Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

The rabid attachment to the past

The rabid attachment to the past by the Forestry Minister Paul Harriss is an heroic act in the twilight of the problem, but an utterly forlorn hope. The die is cast and has been for a long time.

Recreating the forestry industry of the past including financial sweeteners of dubious legitimacy only recreates a past of dubious legitimacy in the conduct of forestry in Tasmania.

It was an industry of pioneering entrepreneurs and struggling small business but also of cowboys and opportunists, with a history of gross waste and environmental indifference.

The collapse of the forestry industry with the demise of Gunns and the appalling MIS tax plan concocted by Costello has left a residue of financial pain, anger and frustration.

It is real and justified but anyone who believes the future lies in the past is deluded. Step back from the issue; take a broader historical perspective and the elements become clearer.

It may seem ridiculous but the best comparison is Japan in the 1600s. After the rise of the Tokagawa Shogunate, exploitation of forests soared causing real problems.

By 1700 the consequences of environmental degradation were clear and the central government stepped in to severely control logging and to actively re-afforestate.

By 1800 forest cover was restored and has remained that way since. You now have to put up your granny as guarantee before you cut down anything.

Today 74% of Japan is forested …

Today 74% of Japan is forested. Let me repeat it because no-one will believe it – 74% forest reserve, the most wooded area of Asia, compared with 13% in China. What this demonstrates is that the issue is old and universal, not some recent invention by born again Bob Browns.

Ironically, while conserving its own resource, Japan has ruthlessly exploited less rigorous regimes elsewhere, first Tasmania (in the past) and now places like Brazil.

The problem is just that – a loose regime of exploitation in the past that has led to the present dilemma.

Along with that has been a callous company culture of community indifference.

Gunns has done more damage to northeast Tasmania than any government policy …

Make no mistake, Gunns has done more damage to northeast Tasmania than any government policy, yet the community rallied to their support – and was treated like dirt.

We can visit the past, ascribe blame and wish for better but it will change nothing. There is a forestry future – not as large as before – plantation based, more specialised and professional, but a sound and vibrant future nonetheless.

It will take time, initiative and enterprise, which is no consolation to those decimated by previous policy, but it will happen.

Ironically it is another disastrous government decision that provides part of the solution. The massive MIS schemes – rolled gold tax evasion for city slickers – left huge forest plantations that are now not worth a crumpet yet these in part will be the foundation of a future sustainable industry.

They may be worthless now but they don’t stop growing and if managed and not neglected (a real issue) their worth will be realized.

Be bitter by all means but be resolute as well. A future forestry industry is a reality if the build begins now.

*Dr Michael Powell is Lecturer in History, University of Tasmania.

SUNDAY July 5 …

• Peter Henning in Comments: It was just a couple of weeks ago that Rick Pilkington raised the issue of the repetitive nature of the debate taking place on TT, over and over, not moving on, but stuck, with the same old stuff, arguing strongly that it was actually wrecking the site, turning people away, turning them off. It’s a good point, but my response then was that Tasmania hasn’t changed since the Tasmanian parliament licked Gunns’ boots and did their bidding, hasn’t learned, doesn’t want to and won’t. Gunns has been replaced by others, that’s all. The politicians want to pursue the same policies they always have in relation to forestry. We shouldn’t forget that after the collapse of Gunns there was still great hope within the Giddings government and then the Hodgman government that the pulp mill would rise from the dead and pollute the Tamar Valley for decades into the future, sucking public funds into its maw like a huge vacuum. It is beyond strange that this stuff keeps going round and round. It’s like a recurrent disease. Maybe we should identify the obsession with clear-felling water catchments of their vegetation for woodchips which have to be subsidised to sell, then napalming the clear-felled site in order to eliminate competition for monocultural exotic p[lantations which will never earn a buck, as Easter Island syndrome. …

• Simon Warriner in Comments: re 8, so what to do about this dismal, atrocious and sad situation, Peter? That is what we are all searching for isn’t it? We could agitate for a corruption inquiry, but the mainstream media here quite obviously cannot be bothered getting off its collective arse to give it the push it needs even when the math as presented by independent rep Wilkie in the federal parliament is beyond question. no go there. We could wait for the greens to use their collective political clout with the media to get the issue up. no go there either as the greens in their infinite wisdom have supported the plantation industry. We could babble endlessly on Tasmanian Times but that is quite clearly not getting us anywhere …

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Peter Henning

    July 7, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    #11 Thanks Karl. But even given that Forico, or Ta Ann, or any other wannabee Gunns sought to follow the same path to just get hold of the land without turning a woodchip dollar it doesn’t make any sense without some kind of money laundering from public funds, does it?

