The government claims that the native forest logging sector is showing signs that ‘confidence is returning to the industry’ are absurd given the evidence that new investment is heavily subsidised and plantation exports make up the overwhelming majority of growth in woodchip exports.
A recently announced investment in a southern sawmill, subsidised by the taxpayer by over one third, comes after a $30 million subsidy to Forestry Tasmania last year. Last year also saw Forestry Tasmania sell the same sawmill to the current owner in a fire-sale, and it continues to sell publicly owned sawlogs at below cost price. Any investment in native forest logging remains underpinned by massive public subsidies.
Recent statistics demonstrating rapid growth in woodchip exports, and thus industry activity, are almost entirely attributed to plantation woodchip sales through companies such as Forico. Many of these plantations were also sold at fire-sale prices, following the collapse of the disastrous MIS schemes. The plantation harvest is welcome, especially considering some relates to the conversion of poorly performing plantations back into agricultural farmland.
'No amount of spin by new minister Guy Barnett can hide the fact that his government has again chosen to prop up native forest logging with subsidies, this time with the equivalent cost of three or four nurses, teachers or park rangers,' said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for The Wilderness Society.
'Growth claims underpinned by subsidies, cheap logs and state-sponsored losses for Forestry Tasmania look pretty desperate when the positive news really sheets home to plantations.
'Public native forest logging in Tasmania has failed to achieve FSC certification, and there remain issues relating to logging in the habitat of species such as the swift parrot. The government has much work to do to be able to claim sustainability and a viable economic model, let alone any notion of growth and confidence.
'People shouldn’t be fooled by export statistics and Minister Barnett conflating them with some kind of native forest logging renaissance. Plantation exports are booming as new companies cash in on the collapse of Gunns and plantations established through the MIS tax rort.
'This shows that the future of the forest industry really sits with the plantation sector, and native forest logging will continue to struggle until it is credibly certified, free of public subsidy and can prove it is protecting important values such as old growth, habitat, water quality and carbon.
'Minister Barnett appears stuck in previous Minister Paul Harriss’ mindset and is unable to grasp today’s realities. Until the government stops trying to spin an artificial good news story and accepts the real-world challenges confronting both the taxpayer and the logging industry, Tasmania will be held back by delusion, ideology and destructive politics.'
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Vica Bayley on 0400 644 939.