Image for The hollow industry

Comments by private forester John Lord in this morning’s Examiner newspaper (BELOW) warrant a wider audience.

In the main I find myself in agreement with John.

The claims that loss of industry access to native forests “will knock out about one third of Tasmania’s real private sector” and will lead to a “deep recession here within 12 months” needs a little more substantiation. It could well be a sub editing error at the Ex.

But John makes the eminently sensible point that “our native forests and a possible plantation-wood-based pulp mill are completely separate matters. It is ludicrous to talk of trading one for the other. It’s as silly as saying, in the food production sector, let’s shut the fishing industry to save the farmers”.

Forest policy has been gridlocked.

The Government where possible is washing its hands of the problem. The Minister, even with a sensible policy brief would be hamstrung by his lack of credibility.

As John says, we are in a confusing mess.

However I think the Examiner were a little remiss in not disclosing that John is a Board Member of Private Forest Tasmania.

It is perhaps not fair to say the latter has presided over the decline in the private forestry industry, but it has certainly been an active participant during the time of the hollowing out of the entire industry by the actions of Gunns via their promotion of woodchipping and MISs.

Nevertheless John’s comments are a welcome addition to the discussion of the future of native forests, all too often mistakenly viewed as a battle between Gunns and the few that want plantations for 100% of our needs.

Forestry debate has left state in a confusing mess
16 Mar, 2011 01:00 AM
By private forester JOHN LORD. WHAT a mess we are in.
The forestry debate sees industry leaders discussing the future of the forestry sector in Tasmania.
The forestry sector comprises many parts of which industry is only one. Current industry has some issues and some changes are no doubt needed. Significant new opportunities for industry may well exist.
Our family is involved with one part, the management of forests. For a start, we need to separate the forest management from industry.
It is neither sensible nor appropriate that one part, in this case industry, has the role of determining the fate of the sector. The other parts and the wider community need to be involved too.
Also, our native forests and a possible plantation-wood-based pulp mill are completely separate matters. It is ludicrous to talk of trading one for the other. It’s as silly as saying, in the food production sector, let’s shut the fishing industry to save the farmers.
Even if it was logical to transition out of native forest and supply our society’s needs for sawn timber from plantations, I don’t think it would work.
For the past 22 years our family has been conducting trials to see if we can grow plantation eucalypts into sawlogs. So far we’ve failed. As the plantation has been thinned to allow the trees to grow to the bigger size needed, where they are exposed or are in wet areas they have become susceptible to being blown over in the weather events such as we’ve experienced in the past two winters. Also, in the drier areas, quite a number of trees have been attacked and killed by grubs. These eucalypts are the plantation species eucalyptus antennas. Nearby native forest has not suffered the same damage.
At present, I don’t believe another plantation species has even been identified, let alone trialled, as a species to potentially provide raw material for our high-value hardwood- based industries.
Managing native forest is Tasmania’s most sustainable enterprise because it looks after (and often enhances) our environment and does so without using chemicals or fertilisers. It is more sustainable than agriculture. It looks after our social demographic and provides for about one third of our state’s real private sector.
The private forest owners in Tasmania, about 1600 of them, manage over a quarter of the state’s native forest estate without any payment from the public purse. In doing this they maintain or enhance our state’s environment, provide employment and support our rural towns and communities.
Should the private forest owners’ assets become liabilities, which would occur if they are no longer allowed to actively manage their forests, then, as with anything else which is no longer valued, over time these forests will be lost.
My family is happy to show the current results of our sawlog trials and how we manage native forest for these triple bottom line outcomes to organisable groups of people who would like to form their own opinion about these things.
But there is now real danger.
Two weeks ago it was reported that the federal government has asked whether locking up the native forests in Tasmania can be counted towards Australia’s next round of Kyoto carbon emission reduction obligations.
Kyoto is political, not scientific, when it comes to forests.
Actually, the way private forest owners manage their native forest in Tasmania sequesters more carbon than would be achieved through simply locking it up. So, to sacrifice our native forests to meet our nation’s Kyoto commitments would actually see a worse outcome for the environment along with no change in behaving on the part of the majority of Australians and Australian industry, the real objective one would have thought of Kyoto.
My calculations show that as a state, when we take into account the sequestration of carbon occurring in our forests, that Tasmania is carbon negative, that is, we are sequestering more carbon than we are emitting. Should our native forests be locked up we will gradually lose this outcome and move back to a jurisdiction that is a net carbon emitter.
Whether you are red or green or any colour in between, such action by the federal government will affect all Tasmanians because it will knock out about one third of Tasmania’s real private sector, the private sector that generates the wealth that pays, one way or another, for all of the services, like health, education and police, that we enjoy.
A mainland colleague who understands Tasmania well said to me recently that in his view if the native forestry industry in Tasmania was shut there would be deep recession here within 12 months.

An attempt was made to extract and link, pointing back to The Examiner, but the article has vanished behind a paywall.