Tasmanian Times


Forest Principles not Healthy Community Principles

We applaud the attempt to begin to resolve this running sore in the body politic of the Tasmanian community, that as lifelong residents of Tasmania, and particularly of rural Tasmania, we have witnessed as part of a community rent asunder for the better part of 30 years. We welcome the fact that traditional adversaries in this conflict have been prepared to sit down and resolve some of their differences.

We note, however, that seven of the ten signatories to the Principles were from one of the cluster of groups with vested interests.

Furthermore, we all know that there are more than two sides to this issue. The major player missing in the roundtable discussion was the Tasmanian community. The point here is that the forestry issue in Tasmania is fundamentally a whole of community issue, because forestry in this State impacts on the lives of all of us, whether it be working in the forestry or related industries, volunteering for an environmental group ….or for that matter, having your fence kicked in because you display signs saying “Save Our Water!”

In Tasmania, then, we are all stakeholders in the forestry issue. The process undertaken here has effectively marginalised the majority of stakeholders. Having been employed in community work for many years, we know that any community consultation process must begin with the identification and participation of all affected stakeholder groups, not merely the cherry picking of selected groups. This is about broad principles of successful community development work, including empowerment and social justice. Otherwise, it just smacks of cronyism, raising the questions of who gets to select the groups and what is the process by which they are selected? It follows that it should not be surprising when the disempowered feel suspicious of a process from which they have been excluded.

We are concerned, therefore, that the process undertaken is not a legitimate process, but merely an exercise by two clusters of the many groups of players in this issue to create, consciously or not, a false consensus around very complex issues in order to meet short-term and expedient aims. This, we believe, is a recipe for failure because such a process cannot hope to meet the complex needs of a community with long-standing and far-reaching interests. Some may claim it is a start, and perhaps it is. Nonetheless, we believe it is an ill-conceived start, and that one needs to start how one means to finish, otherwise actions and solutions to the myriad of issues will be half-baked and superficial.

The principle listed as “Communities Impacted” does not mention consultation with communities that may be impacted; it suggests that communities WILL be impacted by the implementation of these principles. As night follows day, we can be assured that groups excluded from this process will not be happy or supportive of this impact. Additionally, what does “Community Engagement” mean in this context? Principles of community development require that community engagement starts at the beginning of the process, not after the framework has been developed. Having worked in eight different Tasmanian and Federal Government agencies, this smacks too much of the “top down, bottom up” approach encountered in some agencies , which effectively operates as “top down”; forget the “bottom up”. The agenda, at the moment, is set by those at the top to achieve the outcome they want.

Similarly, both of us having worked over many years, with and alongside a number of environmental-based organisations and connected individuals in Tasmania, it would seem that some of these have been rather autocratic in their decision-making processes. It is democratic rather than autocratic processes we would hope to see in place under a community development model.

Curiously, the second last principle is named as “Durability”. That is, the parties to this Statement of Principles want to make any agreements that result from these principles, long-lasting by making sure they stick. The closest community development principle to this is “sustainability”, which is about decisions and actions that hold up over time and which can be maintained because principles have been developed through a valid process that has the agreement of all stakeholders. Durability sounds like something which is a bit of patch-up job; just pop some sticky tape on the issue and hope it all holds together!

Perhaps we are being overly sceptical here; we hope so. However, in terms of a healthy and vibrant community, which is our main focus, we see little to inspire us in the process that led to the signing of this document. This document does not herald a major breakthrough in the 30-year conflict over forestry plaguing our beloved Tasmania, at least in terms of community health and wellbeing. Many of the stakeholders rightly stated that they were made to stand outside the door when they had a right to sit at the table from Day One. From a community development perspective, they are absolutely right to feel disenfranchsied; they were, and the relevant community development principle not applied here was “inclusiveness”.

