Tasmanian Times


Our Common Ground and Plantations

IN ORDER to maintain the status quo, sections of the forest industry, in particular Forestry Tasmania, strongly argue the need to continue industrial native forest clear fell logging, which is heavily subsidized by the Tasmanian taxpayer.

The Tasmanian community strongly opposes the destruction of our native forests.

The timber industry needs to immediately begin the transition to growing, managing, harvesting and processing our plantations. At the same time the industry needs to ensure the plantations are managed in way that is sustainable and socially acceptable and work with the community to introduce innovative new eco-forestry models.

The community can expect Forestry Tasmania will use the real and legitimate community concerns around plantations as a wedge to ensure they can continue to log and burn Tasmania’s ancient wild forests and rainforests.

Plantations are by definition planted specifically for the purpose of timber production. They can be single, multi, native or non-native species. There are a wide variety of species that can be grown and numerous different ways plantations can be managed.

The species cultivated range from Blackwood for high value uses, to fast growing species specifically for the pulp fibre market, pine for building or long rotation eucalypts for veneer or sawn timber.

Again like other primary production activities there are a number of different management systems. Some use chemicals with unacceptable environmental impacts. Plantations established without appropriate water catchment management plans or that use toxic chemicals, will have negative impacts on our water resources.

Some plantations are located in the wrong location and will need to be relocated and the area converted back to native forest or farmland to be used for more appropriate or valuable agricultural crops. It is our challenge as a community to fix these problems and resolve the management of Tasmanian’s existing plantations.

The Tasmanian community will need to ensure the right path is taken into the future that is both ecologically sustainable and socially acceptable. This may mean diversifying the tree crops and replacing some species with different more appropriate alternatives.

This may also mean introducing eco and restoration forestry techniques that have been applied well in Europe to build a more healthy & resilient mixed native species system. While multi-species plantations will never be the complex and diverse ecosytems of our wild native forests which need protecting, introduction of differing mixes of native species could go a long way to over coming some of the problems of monoculture plantations.

Another challenge will be to develop longer rotations, thinning and other techniques to re-focus our plantation management on more jobs intensive solid wood products rather than on low-value high-volume commodity wood-chip production.

Tasmania already has a mix of plantation types. Into the future careful examination and planning of the mix of plantation types and management regimes is absolutely essential.

There is some community concern over the dominance of non-native Eucalyptus Nitens. The mix of species needs to be examined and appropriate action taken to ensure our plantations meet markets demands and industry requirements, are ecologically sustainable, socially acceptable and do not impact on human health.

The critical factor is that plantations are planted for the specific purpose of producing timber. They are not forests. Forests are bio diverse and complex eco systems.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the ongoing MIS tax-payer subsidized expansion of plantations across the Tasmanian landscape, particularly across northern Tasmania. This has caused too much anger, disempowerment and division. It needs to end.

With nearly 300,000 hectares, it is clear that there are now more than enough plantations in Tasmania for a vibrant, innovative and jobs rich timber industry without continuing to destroy our wild native forests. We now need our politicians to act incisively on behalf of the communities they represent.

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  1. Dave Groves

    January 29, 2010 at 8:52 am

    It was lucky you alerted them John.

    Think of all the taxpayer dollars you have saved, paying all those officers over the years since the division was axed…..

    I’ve just been scanning the Tasmanian thesaurus for “fraud” and have found a synonym that refers to “world’s best practice”…I’ll keep searching….

  2. john Hayward

    January 28, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Nearly everyone above is arguing on the basis of the public interest, environmental rationality, or fairness, none of which are on the FT table. What about good old criminality? The nearly 78,000ha of mainly State Forest plantation seemingly gifted to FT as freehold in 2000-01 does not appear in FT inventories since that time. It was all in the north of the state.

    It would seem, theoretically, a good time to contact the Fraud Squad. I did, about five years ago, not long before it was disbanded.

    John Hayward

  3. Dave Groves

    January 28, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Interesting times indeed Frank.

    We are getting toward the pointy end now.

    The final curtain in sight perhaps???

  4. Frank Strie, FWM

    January 28, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Well made points John Maddock.
    Dave Groves mentioned Merv Wilkinson. Good point.
    I recall being one of the drivers behind the discussions in Prospect offices at Private Forests Tasmania… it was in 1995!
    We watched the Video Restoration Forestry- Merv Wilkinson “Thinking like a forest”.
    You should have guessed it, na not in Tassie Mate!

    The two opposing sides Environment versus Industry had one thing in common: “Don’t you come along with this stuff from Europe and anyhow the Northern Hamisphere!
    One then laud and leading professional “Envirionmentalist” said to me around that time in Hobart: “Keep your Ecoforestry Ideas in Europe – where the forests f…t and stuffed anyway”.
    Now, some 15 years later after some people thought to use the Nazi flag against my suggestions and information provided for free.
    Forestry Tasmania and the Industry bosses had a free run!! No realistic alternative , how great is that??!! If “The Greenies” can’t make up their mind, we better get into full swing!
    An yes they have…
    The 1996/ 97 RFA was setting the go and no go areas up. Then in 1998 the intensive forestry program / the growth plan followed.
    The rest is so sad that it makes me emotional!
    When I listened to the short news item on ABC radio this morning, with Julian Amos of FIAT talking about “Extreemist’s Positions” in regard to OCG, he is clearly looking for a soft way out of the icy cold water that is soon going to enter the ‘Titanic’.
    They had their chance,I say, they have created this situation, way back in 1989 in 68 York Street!
    The Iceberg is here. I suggested a directional change back then, in my role as the Forest Industries Training Development Officer.
    I left the top deck and ended on the infamous “Black List”.
    Interesting times ahead.

