Pic: of Ken Jeffreys

Hag hears those silky dulcets of Forestry Tasmania’s Chief Spinner Kenny ‘The Golden Tonsils’ Jeffreys - which once described FT practices as worthy of a gold medal - will not be entirely lost to Tasmania. I was told last night Kenny will be offered the afternoon Drive Slot on ABC local radio Northern Tasmania, once briefly occupied by ex-Mercury editor Garry Bailey ...

• Bryan Green
Deputy Premier
Monday 22nd Oct 2012

Government committed to Forestry Tasmania reform

The Deputy Premier Bryan Green said today the Government was focussed on ensuring Forestry Tasmania is on a viable financial footing as the industry confronts unprecedented challenges.

“The Government’s decision to change the operating structure of Forestry Tasmania was based on independent advice and we are committed to implementing the reforms,” Mr Green said.

“We are working with the Forestry Tasmania board and management to move the business forward.

“There will always be a level of resistance to change but that will not divert the Government’s attention from implementing such important policy reform.

“Ultimately changes to the management structure of Forestry Tasmania are a matter for the board and the managing director.

“From the Government’s perspective it is not about individuals and these decisions are made without influence from the Minister.

“We will continue to do what is necessary to make sure Forestry Tasmania remains a viable corporate entity and in that respect it is no different to any other Government-owned business,” Mr Green said.

Pic: of Judy Tierney

• David Obendorf: Our Common Ground ethos responds to the Industry

For those who still peruse the pages of the local southern Tasmanian paper may have read a ‘Soapbox’ contribution from Judy Tierney, a well-known Tasmanian journalist and spokesperson for the 2009 forest reform group, Our Common Ground. [Reference: Mercury 20 October]

It followed the ‘Talking-Point’ contribution from Julian Amos, a well-known former Tasmanian politician and spokesperson for the Forest Industries. [Reference: Mercury 11 October]

’We need to turn our back on corruption and bribery, inappropriate favours, sloppy forest practices and political deals,’ Judy Tierney writes.

Ms Tierney’s experience in the history of the woodchip harvesting of Tasmania forests going back to early 1980s allows her to speak with some reflection on the just how this juggernaut industry has foundered in 2012.

’We were seduced by the spin at the birth of our woodchip industry. Back in the early 1980s, I was one of the assembled journalists at Forestry Tasmania’s headquarters where the head honcho proudly displayed a sketch of a tree with its limbs and stump surgically severed from the truck that would go to the woodchipper and the truck to the saw-millers. … The specifications for a chip log increasingly refined, demanding no rot, no bark, no burn no bumps. The ‘rubbish’ [wood] was burnt.’

Ms Tierney speaks of the change in global demand – chips from native forests in 1980s and 1990s are no longer acceptable in 2012.

The greedy maw that has swallowed up Tasmania’s forests and converted large tracts of its native forests and farmlands to silviculture plantations is the current legacy of what is referred to in the leader to Ms Tierney’s story –‘…corruption and bribery, inappropriate favours, sloppy forest practices and political deals.’

The premise of Judy’s argument and that of Our Common Ground is a fundamental belief that forestry must change.

The question remains: Is the Industry ready to change?

This latest Forestry Contest - for all its historical argie-bargie and spinning complexity – is again a clash between two polarising visions – Old Way versus New Way, Unsustainable versus Sustainable, Corrupt versus Ethical. Millions of self-justifying words from either side fill books, journals, newspapers, government reports and on-line websites.

As Leonard Cohen sings… Everybody knows!

‘Everybody knows’ the latest negotiation isa power-clash between [1]the annual Wood Supply the industry expects to be honoured under the IGA – 155,000 cubic meters of sawlogs; 265,000 cubic meters of peeler billets and up to 20,000 cubic meters of speciality timbers and [2] the quantum of up to 572,000 hectares of ‘high conservation value’ native forests the ENGOs expect to be protected in permanent conservation reserves.

A simple Contest about land and resource; nature and nurture.

Our Common Ground’s basic premise was that forestry needed to reform itself based on a burgeoning plantation timber estate.

The last few months of stalled negotiations was caused by the need for further modelling of projected wood supply from all forests – plantations and native forests on public land and private land. [That modelling task was again given to Forestry Tasmania.]

In trying to see through the fog of these secret negotiations, Ms Tierney’s and Mr Amos’ opinion pieces are useful. But the final contests remain around striking agreement on [1] a transition from the use of mature native forests toward silviculture for timber products (and possibly pulping wood); [2] how to sustainably use regeneration forests with high quality timber values; and [3] how to transition the current Eucalypt plantation estate from a dominance of pulpwood cultivars on short growing rotations [10-15 years] to timber-grade cultivars or an alternative higher value use for the land these plantations occupy.

Judy Tierney makes the claim Tasmania has ‘about 300,000 ha of healthy softwood plantations on private and state land in Tasmania’. If by ‘soft’ she means – pulping-grade wood she is, of course, correct; if by ‘soft’she means - high value Pinus radiata then she is incorrect.

The reason SA Forestry has a viable forestry sector - at one seventh the plantation size of Tasmania - is precisely because their plantations are pine-softwood not pulp wood; and they process that timber in South Australia through various timber mills producing a range of high value timber products.

Our Common Ground’s pitch had difficulty in gaining traction with Industry.  In essence that pitch was the foundation of the ENGO’s proposal to Industry; a proposal that accepted the wood supply timber projections given by the State’s public forest manager, Forestry Tasmania, for a transition from native forests to silviculture; FT’s future projections. Those wood supply projections have now been shown to be undeliverable.

Therefore the proposal on the peace deal table cannot satisfy both sides … and we are told: ‘There is no Plan B’.