For this heart-shaped isle riven down the middle, we need more than minor surgery by a small cluster of narrowly focussed groups; this is a major operation and we all have a part to play.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Robin Halton

    October 28, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Hello Frank,
    This morning I have drafted a letter under the Article ” A second report on the first forest forum, Kim Booths photo. I have provided some useful information to encourage a look into Biomass. It may act as a guide for the ill informed knockers, I am looking at it from both a silvicultural, and a value adding perspective not necessarily for the purpose of electricity generation. I think you would be interested particularly with the silvicultural aspects. See you tonight.

  2. Frank Strie

    October 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Hello Robin Halton#8
    :” The same applies for the regeneration treatment for native forests, the the highly imaginative Bohemians hanging around the fringes of today’s forestry society are only dreamers. They had better back off now and leave regrowing native forests to the experts with their well proven methodology spanning 40 years of practice and scientific proof.” ===

    So you suggest here we should just let the same old guard of Tasmania’s forest conversion leaders the very home grown “foresters” that have created this low grade mess to continue with a few minor changes?
    The logging era over the last 25 years since I first visited Tassie has created lots and lots and lots of thin regrowth, with a high of sapwood and knotty core wood. Then since 1998 the “Tasmanian Forestry Growth Plan” was pulled out of the drawer without public consultation post the 1997 RFA, these very same people have created the E.nitens crops.
    I say the whole upper deck needs to be sacked and then individuals that can think holistic quality management may like to reapply.
    I seriously can not see how the people that created the low grade, knotty regrowth and low grade E. nitens landscape cancer will bring about real change.
    They had their golden opportunity to produce pulpwood chips from the wood that was unsuitable for higher grade. They had the chance to value ad towards high quality “working forests”, but now all they have done was “close down” – demolish the timber factories. That is where we are now.
    Time should be up for the ones at the helm of the softwood plantation mismanagement etc. etc.
    Time will tell.
    Robin, I think we (you and I) met first close to two decades now.
    Hope to catch up with you in Hobart at the tt evening for a friendly and fair discussion.

  3. William Boeder

    October 27, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Right from the very beginning of this exercise of round Table talks there was a secret agenda implicit in what the supposed Tasmanian Timber Industry were seeking in these talks.
    How now do we see ranters of the pro-forestry push, claiming something along the lines of a 30 year transition period required to exit the blatant clear-felling of our Forests?
    The entire process should be properly identified as to the sham it has shown itself to be?

    The sooner this is realized, the better for truth honesty and openness of government in Tasmania.

    The publicists have got hold of this round-table talk and expanded them way beyond its initial purpose.

  4. Phil Lohrey

    October 27, 2010 at 1:43 am

    John and Dee are right to welcome an attempt to resolve forest conflict. They qualify their sentiment. As they point out, this attempt quickly became a top-down, non-inclusive and non-transparent process. The entire community remains affected yet only defined interests have been represented.

    Conflict resolution has never and will never work this way. No social licence can be claimed with lack of due process. Unfortunately this must be made clear to the mass media before it is too late to stop powerful interests from exploiting superficial reform.

  5. amyb

    October 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    “You are right. But it is too late. The people have spoken. They have been brainwashed into what to say.”

    Indeed you have, Mark.

  6. Mark Wybourne

    October 25, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Good grief, I am amazed at how I continue to be astounded at some the conclusions that people come to on this site.

    Take # 9 for example. Does anyone want me to explain to them why it is so staggeringly wrong in so many ways??

    Honestly, I can’t believe it.

    And # 8. You are right. But it is too late. The people have spoken. They have been brainwashed into what to say. The forest industry was inept in its communications.

  7. lmxly

    October 25, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    I cannot understand why the local sawmilling industry should fold. We know that only 10% of native forest timber is used for sawlogs – 90% goes to woodchips. And current estimates are that 10% of the current hardwood plantation resource is suitable for sawlog – and the other 90%, all that useless E.nitens is actually better for woodchips. So what’s the difference?

    Terry Edwards is talking through his hat when he says it will take 30 years to grow plantation hardwood suitable for sawlog. He implies that the WHOLE plantation resource is grown for that use, which is nonsense – just like claiming that native forest logging is sawlog driven!

  8. Robin Halton

    October 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    In todays Mercury 26th Oct. HOT TOPIC-FORESTRY. No Substitute: letter by PJ Bennett Blackmans Bay, makes it very clear plantation grown Eucalypt is an unsuitable for quality sawn timber. His extensive descriptions are correct and there is no disputing of the fact that the stuff is basically only good for pulp! I know a few builders who have used it, as it is hard to nail, Radiata is preferable when native grown Eucalypt is not being used for building construction. How are the remaining Crown sawmillers expected to diversify is the big question? Do we want to see the industry squeezed out to be reimbursed by Federal handouts giving way to cheap imports from third world countries without proper forest practices ethics? I wont see the local sawmilling industry fold! The same applies for the regeneration treatment for native forests, the the highly imaginative Bohemians hanging around the fringes of today’s forestry society are only dreamers. They had better back off now and leave regrowing native forests to the experts with their well proven methodology spanning 40 years of practice and scientific proof. Without question this time round we need to aim for a local based forest industry that is sawlog driven with a mix of mature Euculaypt and Radiata.

  9. Russell

    October 25, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Re #6
    So Robin, you are a sawmiller or forest worker? It’s refreshing to hear another of your like adding their opinion. Obviously you were also kept out of the roundtable discussions and it seems, as most here believed already, the whole farce was about Gunns and Gunns only.

    I hope you understand that what most people here are arguing for is that Gunns and FT are left to dissolve into history and to let real sawmillers and foresters like yourself who actually care about the resource and future of your industry to quickly fill the void.

    We don’t actually “shit can the whole industry,” just those who shit can the resource from within. Gunns and FT have proved time and time again, backed by your own observations, that they are incapable of making a decent decision.

    No-one here has ever said lock the whole lot up. We want it managed by people who will treat it like it was needed far far into the future, as it used to be before the woodchippers gained total control.

  10. Robin Halton

    October 25, 2010 at 3:01 am

    I cannot state what Gunns will do, that is between them, the Federal and State government’s and the people who are claiming to be directly affected by the mill. I am a pro forestry person however I was disappointed with former Premier Paul Lennon who changed the assessment process and of cause this resulted in making people suspicious! For me the pulp mill “business” is bloody ambigious and for those who are anti forestry, it suits their agenda to shit can the industry overall and that make me very angry too. There is no way I would support any compensation for Gunns as the Old Growth resource is virtually cut out anyway. Hopefully the remaining OG should be mixed with mature regrowth (age 80-110 yrs) to yield decent quality sawn timber and extending the available resource for the remaining sawmillers. That E nitens rubbish is only good for pulp mill feedstock as it was first intended, isnt that why FEA shutdown, nobody wanted the Eco rubbish it produced. It is a pity that FT sold off the management of their P radiata resource (thanks to Rolley and Lennon in 1999) when pruned cuts high quality sawn timber. When Gunns purchase the FEA mill they will effectively be cutting the entire crown P radiata resource.
    Its a hectic time for the industry and from what I have read so far, the peace talks are nothing more than a farce and only generate more uncertainty.

  11. Russell

    October 24, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    I think “durability” is forest-speak for “enforcement by legislation.” Similar to, if not the same as, Section 11 of the PMAA.

  12. bob hawkins

    October 24, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    #1. Greg Hall, MLC (Examiner, this week’s Tasmanian Country and probably elsewhere) goes on about the “best interests of Tasmania” vis-à-vis forestry. We all know that is an impossibility because our society is far too fractured for him to be a man to meet the interests of all.

    But poll after poll shows that most Tasmanians want our forests protected, and especially not exploited uneconomically, which is the story of most of the state’s forestry industries. They are notorious for putting huge sums of money into a few pockets yet paying paltry rewards to all the participating battlers that so naively and grimly cling to their loss-making traditional work styles.

    For example, I feel for all those owners of hugely expensive and costly to run timber wagons who every day find themselves deeper in debt yet unable to let go because they are dependent on below-cost cash flows to keep their families fed and housed. And, even if they did want to let go, no one who had studied the economics of forestry would want to buy their equipment.