  5. Dave Groves

    January 28, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Plantations again.

    Current practices do not work….at all.

    Inspired tax minimisation schemes call for short rotation “crops” which are evident on the occasional jinker, chipper bound, but witness copious volumes of native forest, conveniently splintered.

    Countries in Southern America, churn plantations at rates, that leave this state cold.

    If they really want a “jobs rich” forest industry, they should check blokes like Merv Wilkinson, in BC, who makes a great fist of working forests in small communities, with maximum yield, and diversity of contents.

    Perhaps a really good model to start with in Tassie?

    Just add some technology, savvy marketing, and things are looking better already……

    They are definitely not “job rich”.

    I think this group needs to focus on the primary driver for new plantations and rabid native forest eradication…..the proposed pulp mill.

    Remove that from the equation, as well as the seemingly endless subsidies, and the multitude of problems that plantations generate will disappear.

  6. Izzy

    January 27, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    #2 (1) That’s right, FT can’t do it. No problem growing Tasmanian blackwood plantations in New Zealand though: http://www.generation-4.co.nz/specs/nzblackwoodspecs.html
    (2) This is too simplistic. FT generate low returns for all Tas wood products in part because the industry has no market brand credibility and in part because the mass smash and grab operations flood the market with wood and therefore drive down prices.
    (3)The forest industry in Tas isn’t focusing on specialty timbers. We need to look how other areas have CREATED these markets. Think Ikea.

  7. John Maddock

    January 27, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Since writing the above, another thought has crossed my mind.

    How much fossil energy is embodied in (say) a cubic metre of straight, sawn plantation timber, compared to a cubic metre of sawn timber from native forests?

    With no figures to work from, my guess is “a hell of a lot more”. Not kosher, assuming you believe in the need to restrict carbon production, and another reason to seriously look at site-specific selective harvesting.

    The time for clearfell and burn is long gone, and I doubt that plantations can supply what the industry supporters like to call “high quality eucalypt sawlogs” – not that I wish to give any oxygen to the industry supporters!

    And another thought regarding high quality timber. Plantations are designed to produce wood very quickly, but I think all who know their timber would agree that quality timber comes from trees which have grown at a much slower rate than plantation trees. Enter the 30 year rule!

    Not only that, if you double the diameter of the log, you get (roughly) 4 times the timber.

    John Maddock

  8. Justa Bloke

    January 27, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I endorse what John Maddock said (#2). Rod talks of a mix, but it would be more instructive to see the actual proportions of nitens to the rest.

    My observation in the North-west and North-east inclines me to believe that it’s something like 85% or more nitens for woodchips for pulp for disposable end product. And that means greenhouse gases because the carbon doesn’t stay in the wood.

    The best long-term economic value to be gained from our trees (native forest or plantation) is as carbon sinks.

  9. Mike Cassidy

    January 27, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    When considering land use patterns, water availability (for domestic consumers, irrigators, town supplies, environmental flows etc) must have priority over growing wood.

    Water yields from catchments begin falling when pulp mill feedstock (trees growing in straight lines) occupy more than about 8% of the catchment area (hydrological work by David Leaman).

    Nearly all of the 24 major catchments in the north have more than 8% pulp plantation cover and some are at 50%.

    I hope that the Common Ground people take this on board and persuade their financial backers to fund adverts raising public knowledge and pressuring our deaf and blind politicians.

    Mike Cassidy

  10. John Maddock

    January 27, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Mr West wrote:

    “The species cultivated range from Blackwood for high value uses, to fast growing species specifically for the pulp fibre market, pine for building or long rotation eucalypts for veneer or sawn timber.”

    From my scrutiny of the industry over the last few years, I doubt that we’ll see any of the following:

    1. Plantation grown blackwood (I understand FT has given up on this as too difficult)

    2. Long rotation eucalypts (at a Senate hearing in Hobart some years ago a senior FT manager – Mr.Smith?- let slip that 30 years was the magic age to recover their money. Older than that and compound interest eliminated profit).

    3. I believe Gunns now has only one veneer mill operating (open to correction on that) at Somerset, for special species timbers. I can’t see plantation timber having any decorative value – maybe someone would like to comment on the decorative value of the Ta Ann veneers.

    While I strongly agree that high value products are our only future hope, in my view, the only way to get these is site-specific selective logging of existing mature forests. Why has FT buried its report on the Warra 8G selective harvesting trial, which, as I understand it, was safe and profitable although did not allow the regeneration of eucalypts that FT wanted.

    I think OCG members still have a few things to learn. I hope they apply themselves pronto.

  11. Garry Stannus

    January 27, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Much food for thought here, though I would rather see the word ‘removal’ used in place of ‘relocation’, as in:

    “Some plantations are located in the wrong location and will need to be REMOVED [not ‘relocated’] and the area converted back to native forest or farmland to be used for more appropriate or valuable agricultural crops.”

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