A decade of change has made the Tasmanian forestry industry a leader in responsible business, says TFPA CEO Nick Steel.
Despite it being 10 years since Gunns Ltd was placed into liquidation, many of forestry’s detractors seem to view the industry through an outdated lens.
In the decade since Gunns, the state’s forestry industry has become a sector every Tasmanian should be even more proud of. But despite that, our opponents still trot out the same out-of-date arguments – arguments that have nothing to do with our modern, responsible and ethical businesses.
For context, in early 2013, after years of damaging revelations about the forestry industry, the final nail was hammered into the coffin of Gunns – leaving those left in the industry to rebuild.
And since then, the forestry industry has been at pain to show it’s learnt from the past, has atoned for its mistakes, and moved to become an industry now prouder of its professionalism, transparency and commitment to the environment.
But it hasn’t stopped our detractors from trotting out the same tired old arguments. They continue to claim Tasmania’s forestry industry is unprofitable, that we are causing wholesale destruction of Tasmania’s forests, and that we are involved in deforestation practices.
Of course, none of that is true. But it makes an easy headline to ensure their coffers are regularly topped up by ideological mainland dollars.
The fact is over 50 per cent of the state is protected in reserves, and our industry is the backbone of Tasmanian economy, employing over 5000 Tasmanians directly and indirectly the majority spread across our regional communities.
Their claims about deforestation are also a patent lie. Deforestation involves changing the use of land after harvesting. Tasmanian forestry replants or regrows every tree it harvested.
If you want to see deforestation in action in Tasmania, you don’t need to look far. The ever-increasing urban sprawl around our cities is local deforestation. Every new estate changes the use of the land to urban – and if that was native forest, that’s deforestation.
In Asia, Africa or the Amazon that change in land use is often unchecked and unregulated, which can lead to devastating environmental and social impacts.
By the way, Dan Andrews’ decision to end native forest logging in Victoria means that state will now be forced to source their hardwood from these locations – at a massive cost to the environment. Victoria’s decision is a case of NIMBY environmentalism, acting locally, but delivering a worse outcome for the planet.
In addition, our detractors’ claims that post-harvest burns are environmental vandalism are also patently untrue. Anyone who has seen a forest in the months and years after a bushfire has swept through know it’s fire that causes Australia’s eucalypt forests to regenerate and regrow.
The truth is the forestry industry is one of the most heavily regulated in the country. And while that regulation can be a burden at times, the industry welcomes the close eye cast over it.
It means we can confidently say that we are held to the highest levels of government scrutiny. And in a world-wide market where not all forestry is as heavily regulated, it means brand ‘Tasmania’ on our timber and wooden products can guarantee that our timber is world’s best – not only for its quality, but also for its ethical status.
Further, our members are not being constrained by the minimum requirements. They see the value of going beyond the already tough government regulations. We have Tasmanian growers, processors and manufacturers leading the way on reconciliation programs, education initiatives, accreditation systems and environmental standards.
These extras may add to the cost of production, but they ensure that the Tasmanian forestry industry is known around the world for its high environmental and social standards.
Let’s face it, the world’s instable demand for timber is not going away anytime soon. Tasmanians should be proud of the gains our forestry industry has made in the last 10 years, and they can look to the future confident that the industry will continue delivering its diverse forest products as world-leaders in a renewable, responsible and respected industry.