Image for Into The Woods - the battle for Tasmania’s forests

The back cover reads:

For many years, the Tasmanian wilderness has been the site of a fierce struggle. At stake is the future of old-growth forests. Loggers and police face off with protesters deep in the forest, while savage political games are played in the courts and parliaments. Anna Krien speaks to ferals and premiers, sawmillers and whistleblowers. She investigates personalities and convictions, methods and motives. This is a book about a company that wanted its way and the resistance that eventually forced it to change.

It arrived by parcel-post delivery thrown through my open front door by the postie and landed with a loud thud. The book had been delivered and like a much awaited new-born it was welcomed. Before the 20 March state election I heard Xavier Rudd sing at a mass rally in the forest of the Upper Florentine - “I’ve seen with my own eyes”.  You could not help but be moved by this place, the song and its sentiment; I was not the only person to cry that day.

For the many thousands of Tasmanians who lived through the decades of forest conflicts right up to those bruising years of the RFA and the Pulp Mill, this book might be tough read. How fragile we are! Humans on all sides of this intense war have been affected and indeed traumatised by the prolonged conflict. It is not an exaggeration to classify them as genuine causalities in a merciless war.

I finished reading Anna Krien’s 300-page book in a weekend. The book had me anxiously taking in extra air; some parts are painfully tough to read. When I finish I am stunned, shell-shocked. Was this a bad dream or is it for real?

For me, it’s like a medieval tale written in two parts. Part one describes the ratbag ferals, those crazy braves who take on an empire with guile, wit and sheer cleverness. In part two the plot thickens into a chronological narrative of the last 6 or 7 years; the painful shocking realisation of how shamelessly bestial that empire had become. At the end it is a cannibal, and begins eating its own kind.

The book starts out like a fictional novel that just could have a skerrick of truth somewhere to back up a plot; ratbags doing weird forest protest actions in wet dank forests, holding the line against insatiable greed. I was initially lulled into the forest-feral vernacular and the ‘Dave versus Goliath’ battle against a behemoth. Non-Tasmanians reading this book might be forgiven for thinking it’s too fantastically crazy to be actually true. But it is!

This book describes sudden attacks in a hard-fought war over our forests and the longer political sagas filled with deception bordering on organised crime. It speaks of the tremendous personal courage of so many individuals who truly held the line well before and well after David Bartlett’s sand line had washed away in the spin of the daily tide.

The author has gone looking for the broken and worn pieces of Tasmania’s fractured forest grail; she tries to decipher the story. In her quest she has exposed the paradoxes that haunt Tasmania to this day. Here a just a few:

• Tasmanian Premier, David Bartlett describing the Australian National University’s Green Carbon report on carbon sequestered in tall wet forests of south eastern Australia as ‘bullshit’;

• Resigned Forest Practices Board geomorphologist, Dr Kevin Kiernan‘s frustration within that bureaucracy where science was one thing and decision-making another.

• After discussions with Peter Hay, lecturer at the University of Tasmania, Anna asks: ‘In whose interests is it to keep the island fractured?’

• On Gunns’ propaganda Little Green Book - ‘As I flicked through the booklet, two conclusions suggested themselves: either Gunns was taking the piss, or some greenie was taking the piss out of Gunns. One thing seemed certain: neither party was taking the other seriously.’

• The chapter on The Company - Gunns - and its chief who abrogated responsibility for all that had happened to someone else. ‘Before he resigned in May 2010, one of John Gay’s favourite responses in his increasingly rare media interviews was to attribute responsibility to the government body in charge of overseeing that chemical, that dam, that pipeline, and so on. Why wouldn’t they pay more for that state’s tree? That’s a question for Forestry Tasmania, he’d say. And why do you employ forestry officers to inspect your coupes? Now that’s a question for the Forest Practices Authority. And why did Premier Lennon recall parliament to push through legislation to approve your pulp mill? If that is what the government wants to do, then who are we to complain….’

• Late Premier of Tasmania, Jim Bacon who called Peter Cundall a few weeks before dying imploring Peter to keep fighting against those who were ‘destroying and poisoning Tasmania’. Cundall tells how amicable the conversation with Mr Bacon was, nothing sinister about it. ‘I was the premier of Tasmania but these bastards were infinitely more powerful than me. You’ve no idea how powerful they are. I couldn’t move. For God’s sakes, keep fighting them. That’s why I’m ringing you -they have to be stopped.’

• Long-servicing forester turned whistleblower, Bill Manning who gave evidence before a Senate enquiry into the plantation industry in 2003: ‘The forest industry has become so woefully negligent in its practices that it has been forced to be exempted from all other state environmental, planning and land management legislation for the simple reason that were it to be judged by the legislation that other Tasmanians have to abide by, it would be found to be comprehensively in breach of Tasmanian law…..science has largely been ignored due to the influence and dominance of the woodchip industry foresters on the Forest Practices Board and the Forest Practices Advisory Council. The erosion of best practice has been compounded by the self-regulation of the industry, which has been so ineffectual as to render it virtually non-existent. This has meant that standards of forest practice have actually dropped markedly and the industry is in virtual regulatory free fall.’

• The Maydena resident who experiences first-hand the consequences of the war in a timber town.  She sums up the sentiment of many Tasmanians: ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re a logger or a greenie, it’s the fact that our government thinks that the electorate are a bunch of dim-wits.’

This is a tough read for Tasmanians who care about their ancient forests and who want a sustainable forestry industry, but it also must read.

Several box loads need to be distributed to our 35 Parliamentarians and to those mandarins in the bureaucracy who still control the fate of Tasmania’s forests.

The link for Anna’s book is:
http://www.blackincbooks.com/books/woods

Anna’s also doing an event at Fullers Hobart: Anna Krien in conversation with Amanda Lohrey about Anna’s new book:

Date: Friday 17 September
Time: 6.00pm
Tickets: Free event, all welcome.
RSVP at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)