A Response to Dr Volker’s Article (HERE: Wilderness Society associates benefit from government largesse)

Is anyone else driven to distraction by the ongoing forestry saga?  Does anyone really care any more?  Or, have those who do care ceased to pay attention, or be involved, in order to protect their own sanity?

Last Friday, we had an accusation that the Forests Independent Verification Group is a paid gathering of Wilderness Society affiliates. 

Try adding that bit of information to the following -

• Former TWS Executive Director, Alec Marr is in charge of the Triabunna woodchip mill.

• Alec Marr is partner to Virginia Young of the Independent Verification Group.

• Tasports are playing hardball over the port lease fees, so the mill remains idle.

• Lara and her minister, David O’Byrne, have no control over Tasports.

• But, the Triabunna mill is ‘vital’ to the forest industry in Tasmania.

• The mill’s new owners, Jan Cameron and Graeme Wood, quite possibly have no intention of resuming woodchipping at Triabunna. 

• Gunns are still spruiking a JV partner for the Tamar Valley pulp mill.

• Gunns are sailing very close to the edge of insolvency.

• The Greens and the Statement of Principles ENGOs – TWS, ET and ACF - are still spruiking the brilliance of the Forests IGA.

• TWS affiliate, Sean Cadman played a significant part in the Statement of Principles roundtable talks.

• The Greens oppose the pulp mill but support the Statement of Principles – a process the Premier disingenuously admitted in parliament was all about ‘helping Gunns get their pulp mill up’.

• The ongoing Statement of Principles process has, so far, only resulted in immediate payments of federal funds to Gunns and Forestry Tasmania.

• Both the Tasmanian Conservation Trust (TCT) and Pulp the Mill are taking action against Gunns, contesting the validity of the pulp mill permit.

• Alex Schaap of the EPA has abrogated responsibility for determining whether there was ‘substantial commencement’ of the pulp mill project before the permit expired, to the courts.

• The courts will take forever to make a determination.

• The government has no control over the EPA.

• Pulp the Mill and TWS are staging an anti-mill ‘fundraising extravaganza’ on November 19.

• Featured speakers will include Kim Booth (Greens member for Bass), Peter McGlone (TCT) and Vica Bayley (TWS Tas).

• Forestry Tasmania continues to log forest coupes designated for protection by the Statement of Principles ENGOs.

• Forestry Tasmania operates at a loss, and has a string of loss-making customers.

• The government has no control over Forestry Tasmania.

You know what they say about deceiving and tangled webs.  As an outsider, this is how I see the whole stinking mess –

Before the secretive ‘roundtable talks’ began, the forests environmental movement had three common enemies – Forestry Tasmania, Gunns, and a parliament intent on facilitating whatever either of them wished to do with Tasmania’s trees.

Now, we have Greens members in government, young environmentalists thrust into high level negotiations with seasoned forest industry players accustomed to getting their own way, and manipulative senior environmentalists using the goodwill, and the money accumulated by their organisations to promote their long-held ideals.

Today, we have Greens parliamentarians supporting a government which is happy to prostrate itself at the altar of a pulp mill.  That government has, over the years, passed enabling legislation, supported the growth of a massive plantation estate that’s good for nothing else but pulp, and turned a blind eye to the questionable activities of Forestry Tasmania.  And, the Greens wonder why some are disenchanted with their actions.  Why some accuse them of seeking power for its own sake, not to further the interests of their supporters.  They say a Liberal majority government would be worse, but would it, really?  We’re in a pretty fine mess already.

The Greens see no apparent anomaly in their support for the Statement of Principles and their opposition to the pulp mill.  They must be on drugs.  In every other respect in government, they are indistinguishable from their colleagues – of both colours.  They seem to have convinced genuine anti-mill campaigners, Pulp the Mill, to accept their support – maybe Pulp the Mill need the publicity, and the monetary contribution of ENGOs like TWS.  Who knows?

There’s no denying the Statement of Principles process is about a cynical trade-off.  Forests for the Tamar Valley pulp mill.  But, everyone involved refuses to outright admit it.  They dance around it until they’re dizzy, and throw up more smokescreens than a 1980s music video, but it won’t go away.

And, meanwhile, away from the rareified atmosphere of the city-based parliament, and the ‘latte-sipping’ environmentalists, we have communities who just don’t understand what’s going on. 

Communities like Triabunna, which have relied on forestry, right or wrong, for generations.  It’s no big deal to drive up there and walk around, and talk to people.  A few weeks ago, the town was practically deserted.  Since the mill was sold, some of the workers have moved away, and some are travelling long distances to work.  The anti-Green sentiment is strong, but non-specific.  They blame the Greens for the demise of their town – one resident told us the Greens had ruined Tasmania.  Because of them, the state would die – it would be a case of the last person turning the light off when they leave.  The same person told us the pulp mill would be good, and then asked us if pulp mills use woodchips.  Her companion didn’t know, and we were stunned.  These women lived for years with a massive mountain of chips at their backdoor, and they had no idea what they were used for.

The Greens and the ENGOs have taken the support of intelligent people and parlayed it into power and prestige for a few individuals, rather than sensible outcomes for the state of Tasmania – the object of their unswerving devotion, or so they say.  I, for one, resent being taken for a ride by people I thought, naively so it seems, would be beyond the underhanded manipulations, backstabbing, secret agendas and servicing of vested interests that characterize modern businesses and governments.

After all, what’s wrong with being honest – it might cause some short-term consternation, but eventually people would appreciate it.  Unfortunately, it seems the Greens and the ENGOs have spent so much time on the spin cycle, playing the government at their own game, that they may take years to find their feet again.