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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Gas firm to finance West Australia’s new “Dubai”

Western Australia (WA) is set to defy all oppositions to chase its dream to turn Broome into a key tourist destination– including a court’s injunction order to stop gas giant, Woodside Petroleum, from drilling at a site in James Price Point. With Woodside offering big bucks to finance WA’s tourism promos, the State Government could not back down.

The North West Australian Tourism was more pleased to announce its intention to receive the $180,000 offered by Woodside to strategically position Broome as a major attraction that will enable WA to compete with other destinations Australia-wide.

The announcement sealed the fate of Broome, ignoring pleas from environmentalists, local residents, and indigenous land owners who have staged protests and demonstrations day in and day out against the proposed gas hub. Oppositions said gas is going to destroy the ecological, historical, cultural value of Broome.

The Australian Greens warned no one wants the project except Woodside and the Premiere Colin Barnett. The party also claimed Woodside’s partners were initially reluctant to the gas venture but have been “forced” to join in by the WA Premier and Federal Minister Martin Ferguson.

And who wants this hub? No one other than Woodside and the Government. Not the general public, not the local community, not the Aboriginal community, not the environment movement, not even Woodside’s business partners.

Woodside Petroleum has joint venture partners Shell, Chevron, BHP and BP in the project who are reluctant to go to the Kimberley but have been forced into it by the WA Premier and Federal Minister Martin Ferguson.

Broome residents said Woodside have purchased the souls of the locals with its money masquerading as charitable work.

Australia’s  North West Tourism welcomes the fund offer which will significantly help to promote Broome tourism amid a “tough domestic market, the WA newspaper reported adding that Chairman Chris Ellison believes the funding will help boost the image of Pilbara and Kimberley.

As the peak tourism marketing body for the Pilbara and the Kimberley, our members look to us to deliver a strong and engaging message to consumers about the positive tourism aspects of our region.

This additional funding will enable us to better tell the unique story of Broome, as the major tourism gateway to the region, and why it continues to be one of the best holiday destinations in Australia.

Police has become ubiquitous in James Price Point to suppress oppositions. The WA Government, however, said the police presence is aimed at maintaining peace.

Lyndon Schneiders, nationl director of The Wilderness Society wrote to The Australian saying. “the mini army has been assembled on the doorstep of the Kimberley wilderness for one purpose — to suppress the widespread opposition of the Broome community to the construction of the proposed $40 billion James Price Point industrial precinct.”

All this to move away and silence a dogged and growing band of locals who have stood in the way of the plans of a consortium of the world’s biggest companies, including Shell, Chevron, Woodside, BP and BHP Billiton, to build this massive gas plant in a beautiful and sensitive part of the remote Dampier Peninsula.

WA police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan admitted the police squad is costing Broome’s taxpayers $100,000 per day.

While the saga of Broome goes on, Woodside also awaits today the decision by the Perth’s Court of Appeal whether its drilling works at the contentious Browse gas project is legal or not.

A traditional owner and senior member of the indigenous Goolarabooloo people, Richard Hunter, has alleged the approval granted to Woodside in February was invalid because the Kimberley Joint Development Assessment Panel did not wait to receive an official report from the Shire of Broome.

Hunter applied for an injunction in the said court to stop major earthworks and geotechnical activities of the project. The company is also ordered to not do work in the beach or dune area.

Read related article here.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent