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.