Green deal still stands for industry

Forestry providesNick Steel says timber workers only harvest in old forests where agreed upon.

THE Tasmanian forest industry worked tirelessly to transform and fit within the Tasmanian Forest Agreement model — this created a void for professional activists who are now trying to reignite the fight with explosive and misleading language.

Following years of investment and hard work we have an industry focused on producing more with less. More on island value adding, more regeneration and plantations and more focus on environmental solutions.

So let’s look at the latest target, native timber. Firstly what is native timber? Well, it generally comes in two forms. Regenerated native forests and previously unharvested native forests or old growth.

A very small percentage of native timber comes from unharvested native forests. The rest from regenerated forests. As the name suggests regenerated forests are forests harvested in the past, regenerated and will be harvested again in the future. These forests produce fibre and Tasmanian Oak for doors, stairs flooring and furniture. Basically it is the same cycle of farming the forests that has been done since man invented the axe.

Unharvested native forests provide access to specialty timbers that Tasmania is famous for such as blackwood, sassafras, celery top pine and myrtle. It’s also an important source of premium Tasmanian Oak used for the premium flooring, bench tops, furniture and architectural features.

The timber the two forests produce is different. This is not simply a matter of convenience nor a marketing ploy but a matter of producing a different timber for different purposes.

Then there are our important plantation forests, for hardwood and softwood timber and wooden products. They are different again, but that’s another story.

The line between regenerated and old growth is blurred more often than it’s not by our critics. While old growth native timbers are an important piece of the forestry puzzle, it accounts for a small percentage of industry output.

So where is old growth harvested? In selected areas agreed on by environmental groups under the TFA.

The Tarkine, an old mixed forest area given a new name includes areas of managed forests on the outskirts, areas that generally border grazing pastures and other farms, as well as button grass plains.

No one is driving into the depths of the Tarkine and harvesting these sensitive areas and no amount of alarmist commentary will make that the case. Environmental groups would have you believe the forest area in the Tarkine’s 450,000ha is under threat. This could not be further from the truth. The Tarkine has never been under threat and never will be. But as a new battle ground is set, maps are emerging online with a “new Tarkine boundary” that extends into nearby farms, towns and managed forests.

We don’t operate by these exaggerated maps, we operate according to boundaries agreed upon. Moving the lines might be convenient when arguing that the Tarkine is being destroyed, however it does not make it true. More than half of Tasmania’s forests are protected and over 90 percent of old growth is protected, forever! World Heritage areas have been created and the industry has moved to improve.

Timber products are being recognised as a carbon store and as a natural product that creates functional, practical, affordable and biodegradable products such as packaging, furniture, and construction materials, including ply veneer and framing,

Growing our own timber means not importing it from countries with less environmental control than here. As we look down the barrel of a simultaneous worldwide building timber shortage and a social housing crisis we need to think — how did we get here? The pressure over decades from environmentalists to “reduce, reduce, reduce” has resulted in Australia importing 40 per cent of our building timber. This is madness, we are world leaders in sustainable forestry.

I leave you with a quote:

“The Forest Agreement gives us what Tasmanians and Australians have wanted for our forests for decades, a World Heritage Area in the southern forests and an end to logging in 500,000ha of our iconic forests”.

This is from The Wilderness Society website; however it seems that when political ambitions are on the line, honouring past deals and common sense is optional.

Nick Steel is the chief executive of the Tasmanian Forest Products Association.


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