Conservationists blast Tasmanian wood exports to China

The Tasmanian Government has given Forestry Tasmania the trial green light to export blackwood logs to China with high hopes of potentially creating a multimillion wood industry– ignoring earlier forest moratorium with conservationists in the region.

The Office of Premiere Lara Giddings announced the initial shipment will create “an industry worth tens of millions of dollars to Tasmania.”

Forestry Tasmania continuing to slaughter massive quantities of minor species timbers, including blackwood, and exporting them. (Photo: Tasmanian Times)

Forestry Tasmania, in partnership with the private sector, will be shipping the initial logs to the Asian importer to test the feasibility of  manufacturing high quality engineered wood products from logs. These logs are said to be unsuitable for local processors and thus considered waste.

Minister for Resources and Energy Bryan Green supports the initiative saying the  trial is part of  state government’s Innovations Plan which seeks to convert forest residues into high value manufactured wood products. Green reiterated some blackwood are unsuitable for local sawmillers and processors.

“This is the type of innovative thinking that will be required as the forest industry transitions to a smaller resource base. If the trials prove successful, the finished product will be marketed by private companies, which are working in partnership with FT,” he said

Green is confident the trial export will ultimately result into establishing a manufacturing facilities in Tasmania thereby increasing market demand for blackwoods in Australia.

The Premiere’s Office also confirmed Forestry Tasmania has increased its export of whole logs in response to the closure of the Triabunna woodchip mill.

Some of the whole logs are for pulpwood in China, others are to trial the new products and the remainder are being peeled. Logs are currently being stockpiled in readiness for a shipment out of Hobart later this month and for further shipments out of Burnie.

Local retailers of Tasmanian forests identified by Market for Change (Photo: MFC)

This development, however, stirred anger from Green activists in the region. Groups such as The Markets for Change, the Huon Valley Environment Centre, The Last Stand, and Still Wild Still Threatened– in a joint press release– blasted the initiative saying the State Government’s support to Forestry Tasmania is a “provocative act”  that undermines the Tasmanian forest peace process.

Peg Putt of Markets for Change said her group has suspended new overseas market initiatives and protests a fortnight ago as a gesture of encouragement. She said the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania agreed to sit down and talk. However, Minister Green has “indulged in a series of provocations.” She said the trial shipment is contradictory to the intention to reduce logging.

Miranda Gibson of Still Wild Still Threatened from the Observer Tree also said it is devastating to hear of the ongoing developments which are obvious design to nullify forest protection. Gibson claims  Forestry Tasmania have signed up 22 logging contracts last year, eleven of which are new ones.

Miranda Gibson grabs media spotlight for her tree vigil. (Photo: Bob Brown)

Jenny Weber of the Huon Valley Environment Centre said her group will “maintain a close watching brief for the moment, but are exceedingly concerned that the longer the negotiations are drawn out the more magnificent forests we lose to the chainsaw.”

“We are waiting with high anxiety for some demonstration of the good faith that is claimed to exist,” Ula Majewski of The Last Stand concluded.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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Kimberly gas hub sparks nationwide protests

The dream of Western Australia to transform Broome into a dazzling New Dubai faces no paved road. The multi-billion Woodside Petroleum’s gas hub has ignited intermittent tensions between local residents and the police.

Premiere Barnett dispatches police to support Woodside, Shell, Chevron, BP, BHP-Billiton, Mitsubishi and Matsui on the road to James Price Point. (Photo: Damian Kelly)

The State Government dispatched a strong 140-200 police to James Price Point this week alerting  Green activists nationwide to join forces with Broome residents in opposing the $40 billion gas deal. Local residents say the sight of police presence has become too scary. Others call it a State Government’s “bullying”.

Whether there is a government-business collusion in return for a huge kickback, it is yet to be known. One thing is evident though– West Australian Premier Colin Barnett denied he ordered the police dispatch. He said it was the “operational decision” made by Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan.

Protest camp spokeswoman Vivienne O’Shea describes it as “unnecessary” adding that it the State Government is “spending such a colossal amount of taxpayer money to basically frighten the Broome community.”

Broome residents are against gas on Mothers’ Day (Photo:Glen Klatovsky)

Wilderness Society Kimberley campaign manager Glen Klatovsky said it was a waste of police resources and taxpayer money to send police “to crush the Broome community” which had already been traumatised by last year’s heavy-handed use of police and Woodside’s own private security force.

Today, Tasmania has also joined the action. Led by the Huon Valley Environmental Center and The Last Stand, a vigil at Pier 1 of Macquarie Wharf, Salamanca from 5 pm was held as a gesture of support to Broome residents. Video on Kimberly is likewise featured.

