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Forestry Tasmania’s annual report reveals the mess they’re in


IMAGE: Nearly a million hectares of forest reserves, including the Tarkine, could be logged | Rob BlakersIMAGE: Nearly a million hectares of forest reserves, including the Tarkine, could be logged | Rob Blakers

Update from Vica Bayley, Campaign Manager, The Wilderness Society Tasmania

And by "mess", we don’t so much mean Forestry Tasmania (FT)—now called 'Sustainable Timber Tasmania' (because if you say it’s sustainable, then it is, right?)—we mean the Liberal State Government.

Yesterday (2 November 2017), FT released its annual report 2016/17.

It made for interesting reading. FT continues to work towards FSC accreditation, which is welcome—although we know it has significant challenges in achieving it, so long as it's logging swift parrot and other habitat and state government is seeking to reverse conservation reserve (see our take on FSC here).

You can see the Resources Minister, Guy Barnett MP’s, media release here. What he called FT’s “$41m turnaround” was quickly seen as disingenuous by the local newspaper, the Mercury, whose headline was “Forestry Tasmania delivers $24 million loss”.

Here’s our media release

(And here's a tongue-in-cheek, paragraph-by-paragraph deconstruction of the government’s media release, leaked to the Tasmanian Times by some naughty person, which gives you the real story about the Government’s cognitive dissonance on forestry.)

For us, perhaps the most critical point is this: Premier Will Hodgman has already taken 356,000 hectares of formerly conservation forest and opened it up for logging. Not content with this, Hodgman also intends to log another huge swathe—420,000 hectares—of conservation rainforest reserves. Together, this means Tasmania could lose nearly a million hectares of remaining ancient Gondwanan forests.

The State Government says it needs to do this because it claims Forestry Tasmania can’t meet the volume of timber—137,000 cubic meters—it needs to. For example, in 2015, the TFA ('Tasmanian Forest Agreement') formed between the forest industry, eNGOs and the State’s previous Labour-Green Government, FT was assigned this 137,000 quota.

FT’s annual report says this:

“The most recent review, which was published in March 2014 based on the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, confirmed Forestry Tasmania’s ability to make available the volume legislated in the Forest Management Act 2013 of at least 137,000 cubic metres per year of high quality eucalypt sawlogs from the Permanent Timber Production Zone land for the next 90 years.”

So FT says it can supply sawmills, and points to data and published projections; Guy Barnett says they can’t and blames Labor and the Greens.

The logging industry itself opposed Premier Hodgman’s legislation to reverse conservation reserves for logging and everybody knows Tasmania can’t afford an escalating conflict over logging—conflict in the community and in the markets. There remains significant environmental and economic challenges facing forestry in Tasmania, something Premier Hodgman’s Government continues to ignore.

This Annual Report highlights the fact that no amount of spin will fix the fact that forest policy based on misinterpretation, ignorance and base political motivation is dangerous and counterproductive.

Going into a state election, anyone would think this government is still in opposition—choosing cheap political point-scoring over a credible response to its own agency’s Annual Report and ongoing financial losses.