    Can’t see the logic there, but then there’s no eco-socio-enviro logic in anything to do with the forestry ‘industry’ of rip-off merchants, crooks and political parasites is there?

    The whole issue of forestry in Tasmania is so riddled with corruption, cronyism and misuse of public funds that it’s just part of the essential body politic, there to stay forever.

  2. Russell

    July 7, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Re #1
    “The Japanese peoples response was simple as they asked. – Why do you let us do it???????”

    Exactly the same can be said about whaling.

  3. Karl Stevens

    July 6, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Peter Henning 10. I’ve spent a bit of time studying Forico. On one level they are logging company but on another level the are a ‘financial services’ company.

    They are really the ‘front end’ for investment funds. Fund managing was also a segment of Gunns operation, but Forico has taken it to the next level which involves ‘tax havens’ (in their case Jersey).

    Because they are using pension funds, vast amounts of money can be ‘skimmed off’. I would go so far as to say Forico are probably ‘ripping-off’ the UK trade union pension funds that invest in global tree plantations.

    When you realise this it all makes sense.

    The UK pension funds could make twice as much from tropical tree plantations, but they are run by accountants who don’t know anything about trees. The underlying ‘security guarantee’ for the fund managers is most likely the land itself because the trees are over-priced and yield is disappointing.

    All this explains why Forico appointed a British FSC auditing company. They want to keep the paper trail ‘in house’ as they say.

    It also doesn’t matter how many streams they pollute because this is only a place to export convicts to isn’t it?

  4. Peter Henning

    July 6, 2015 at 12:52 am

    #9 The point is that Gunns might have gone but others have now taken their place. Nothing has changed.

    Companies like Ta Ann and Forico are doing their best to maintain a low public profile while intent upon pursuing the same path of Gunns.

    In essence this means a continuation of past practices into the future, involving the establishment of exotic monocultural plantations in sensitive water catchments, clear-felling, sterilisation burning, soil erosion, aerial spraying, habitat destruction and so on.

    Forico, for example, have made no secret of their intention to replicate the practices of Gunns in their forestry operations, and their intention to generate the same mass product for years into the future.

    One could be forgiven for asking how they expect to make a living from woodchips in a post-woodchip world, except by ripping off the public purse, but it’s a question that Forico needs to answer before they take the place of Gunns and inherit its name and reputation.

    Not the answer you’d like to hear, I know, but the best one I can give in the circumstances.

    If you’re looking for a Hollywwod solution mate, that’s something you’ll have to ask of someone else.

  5. Simon Warriner

    July 4, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    re 8, so what to do about this dismal, atrocious and sad situation, Peter? That is what we are all searching for isn’t it?

    We could agitate for a corruption inquiry, but the mainstream media here quite obviously cannot be bothered getting off its collective arse to give it the push it needs even when the math as presented by independent rep Wilkie in the federal parliament is beyond question. no go there.

    We could wait for the greens to use their collective political clout with the media to get the issue up. no go there either as the greens in their infinite wisdom have supported the plantation industry.

    We could babble endlessly on Tasmanian Times but that is quite clearly not getting us anywhere.

    Or we could set about changing the very nature of our representative political system by filling it with representatives who are prepared to look at ALL perspectives, whose allegiance is only to their role as representatives of their electorate, and who come to decisions based on pursuit of the widest common good. That would be a long, hard road, but it is the only one I can see that has better than a snowballs hope in hell of addressing the tsunami of systemic failure and corruption that has brought us to the present situation. Had that jpurney been embarked upon when the plantation cluster fuck was first mooted by Abetz and Tuckey we might now be at a point where sensible decisions were being made. Better late than never, perhaps?

    Doing that requires a letting go of our own prejudiced thinking and trusting that collective wisdom, if divined and acted upon, will get us to a better place than backing the political party that least represents everything we find abhorrent, which is how most people now regard the way we do democracy at present.

