Queensland’s Newman declares “war” on native forests

What’s hot this week? Here’s to re-post Queensland’s new forest controversy:

The South East region of Queensland is home to a vast reserve of native forest providing a sanctuary for various kinds of flora and fauna. It is a bioregion known for its significant number of rare, threatened, and endemic species– the highest numbers of all regions assessed around Australia under the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) process.

QLD Premiere Campbell Newman (Photo: SBS)

The Queensland State Government has been highly commended for its conservation efforts marked by the historic South East Queensland (SEQ) Forestry Agreement signed  in 1999 to stop logging in protected areas. The pact protects an additional 425,000 hectares in the conservation reserve system. It also envisions that all logging activities on native forest on public land will cease by 2024. Within 25 years, the area of forest reserved in SEQ is expected to be more than one million hectares.

There has been a ceasefire from forest wars over the past 14 years. The forest remains undisturbed by commercial activities– until recently the Campbell Newman government stirred the hornet’s nest.
This week, conservationists uncovered a clandestine document (credits to Indymedia.org.au) signed by Agriculture Minister John Mc Veigh to re-open the protected areas for logging.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters warns logging will destroy koala habitat. (Photo: SMH)

Greens Senator Larissa Waters lambasted a leaked letter from Agriculture Department Director-General Jack Noye to National Parks Department Director-General John Glaister that says Agriculture Minister John McVeigh has approved the logging. The letter also notes that the proposed logging would be conducted without Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service approval for codes or harvest plans.

Green peace is under threat and if logging resumes, it will affect southeast Queensland, the western hardwoods area, cypress regions in the west, central Queensland and north Queensland—all habitats of threatened species.

The Glossy Black Cockatoo is now listed as “vulnerable” in SEQ. (Photo: Supplied)

A report from Daniel Burdon both published in the Sunshine Coast Daily and Gympie Times said McVeigh had offered new 25-year contracts to 14 licensed timber companies to log cypress forests across state forests in southern and central Queensland.

Rod McInnes, Timber Queensland CEO (sic), said the renewal of the sales permits was essentially guaranteeing a longer contract for companies which already have an allocated licence to log such areas.

“Anyone who’s already got a Crown Wood Allocation now simply has a 25-year sale guarantee for their allocation,” he said.

“That doesn’t actually change how much timber is logged in the cypress forests each year, just how long the contracts are.

“What I’d be expecting in the next few years, are that rather than each of the 14 companies keeping their contracts, they might sell them now they are long-term, and four or five bigger commercial operators will take those allocations on, through amalgamations.”

Greens Senator Larissa Waters blasted Queensland Premier Campbell Newman for orchestrating the move which she said was tantamount to initiating forest destruction. She noted the forests as an important habitat for vanishing species.

A survey of endangered species in the SEQ bioregion

Wilderness Society denounces the move

Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders denounced the move saying, “This is a short-sighted and counterproductive decision by the Queensland Government that undermines past agreements between conservation groups and the timber industry.”

He called on the Newman Government to stop sending chainsaws into up to two million hectares of high conservation value forests throughout Queensland.

A timber industry spokesperson said the forest was used to be harvested for sustainable logging and shutting it down all these years had hurt badly the timber industry. The spokesperson added that the state needs to create more jobs.

The Wilderness Society said, “Timber imports and the high dollar are challenging enough for the industry without stoking a conflict that was resolved a decade ago.

“If logging occurs in these areas, Queensland timber will become synonymous with forest destruction. The market has little taste for wood sourced from native forest destruction, and the Queensland timber industry will lose markets.

“We understand access to existing hardwood plantations is a key issue. The Wilderness Society will work with key stakeholders, including SEQFA signatory Timber Queensland, to convince the Queensland Government to abandon this foolhardy path.”

Houn Valley Environment Centre decries forest destruction

Green activists denounces Ta Ann’s involvement in “forest destruction. (Photo: The Observer Tree)

Meanwhile, the Houn Valley Environment Centre continues to decry Tasmania’s “forest destruction.” The Centre expressed fears over the State Government’s permission to allow logging operations in a World Heritage nominated site to supply wood exports. The Centre has been contentious about the logging operation of Forestry Tasmania who supplies wood to Malaysian-based Ta Ann Group.

Centre spokesperson Jenny Weber said, “Ta Ann asserting that they won’t receive timber from the World Heritage nominated forests is one thing, but a commitment by Forestry Tasmania that they will not deliver wood from these coupes has not been officially announced. Until the guarantee that the timber from the proposed logging areas in the Huon district is given by Forestry Tasmania, the assertion by Ta Ann cannot be verified.”