    What is the answer? How about the government telling all the little people of the industry, “Take 10 years pay and get out!” That should be compensation enough for them all to be trained in, or to find, other ways of making a better living — and it would save the taxpayers a lot of money.

    In the meantime, instead of government pouring good money after bad into an unviable forestry industry, it could be putting it into health, education, renewable energy, child protection . . . It would be winners all round apart from the tiny handful that pocket millions at the expense of those who slavishly do their bidding. And, as the commercials say, there would be an “added free bonus”: Tasmania could truthfully sell itself as “clean and green”.

    — Bob Hawkins

  13. Concerned Resident

    October 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    The deal that these, so called, representatives have brokered with the timber industry means absolutely nothing because, as I understand, nothing is to change for the next 30 years, also for an in principal agreement to work, you need to have signatories who have actually got principles, and I don’t see it in any of the signing representatives. The community should have had major input, but the powers that be have kept us locked out of the discussions, thinking that they know best what we need and want. Our ancient forests will still be demolished to cater for the ridiculous agreement that was signed by our forestry minded Lab/lib gov’ts. Clearfelling will continue at a phenominal rate so the number of monocultures can multiply rapidly to supply the filthy pulp mill that will inevitabley be forced upon us. The rate that the forest industries are going we will wind up being a desert state with monocultures sucking every last drop of water and the native forests dying through lack of water, foodbowls being so dry and not surviving along with crops and meat producers. The powerful few will have money, but that will not sustain life, not even their own when there is no food to be had.

  14. Mike Bolan

    October 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks John & Dee for a breath of fresh air on this situation.

    As a professional consultant, my experience in community consultation is entirely consistent with theirs.

    When I analyse the outputs from the round table so far I note that:-

    1) the community’s money along with forests, land and water (required for plantation to grow) are being secretly negotiated without the community’s consent or involvement

    2) The ‘principles’ are not principles, they are negotiated desires of the groups involved (principles are fundamental norms, rules or values that help to determine the rightness or wrongness of actions)

    3) The structure of the round table is heavily biased towards one group (forestry) whose agenda is to access public resources

    4) There are no policing arrangements to assure compliance with the agreements, nor penalties defined for breaches

    5) The effect of the ‘principles’ is to lock in one particular resource (land/water/forest) use to one industry (forestry) without exploration of the opportunity costs (which will be borne by everyone else). The value of the arrangement is likely to be in the billions of dollars range.

    These problems are severe and present the appearance of a process clapped together to satisfy an immediate requirement without reference to providing the protections normally associated with such major decisions.

    Reading the so-called ‘principles’ I am entirely unable to discover what benefits accrue to the community itself although I can identify many costs and impacts.

  15. phill Parsons

    October 24, 2010 at 9:48 am

    What will communities see flow from this deal. Gunns will press ahead with their pulpmill at the same time trying to convince the community is it is not the ogre many believe it will be. The Legislative Council has set the natural [native]forestry agenda [G Hall MLC Letters The Ex 21OCT] with a business as usual agenda backed by FIAT’s 30 year phase in of plantations line [30 year phase out of natural forest]. Private forests biodiversity values will not be protected without a willing land owner and the thing that makes many willing [$] is not yet flagged. Many of these owners want to exploit their forests. You may say such exploitation will be limited by the Forest Practices System but we have seen this system in action for some years now and it is yet to gain credibility outside of its own industry. O’Connor of the Forestry Division of the CFMEU has said that natural forest logging is kaput and their will need to be a change to plantations and an investment in processing that product. MD rural and regional communities may feel threatened by the changes in water use required by the climate and over allocation now. As more private freehold land goes into plantations these same communities will need to control that if more Preolenna’s are not to abound nationally.

    The 3 conservation groups may have won the agreement of industry to change but now the real politic comes into play and the outcome in the forests will be driven by industry players acting separately in the seats of power under the deal Paul Lennon brokered.

    Communities can expect a long period of more of the same industry with its plantations and clearfells, its log trucks speeding under cost pressures, its damage to catchments and water supplies and the continuing wind down of employment for 320,000ha of forest reserved.

    More change is necessary and a smart industry will drive that to reduce community opposition.

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