    If anyone has an alternative suggestion I am most interested to see it.

    “in an archaic system intelligence is additive, in a hierarchical system it is subtractive”.

  6. Peter Henning

    July 3, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    #4 Well Alison, it’s like a broken down old carousel going round and round on the same spot, isn’t it?

    Same old music, same old rusty horse mannequins spruced up with a coat of leftover veneer to make it look a bit different.

    One would have thought that the drop-dead-dumb idea of Plantation Isle disappeared with the spectacular collapse of MIS Nitens Nirvana into its ponzi quagmire of greed and systemic socio-economic and environmental exploitation and corruption.

    But no, the lessons of the past decade and more have been gratuitously ignored. It’s as if all the discussion of the destructive character of the forestry industry, once it was transformed into a clear-felling operation for the lowest value product, established throughout the major water catchments in Tasmania, has never taken place.

    It’s beyond amazing. Where have these people been who want to replicate the past as if it never happened? On the moon?

    It was just a couple of weeks ago that Rick Pilkington raised the issue of the repetitive nature of the debate taking place on TT, over and over, not moving on, but stuck, with the same old stuff, arguing strongly that it was actually wrecking the site, turning people away, turning them off.

    It’s a good point, but my response then was that Tasmania hasn’t changed since the Tasmanian parliament licked Gunns’ boots and did their bidding, hasn’t learned, doesn’t want to and won’t. Gunns has been replaced by others, that’s all.

    The politicians want to pursue the same policies they always have in relation to forestry. We shouldn’t forget that after the collapse of Gunns there was still great hope within the Giddings government and then the Hodgman government that the pulp mill would rise from the dead and pollute the Tamar Valley for decades into the future, sucking public funds into its maw like a huge vacuum.

    It is beyond strange that this stuff keeps going round and round. It’s like a recurrent disease. Maybe we should identify the obsession with clear-felling water catchments of their vegetation for woodchips which have to be subsidised to sell, then napalming the clear-felled site in order to eliminate competition for monocultural exotic p[lantations which will never earn a buck, as Easter Island syndrome.

    It’s so drop-dead-gorgeously stupid that it’s hard to think of anything to beat it.

    Not to mention, don’t you know, that your own research into the lovely nitens’ impacts on the Tasmanian environment, now published internationally, has been comprehensively ignored within Tasmania, and that your efforts to engage with government agencies and industry players who replaced Gunns have been deflected and dismissed.

    One of the most absurd things that has occurred in the dismal, atrocious and sad story of Tasmanian history so far in the 21st century, is the wagering of plantation isle against native forest logging. It is beyond pathetic. It is sad beyond measure.

    And still it goes on. A carousel going nowhere.

  7. Frank again

    July 3, 2015 at 1:37 am

    RE:” Today 74% of Japan is forested. Let me repeat it because no-one will believe it – 74% forest reserve – See more at: http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/the-rabid-attachment-to-the-past/#sthash.YfqcwmEe.dpuf

    The word ‘reserve’ is the give away token.
    In reality the truth is that in the very steep terrane landscape of Japan, clear-felling does not work for a number of reasons.
    It was much cheaper to get/to import convenient “fast food” woodchips from very low cost places like Tasmania.
    Ye,the above mentioned question is very valid, WHY were Tasmanians prepared to sell the natural inheritances?
    Why did the Tasmanians not realise the valuable, naturally complex, multi-storey rainwater filters and sponges?
    Why, after nearly 2 decades of woodchip trade with Japan, were Tasmanians willing and able to convert their healthy water catchments into simplistic, unsustainable monoculture tree crops and pasture?

    WHY – yes WHY – that is the question.
    Short sightedness and classic greed is the short and true answer to that.

    We shall see when the GREENS and the ENGOs come up with holistic pathways for Tasmania’s future.

  8. Michael Powell

    July 2, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    I am assured by the comments and the concerns raised are valid. I simply wanted to point out this issue as Phil Parsons understands is historical and not something recent. It has been addressed and can be again. And forestry may still be a viable industry.

    Plantation forestry is not perfect. It has taken fine agricultural land in some instances and turned it into forests that by neglect are now dying, forming weed infested game havens for other farmers to deal with.

