation are digital maps.  As one zooms to find out exactly which land parcel lot is being considered, definition becomes more and more fuzzy.  This is not acceptable. 

The public and your own Legislative Councillors need maps at a resolution that is quite clear, concise and readable.

What is the scale?

Forestry Tasmania would have this data at resolutions that are clear and not fuzzy. Not to have available clear legible maps and plans at a scale that is suitable for assessment continues this mockery of process.

Clear, legible plans and maps need to be placed by Forestry Tasmania publicly on the Legislative Council website. These maps are the heart of the matter.

The audacity with which the Government has waited until the very last moment to release this additional material is breathtaking, it is more than that.  What it does is that it diminishes “process” and the orderly, considered, rigorous, progression of that process.

A process that contains integrity, transparency, and open-ness and full disclosure must be mandatory.

Another Forestry scam is about to be perpetrated on the Taxpayer as tremendous pressure is put on those tasked to make this decision by those interested in propping up a dying industry by any means possible. 

I am writing to seek further time, but cannot put a date on when that should be. It should not be a date that is relatively quick; again that demeans process.  The signatories to this Agreement and its subsequent Bill have been afforded nearly three years to deliver what is before us now.  Surely the public are entitled to months, not days to appraise ALL the material that has been put into the public domain. 

These are Tasmanian forests that are up for “grabs” and what happens to them concerns all Tasmanians, if not all persons nationally. 

Note: My submission will be published on their website - http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/ctee/Council/Forests.htm - and can then be downloaded protected by Parliamentry priveledge

• Peter Brenner:

Submission to the Legislative Council Select Committee on the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill 2012

My submission to the Legislative Council (LegCo) addresses the statesman/woman in each Councilor.

It seems to me that in the comprehensive and wildly contradictory claims, hopes and demands hurled at the LegCo and particularly the Select Committee (the committee), the big picture about the role of forestry is getting buried. That may be convenient for some, but the public good is not properly addressed.

Forestry operations in Tasmanian state forests (and to a varying degree in private forests) have been loss making, resource depleting, grief causing, ecosystem destroying, quality timber wasting, population enraging, polluting by misuse of chemicals, water mismanaging, fire hazard creating, ridiculous to qualified onlookers at increasing intensity for up to 40 years. Something - many things - must have gone fundamentally wrong for a significant length of time to have ended with such a devastating result today.

One would think that the acknowledgement of this state of affairs is (or should be) the starting point for any forest law revision.

Looking at the latest forest legislation exercise, now before the LegCo, it is clear, however, that such an insightful starting premise has not been adopted.

Nowhere in the environment of the proposed law is there an acknowledgement of failed philosophy, regulation or forestry practice. None of the major players in the industrial forestry environment have expressed a readiness to embrace real change or stepped back from their long held, but clearly disqualified belief systems to make room for real change. On the contrary!

Even at this stage when the indices of mismanagement are crushing, those responsible continue to push for the same, untenable forestry practices, which have led and continue to lead to the sorry state of an entire industry, which in other parts of the world - faced with the same markets, resource limitations and expectations of the population -i s prospering without causing ecological, economic and social havoc.

In other words, tinkering with forestry regulations without analyzing the fundamentals, the general direction that should be followed and the overall goal regarding the wellbeing of the whole Tasmanian population, is counter-productive.

It is clear from reading and listening to deliberations at the committee hearings that the majority of participants, with some notable exceptions, are prepared to simply put their claims for a slice of financial support by Governments without questioning the underlying principles.

I understand that MLCs are in the un-enviable position of having to deal with what the Lower House has put on their table. However, going beyond the call of duty, in this case, seems a political necessity.

It is time for a statesman-like standby the LegCo, demanding a full revision of the forestry legislation and accompanying regulations.

I have no suggestions as to how this can be achieved but I strongly suspect that mechanisms can be found or developed to put the current process on hold and pave the road for a full revision.

What then should a full revision address?

I am not in the position to draft even the beginning of legislation, but I can cite a number of principles that need to be addressed. My points are meant to act as a general guide to indicate the direction such legislation should take. They are neither final nor detailed enough to be taken as a template.

Those working on a revision of the Tasmanian forestry legislation need to recognize and:
• Understand the role of all forests in Tasmania and elsewhere as vital ecosystems of global importance.
• Understand that forests play a far greater role in human lives than just places for timber, fiber or energy production.
• Understand that any grouping of trees of identical age and identical species is not a forest but a crop with all its limitations, dangers of unstable ecosystems, adverse impact on drinking - and environmental water, landscape disfiguration, fire hazard etc.
• Understand that close-to-nature silviculture management is the modern professional call, to be embraced as the first principle and then further developed to suit local forest management needs.
• Understand that forestry regulators cannot also be a for-profit forestry operation – the regulator must be independent and only concerned with regulation for the good of the entire community as well as for forest health.
• Understand that the market is best left to commercial operators who will need to adhere to clear-cut, vigorous regulation and be treated equitably to offer a level playing field and a wise framework for all participants.
• Understand that large operators are likely to be much less efficient that smaller ones.
• Understand that communal forest ownership has proven to be beneficial to forests, timber production and the satisfaction of the population.
• Understand that the use of chemicals in forests should be avoided and serious research as to how to avoid it should be called in.
• Understand that in Tasmania ongoing public education regarding the role of forests and their management should be introduced. It is essential that such education be truthful, comprehensive and never resort to generating spin and secrecy to distort any aspect of forestry.
• Understand that badly managed forests and plantations can and should be subject to restoration management in order to give them more ecological stability, biodiversity and longevity. This may include returning them to agricultural land.
• Understand that some forests should indeed be protected from human interference, but it should be more a matter of quality than quantity. Current crude allocations should be re-examined via fine tuned, comprehensive protection criteria and verification on the ground.
• Understand that all production forests, including plantations, should be managed with utmost care and a genuine triple bottom line as a guideline at all times and all stages.
• Understand that the fertility of the forest ground needs precedence over residue exploitation by large industrial processes such as wood-fired powerplants. Promising emerging technologies such a pyrolysis for biochar should be followed closely and their use made mandatory, once research results are satisfactory.

I think you get the drift ….

There is of course a lot more to be addressed in a serious forestry law revision. But it is essential for a successful forestry policy that the starting point and the general spirit and direction are set in a different philosophical sphere from the one now in force.

By putting this submission to you I also request to present verbal evidence at a committee hearing in the hope of delivering a dose of much needed courage to the LegCo to turn around the forestry conundrum and make a decisive strategic step towards peace in the Tasmanian forest.

Looking forward to your invitation.

Best regards

Peter Brenner
Citizen and former Head of Information of the Swiss Timber Information Council (Lignum)