Image for Forestry: The courage to speak out ...

Tasmanian forestry contractor Jason Weller said it was difficult to compete against operators who were paid to exit the industry but continued to log with the capacity to afford new equipment and machinery.

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Des Weller with his steam engine which used to run his Upper Natone mill. The pic was taken in 1984.

ISLA MACGREGOR ...

• Congratulations need to go to Jason Weller for having the courage to speak out about some forestry contractors continuing to work in the industry after receiving taxpayers’ money to leave the industry.

Tasmanian forestry contractors are continuing to log forests and cart timber, despite being paid by taxpayers to leave the industry.

Jason has followed in the footsteps of his parents Des and Kathy Weller who ran the last steam run sawmill at Upper Natone behind Burnie between the 1960-1990s.

Des Weller was an outspoken member of the Tasmanian small sawmiller community over many years. 

His main complaint was that he was unable to get access to sawlogs from Forestry Tasmania to provide for local builders. 

He complained that the Government was handing access to native forests to the big companies, like APPM etc, for sawlogs, pulp and woodchips to the detriment of the small sawmillers. 

Des spoke out many times about these problems and at one time went down to Hobart to give Robyn Gray a piece of his mind.

EARLIER, Michael Atkin, ABC ...

• Tasmanian forestry contractors are continuing to log forests and cart timber, despite being paid by taxpayers to leave the industry.

Contractors were eligible to receive up to $3 million to exit the industry for 10 years as part of $45 million made available by the Gillard Labor government in 2011.

Smithton contractor Max Gillie was paid more than $900,000 to leave the industry.

But 7.30 found Mr Gillie logging a private native forest near Edith Creek in north-western Tasmania.

When confronted about what he was doing, Mr Gillie produced a letter from the Federal Department of Agriculture.

Dated October 24, 2012 and signed by the department’s assistant secretary of the forestry branch, Paul McNamara, it said Mr Gillie had special permission to log native forest if it was on private property and he owned the land and the trees.

It required Mr Gillie to provide evidence to the department that he owned the land and the trees before starting to log.

Mr Gillie does not own the Edith Creek property he was logging. He maintained that did not matter.

“I own the trees, I don’t have to own the land,” he said.

“I can go and cut down trees on any bloke’s land. As an ex-forestry contractor, if I’m a ratepayer for forestry, we own the land.”

‘It’s just greed at its greatest level’

Fellow forestry contractor Jason Weller was outraged Mr Gillie appeared to be breaching the terms of his exit agreement.

“It’s just greed at its greatest level,” he said.

“A million dollars. If someone come and put a million in my account to get out of town, I couldn’t get out quick enough,” he said.

“You should suffer the consequences and pay back the money if you’ve broken the rules.”

Mr Gillie denied he breached the terms of his exit grant or unfairly obtained a financial advantage.

“You know where that $1 million went? In paying out the gear that I had at that stage,” he said.

“Now I’m still paying off this excavator three years later on and the truck, so forestry didn’t really help me a lot did they?”

Retiring Greens senator Christine Milne said the Department of Agriculture should never have given Mr Gillie the letter.

Read more, watch the video, 7.30 HERE

• Ted Mead in Comments: It is almost like an incurable disease. Some sort of debilitating virus that attacks the common sense within the Tasmanian cerebral psyche! The Liberal Party seems to have adopted the inner belief that if FT goes down we all go down. Unlike the mariners of this world where the captains traditionally go down with the ship. Here we have the captains sailing off in the lifeboats with their massive golden booty whilst the remainder are left to sink to the bottom. What an unbelievble scenario!

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times, Andrew Wilkie ...

Tasmanian Integrity Commission should act on Forestry Tasmania

Forestry Tasmania, Andrew Wilkie and the tabled document

Time for a Royal Commission into Forestry Tasmania

• Photographer and activist Isla MacGregor’s articles are archived: HERE

IN TT MEDIA ...

Bryan Green: Harriss under even more pressure on the future of FT Sue Smith has extraordinarily called for Forestry Tasmania to be dissolved and its assets sold off. “It is time that the Government made the strong decision to actually dismantle Forestry Tasmania and to actually sell off the total working arm, and the research and development arm of Forestry Tasmania into the private enterprise,”- Sue Smith (ABC Online, 17/6/2015)

Paul Harriss: Government crystal-clear on Forestry Tasmania Sue Smith’s comments are a matter for her. The Government’s stance on Forestry Tasmania is crystal clear - we’ve ended the taxpayer subsidies and Forestry Tasmania will remain a GBE as we put it on the pathway to long term sustainability.