Image for Judy: Let’s be frank here

Julian Amos, Chairman, FIAT

“We regret that the group “Our Common Ground” group has not yet been briefed by Environment Tasmania, regarding the inability of plantation timber to take over from native forest material in suppling the high end of the market.

Environment Tasmania was provided recently with an extensive briefing as to the qualities of plantation material, and of the views of the timber industry to closing down the harvesting of oldgrowth and regrowth native forest harvesting.  As an aside, we note that 80% of oldgrowth already enjoys reserve status. 

Glen Britton is simply repeating the concerns of the industry to the ignorance displayed by this presumably well-meaning group to the realities of wood quality.

Offers have been made to inspect firsthand the processing of plantation product, but it seems that exposure to the truth is a poor substitute for a good story.

Let’s be frank here.  Arguing for an end to the forest conflict by accepting no more native forest harvesting is equivalent to me saying that a similar solution would be the opening up of National Parks for logging.

If “Our Common Ground” is serious in its endeavours to find solutions to resolve conflict in our forests then it would be far more appropriate for it to enter into discussions BEFORE demanding its solution to be the only solution.  Having predetermined positions presented to the media seems an odd way of going about it.

As I have said repeatedly, our door is always open to discuss these issues.  It remains so.

Mike Bolan, Citizen

Judy, the forest industry is in trouble in no small part because it focussed on low value/high volume commodity products in an international market to the exclusion of high value timbers.

Presumably the idea was to reduce investments in timber and high value processing, shift the risks and costs of heavy equipment to contractors, and sell timber as chips until ‘value adding’ with pulp/paper mills. That meant developing a massive plantation estate to supply pulp mill feedstock.

Trying to compete in the international commodities market is probably a huge mistake. Tasmania is too small and too distant from markets, plus we just don’t have the resource. Locking up billions of dollars in a pulp mill given the high uncertainties in today’s markets doesn’t sound very smart at all, except for the pulp mill supplier.

The business of helping an industry move from one operational mode to another is highly complex. In the case of our forest industry, they have made any shift considerably more difficult by alienating communities (smoke, land grabs, water depletion, disinvestment) and closing the many mills that Tasmania used to support, and shedding jobs to mechanisation.

The entire ‘business’ of industrial forestry could only be conducted because of massive taxpayer subsidies and contractors working close to the edge of bankruptcy.

How the existing pulp mill feedstock plantations can be converted to useful products is anyone’s guess.

Whatever the case, to convert to high value timber products will require investment with money that the forest industry has squandered.

I just hope that you don’t end up proposing that taxpayers pay for all of this.

These comments appear on this Media Release HERE. Comment HERE