    It does raise issues of water retention and one of the most evil aspects of Gunns acquisition of some many farming properties is that they control considerable water licenses denied to other farmers – sitting on a pot of water.

    The disaster of Gunns seems to have no end

    Michael

  9. phill Parsons

    July 2, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    It is not some happy accident or fortuitous circumstance that such a large area of Japan is forested.

    During the Tokugawa shogunate controls over forests were introduced to address the loss of old growth timbers, disputes over forest use, flooding and sedimentation, deteriorating timber quality and scarcity.

    These were practical measures because the practical underpinning of the economy.

    As knowledge has grown we understand much more about the importance of healthy ecosystems except for the odd and those who can see political or financial gain from rapaciousness.

    They never move on.

  10. Alison Bleaney

    July 2, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Surely the forest businesses need to make a profit to continue? Isn’t that the reason d’être for any ‘business’?
    The majority of Eucalyptus plantations in the NE of Tas will not be able to return a profit and it remains very unclear – we have no detail- how the new private forestry businesses will operate to remain viable. Forico at least seem determined to continue with current operations and cannot return a profit, unless subsidised no matter how long they leave the plantation in the ground. Meanwhile the adverse issues of continuing this ‘business’ in water catchments have not been addressed, and seem unlikely to be. So where is the detail for the provision of this proposed new sound and vibrant industry? Motherhood statements with no detail are no longer sufficient for community support of businesses directly affecting water catchments and non viable business plans.

  11. Chris B

    July 1, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Claire they are planted close so that the MIS tax benefits could be spread larger per acre/hectare.
    They got two crims, others were ignored , the jails await.

  12. Claire Gilmour

    July 1, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Whilst I agree with the majority of this article, the last few paragraphs – the pushing of the plantation vein of it bothers me immensely. And in doing so will, in my opinion, ultimately, eventually also play into the hands of those have already destroyed so much.

    And the consolation prize is … a continuation of the community destroying, water sucking, water catchment destroying, silt creating, poison requiring, wildlife massacring, wildfire enhancing, non-native (to Tasmania) eucalyptus nitens (and other massive areas of one species eucs in general) ?

    Is that it … is that the only other plan b available?

    That’s like suggesting people live off only 1 or two types of vegetables… as if that will supply all the nutrients and health benefits. Or akin to suggesting high rise blocks of units to house the under privileged is the only choice in town planning.

    It’s not very innovative, is it?

    I’m sorry but I don’t agree. Taking a pigs ear and trying to turn it into a slik purse has the hallmarks of blinkered thinking, in my opinion. It’s like putting the boat people on an island – Out of sight out of mind. Or turning them back – out of sight out of mind.

    Or perhaps one could term it ‘cabbott’ thinking – when it comes to choice there is only one way …

    Will the continuation of these current plantations get FSC certification? Will people be allowed to voice their disagreement or alternatives?

    How about this for an alternative …

    Instead of a simplistic choice of massive areas of plantations or plantations (whatever they are used for- pulp, bio fuel etc – cos let’s face it e nitens aren’t a very good timber for building) …

    Current Plantation Areas could be more intensely planted out and integrated with other species … all the colours of the rainbow!

    Species that create natural immunity, so poisons aren’t required, so wildfires are helped to be naturally suppressed, so soil erosion is hampered, etc etc.

    The current plantation trees are planted so close together, do you really think they are all going to grow to maturity, especially being a euc?

    The amount of land, money, effort, time to enhance these ‘pigs ear plantations’ would be better spent on creating a truly good, innovative and beneficial to all timber industry.

    There are alternatives to the simplistic approach of wilderness logging and these so-called ‘foundation’ plantations.

    Just pushing boundaries!

  13. Ted Mead

    July 1, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Ah japan, unlike Tasmania, had the wisdom to preserve their own forests, and trash elsewhere because they knew they could get it for near a song from third world governments such as Tasmania.

    Over 25 years ago Tasmanian conservationists went to Japan to plea their case about the exploitation of our old-growth forests being plundered into woodchips.

    The Japanese peoples response was simple as they asked. – Why do you let us do it???????

    That question essentially sums it up that the governance of Tasmania was, and still is, driven by natural resource exploitation with no view to the future beyond more debt to the public, more profit to their crony mates, and a legacy of degraded environments.

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