Weber claimed Ta Ann had previously admitted that they have to take what Forestry Tasmania supplies them regardless where the wood products were sourced out.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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Tasmania grapples with forest destruction and job losses

Tasmania is grappling with the paradox of saving its environment in the face of massive job losses. While Green activists are fighting for the protection of old growth forests, thousands of forestry-related jobs have to go. The ABC  reported the state is projected to lose about $1.4 billion dollar from its wood industry while thousands of people have been thrown out of job.

No job vacancy sign posted at a sawmill in Tasmania

For a small state such as Tasmania, livelihood depends on forestry, agriculture and mining. Tasmania is the sixth and smallest state in Australia, an archipelago of more than 300 islands, 240 kilometres (150 miles) south-east of the mainland.

Green activism has intensified in the region over the last few years in the wake of alleged forest destruction made by Malaysia-owned Ta Ann Group. Left-wing Greens have accused the contractor as an exploiter of the state’s old-growth forests. The same contractor, they claim, has ravaged the jungle of Borneo in Sarawak.

Penan man standing next to a Shin Yang Timber passing truck loaded with logs. (Photo: Sarawak Report)

It is an irony. Ta Ann won an award as an emerging exporter in the Tasmanian Export Exports Awards in 2008 only to alert environmentalists of the impending catastrophe wrought on the state’s old growth forests.

Last year, the Huon Valley Environment Centre (HVEC) accused Ta Ann of receiving wood from old growth forests as defined by the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement on at least 35 occasions during 2009-2011. HVEC claimed the contractor is processing wood acquired from the logging of old growth forests, high conservation value forests, and forests with recognised world heritage values in Tasmania.   “Ta Ann’s demand for native forest wood and its large wood supply contract is driving logging in some of Tasmania’s most important and contentious forest areas….  Ta Ann’s operations here in Tasmania are far from eco-friendly and must rank amongst the worst logging practices globally…” HVEC claimed.

Activists have campaigned the government to prevent further logging in the disputed conservation area. The Observer Tree launched a vigil early this year to press Prime Minister Julia Gillard to stop the Ta Ann Group from further logging in the last remaining old-growth forests.

An intesified campaign against Ta Ann in Tasmania (Photo: HVEC)

The Observer Tree is one among the guardians of Tasmanian forests along with the Last Stand which has been involved in direct action and campaigns related to nukes, forests, refugees, human rights, whaling and climate change, among other causes. These groups support similar causes advocated by Friends of the Earth, Kanuguba, Rising Tide, Huon Valley Environment Centre, Still Wild Still Threatened, the Greens and the Wilderness Society, GetUp!, Market Watch, and other civic groups.

In 2011, the Gillard Government came up with a plan to protect Tasmania’s forest by signing a pact that covers the protection 570,00 hectares of forest lands. About 430,000 hectares belong to the high degree of conservation while the remaining 143, 000 hectares was allotted to help the state honour its logging contracts. Gillard also signed a $172 package to fund the transition from native forest to plantation forest.

This historic deal, however, did not stop tensions already disrupting the forestry business. Green activists are apprehensive that Ta Ann’s contract will continue to destroy old growth forests.

Tasmanian forest in ruins

Activists have also directly lobbied consumers and clients of Ta Ann to stop buying logs from the company.

While jobs have to go, however, it becomes clearer that the Government has no option but to kowtow importers to buy Tasmania’s logging industry.

Tasmania’s Deputy Premiere Bryan Green has embarked on a $24,000 trade mission to Singapore, China, and Japan over the past week to promote the state as open for business.

Green said the trade mission was not solely focus on the wood industry but an opportunity to forge stronger trade relations with East Asia.

“We have a robust economy which we need to continue to grow and diversify to attract investment and jobs… The Government has faith in the Tasmanian brand and the opportunities that it can provide in sectors like agriculture, renewable energy, mining and forestry, “ the vice premiere’s website noted.

The Last Stand crew, along with the HVEC and Code Green, welcomed the vice premiere back upon his arrival at the airport. They, however ridiculed the trade mission and created a new name for Ta Ann as the huge walking, talking Pinocchio. The crew said the wood products are far from “eco-friendly” contrary to the advertising claims of Ta Ann.

A Green activists holds a banner to warn Ta Ann's Japanese wood buyers

In an email loop accessed by Asian Correspondent, the crew said:

“Ta Ann, one of Malaysia’s biggest wood cartels is ripping through the Tasmanian wilderness, sourcing wood that comes from the destruction of high conservation value forests and selling it in Japan as ‘eco-friendly’ plywood.”

The group solidifies its resolve to recruit more supporters to write letters to existing and prospective clients of Ta Ann urging them to stop buying wood sourced out from Tasmania’s old growth forests.

News Link: Asian Correspondent