Tasmanian Times


Is the Tasmanian forest agreement collapsing?

On 18 May 2011, The Wilderness Society suspended its participation in Tasmania’s forest peace talks. Is this the beginning of the end for these negotiations?

Perhaps, but only because the solution emerging from the talks is predicated on a deal that many Tasmanians find objectionable.

What’s the background to this agreement?

In the dying days of the 2004 Commonwealth electoral campaign, Mark Latham, then leader of the opposition, offered the Tasmanian forest industry and its workers an $800 million restructuring package in exchange for protecting 250,000 hectares of high conservation value forests.

The proposal backfired, however, and the impressive package was spurned by Tasmanian politicians, industry and workers.

Those workers subsequently gave John Howard a standing ovation in the Albert Hall, Launceston, when he promised to abide by the terms of the 1997 Regional Forest Agreement, providing $50 million to reserve an additional 150,000 hectares.

In what has turned out to be a cruel irony, Howard also reassured them that no jobs would be lost in the forest industry.

In hindsight, it’s clear that Tasmania’s forest industry looked a gift horse in the mouth. But back in 2004, industry strategists were convinced that their high-volume, low-value, all-eggs-in-one basket industrial forest strategy was a winner.

Between 1999 and 2004, exports of hardwood woodchips from Tasmania almost doubled from 2.6 to 5.1 million tonnes. The industry launched its newly minted Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) certification scheme to prove its sustainability credentials to overseas buyers.

A booming Japanese market enabled Gunns, the State’s forestry behemoth, to earn $105 million in profits and Forestry Tasmania to return over $5 million to the State’s coffers.

Things were not as they seemed, however …

Read the full article, with full links on The Conversation HERE

Fred Gale is a member of the Forest Stewardship Council and a founding member of the Australian national inititive, FSC-Australia.

• You must remember this …
Examiner, 27 March 2008 Courtesy of Ross

• Meanwhile, today:
Million-dollar man

The Gunns Ltd Share Price, HERE

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


  1. Robert Gray

    June 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Fred Gale recalls the adoption of the Wilderness Society’s /ACF claim to reserve 250,000 hectares of high conservation value forests at the 2004 election. This cost the ALP’s and its leader Mark Latham, two House of Representative seats and one Tasmanian Senator, as well as the Federal election.

    He also points out that the Liberals John Howard trying for the same green preferences reserved an additional 150,000 hectares of forest. This HCV forest was in the Styx, the Florentine, eastern highlands and the Tarkine.

    With only 100,000 ha missing out, how come we now have a claim for 570,000 ha?

    Did the ACF and wilderness society miss this forest or did they hide HCV forest in the fine print. A map of the 2004 area is identical to the Greens Election map in 2010 and the same as the ET map produced last year to demand the 600,000 ha moratorium. The only change seems a few hectares to appease the West Wellington Protection Group. So just where are these extra hectares?

    Could we find them in Bob Brown’s little booklet on his proposed World Heritage extension that is demanding an increase from 1.4 million ha to 2.2 million ha? No, it only includes 157,000 ha of unreserved forest.

    Whilst green groups publicly preach openness and transparency, can Fred Gale identify just how much forest meets his FSC’s definition of HCV? Just what will Tasmania get for $100 million or $800 million of cash that would otherwise be used to fund vital infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and emergency services.

    Will we also be able to sell FSC certified forest products from these HCV forests as do the rest of the world? Who will maintain all these new reserves?

  2. lmxly

    June 19, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Just a couple of points.

    The Statement of Principles process was not ‘convened by the Tasmanian government’ #3. The only reason it happened is that the Tasmanian forest industry is no longer economically (let alone environmentally) viable; and the industry protagonists realised that to ‘exit with dignity’ (whatever that means!) they had to strike a deal with the conservationists – who not surprisingly grabbed the opportunity for all it was worth and milked for all they can get out of it.

    Now we have a situation where FIAT (Terry Edwards representing primarily Ta Ann and Brittons, since Gunns quit FIAT last year) is pushing an ambit claim that is way outside anything other players, let alone the Federal or State (maybe) governments will stomach. So Terry sends out his ‘we are a long way from a deal’ message because HE is a long way from getting what he wants; and echo chamber Chipmunk backs him up.