In a press release, Jenny Weber, a spokesperson of the HVEC said Tasmania is joining other citizens from other cities across the nation including Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, to support the people of Broome in their fight to protect one of the most spectacular places in the world.

Ula Majewski of The Last Stand also said, “Tonight, the people of southern Tasmania will be standing strong in spirit with this inspiring community in the far north west of the country. We are demonstrating our absolute support for these outstanding citizens who are taking a stand for the Kimberley, one of our most ecologically and spiritually significant landscapes.”

One of the idyllic beaches of Kimberly (Photo:ACF)

The Australian Conservation Foundation said the Kimberley is too precious to lose with its rich mineral deposits along with its historical and cultural value.

ACF believes the proposed location of the Browse Basin gas hub at James Price Point on the Dampier Peninsula will have a significant environmental impact. The peninsula’s western intertidal zone has been included under National Heritage in recognition of its extensive dinosaur trackways, but it remains in threat by the development of the gas hub.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Oppose Harvey Norman’s native forests business

The Last Stand's recent marketing campaign to inform Harvey Norman's customers where do furnitures come from. (Photo: The Last Stand)

Here’s a new anti-HN’s campaign dropped into my inbox. Conservationists unite!

—————-

Harvey Norman stores across Australia have been visited this week as part of an innovative marketing campaign to give customers the real story of where their new native forest furniture is sourced.

The Last Stand has been campaigning to highlight the role Harvey Norman plays in the destruction of our native forests. Their native Australian furniture and flooring is sourced from high conservation value forests at risk in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. “If Harvey Norman won’t tell the truth to their customers we will” said Nicola Paris from the Last Stand. “

Conservationists across the country have visited Harvey Norman stores and done some DIY marketing, placing tags on furniture saying ‘Find out how you can win’ accompanied by a QR code which takes customers to a YouTube video which shows the destruction caused by logging our native forests for furniture.

“The myth that logging Australia’s forests for furniture ranges sold by Harvey Norman is sustainable and there is no consequence to their ongoing destruction is simply not true.

There are endangered species at risk in many of the areas Harvey Norman sources wood for its furniture. “Action is well overdue – Harvey Norman has not given any indication of changing their current practices so we are turning to creative tactics to get the facts out to their customers.” An extensive chain of custody report outlining how Harvey Norman are selling Aussie native forest destruction was published by Markets for Change and can be accessed at www.marketsforchange.org

Against native forests’ logging and retailing

Here’s from the email inbox: The Last Stand announced its new anti-Ta Ann Group website to discourage Japanese clients from buying Tasmania’s plywood disputedly harvested from native old-growth forests.

The banner design of the new cyber campaign

Likewise, here from the website of Market for Change which posted the list of local retailers of Tasmania’s native forests.

Tasmanian native forests' local retailers

The activists’ group has drawn a map on the extent of forest destruction in Australia– in which some of Australia’s most unique and species-rich forest habitats are still being logged including:

  • Tasmania’s native and old growth forests including the Tarkine, Blue Tier, Styx, Weld, and Upper Florentine Valley areas
  • Victoria’s Central Highlands – identified as some of the most carbon-dense forests on earth and areas in East Gippsland
  • New South Wales’ highly biodiverse sub-tropical and temperate native forests in the state’s north-east and south-east coastal regions
  • Western Australia’s native forests in the southwest of the state have been named a global biodiversity ‘hotspot’ yet logging in the state’s endemic karri, jarrah, marri, tingle, and tuart  forests continue despite new threats from drought and disease.

It speculates that there are 1,287 forest-dwelling species accross Australia that are listed as vulnerable, threatened or endangered under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBCA) 1999. They include:

  • The Tasmanian Wedge-Tailed eagle
  • Carnaby’s Black cockatoo of WA.
  • Victoria’s Leadbeater’s possum
  • The koala population of southern NSW.

These species are losing their homes

This campaign has hit the media big time, with the launch featured in the Australian – a rare event indeed!  It is also a hot topic in Tasmania with regular mentions in the local press.

Our online action is doing great, heading up to 1500 emails now, and crew in Hobart have maintained a strong visual presence, letterboxing key areas and, most recently with the Ta Ann

We are continuing to work with Markets for Change and the Huon Valley Environment Centre as well as heaps of other good folks, and have also appreciated the support of the most excellent peoples at DoGooder.

So spread the message to your friends to jump on board!

For the forests,

THE LAST STAND CREW

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