    FT, FIAT and TCA (Tasmania) are fighting a rearguard action – and our supine government has just allocated FT $3m in the budget for unspecified purposes. Go figure!

  3. VoiceofSanity

    June 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    #6 So you heard the same quote on the ABC news yesterday morning that I did.

    Congratulations Christopher – but you’re wrong.

  4. Merk

    June 19, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Despite being organisations purporting to represent the community, I can’t find any published information from Environment Tasmania Inc. nor Australian Conservation Foundation demonstrating an active membership, let alone majority support from the Tasmanian community.

    Can either of these organisations inform the TT readership about details of their next public meetings? If not, will they desist from their dishonest claims to represent any community, and admit that they are front groups for the unaccountable political agendas of private individuals?

    In other words, will the real ET/ACF “community” please stand up?

  5. Christopher Purcell

    June 19, 2011 at 12:22 am

    “The environmental movement at this point in time has got everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose,” asserted Barry Chipman from Timber Communities Australia.

    “They haven’t brought anything to the table at all,” Mr Chipman said.

    “The environmental movement is NOT prepared to ‘work’ with the forest industry. They have brought nothing to the table.” VoiceofSanity

    Is this forestry’s ‘line’ or did you slip up Bazza?

  6. Mike Adams

    June 18, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    And, Voice of Sanity, very many more groups have been urging the Japanese to stop their ‘scientific’ whaling with little result.
    Seems the Japanese are quite able to make their own minds up, don’t you think?

  7. Pete Godfrey

    June 18, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    #2 Voice of Sanity appears to have missed the plot.
    The Japanese paper companies wanted to get FSC certification for their products, because it gave them a better price for the products and also more environmental credentials. The industry here refused to even contemplate getting FSC and demanded that the Japanese accepted their own home grown standard the AFS4708. It is not good business practice to tell the buyer that they are wrong.
    Second point the environment groups did not need to take anything to the table. The industry had self imploded by their own hands. The fact that the environment movement were even prepared to talk to them was a major concession.
    The woochip industry here have had it all their way for the last 40 years, with a Billion dollars in subsidies, cheap wood and a very compliant government and media. It is time they gave something back.
    Everything you are accusing the green groups of is a mirror of the industries stance.
    Just look and you will see.

  8. john hayward

    June 18, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Can anyone identify the “principle” involved with Gunns pocketing more than ten times the profits than FT on its re-sale of wood bought from the latter? Does it start with “C”?

    The “community” representatives at the secret Roundtable talks convened by the Tasmanian Government consists of a TCA almost wholly funded by NAFI, and a CFMEU renowned for its warm ties to industry. The two NGOs who haven’t walked out are both significantly dependent on the government teat.

    Forestry is probably the most environmentally destructive industry in the world. Our local reps, Gunns and FT, are respectively broke or living on public charity. No one in government has ever begun to weigh the collateral costs to the community and environment of their operations.

    So what are we doing playing charades with these rogues?

    John Hayward

  9. VoiceofSanity

    June 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Fred Gale needs to tease out some points

    1. Gale – a growing Asian preference for FSC (not AFS) certified timber.

    Why? FSC has been corrupted in Australia to essentially mean native forest logging will never be able to comply.

    2. Gale – a shift in Japanese buyer preferences away from native forest sources.

    Why? Green groups effectively lobbied the Japanese against native forest sources using simplistic, misleading and erroneous arguments.
    Also, by indicating a desire to build it’s own pulp mill in Tasmania, Gunns became a competitor to the Japanese paper mills, and they made a decision to source pulp from other sources. Pointedly, the Japanese paper mills continue to source pulp from the mainland states.

    3. Gale – the industry realised it needed to restructure and ‘work’ with it’s environmental foes.

    Why? The environmental movement is NOT prepared to ‘work’ with the forest industry. They have brought nothing to the table. They oppose ‘a’ or ‘the’ pulp mill but still insist on their full complement of so called ‘High Conservation Forests’. The green movement is incapable of compromise. If it does agree to some sort of deal, it will commence it’s next phase of anti-forest activism the very next day.

  10. Join The Dots

    June 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    How can The Wilderness Society suspend participation in the talks when they are a member of Environment Tasmania who are still representing them in the talks? Sorry but this article is too little, too late. Tasmanian Times was sent much more damning evidence than this over the past months but chose to keep it quiet.

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