Opinion: Court decision on forestry is a Christmas gift to all Tasmanians

The Supreme Court’s decision on forestry near Derby last week is a win for the community, and the future prosperity of the state, says Nick Steel.

 As we all busily prepare for the upcoming festive season, the decision by the Supreme Court of Tasmania last week in the case between Blue Derby Wild and Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) and the Forest Practices Authority (FPA) has provided all Tasmanian forestry families with the best Christmas present of all – the gift of credibility.

But more than just timber workers, all Tasmanians should be celebrating the judgement of Justice Pearce, with the decision proving the Tasmanian forestry industry is responsible, robust and legal.

This decision is a gift for all Tasmanians, whether you support responsible Tasmanian forestry or not. It shows that the legislation has the correct checks and balances to ensure that both the environment and economy are protected.

In his decision, Justice Pearce found that STT and the FPA followed all legislation, and acted in a sensible and responsible manner regarding the two coupes around Derby. All applications made by Blue Derby Wild were dismissed, as they should have been.

And despite an appeal being announced, it’s clear that Justice Pearce was confident the Tasmanian timber industry upholds the highest level of integrity.

This decision was the right one. The Tasmanian forestry industry prides itself on following the most robust regulations in the world. We have tough checks and balances to follow, and we do so to protect all Tasmania.

These checks and balances are administered through the state’s forest practices system, which applies everywhere in Tasmania, on both public and private forests. It applies to native forest, plantations and threatened non-forest vegetation communities. It was this system the court was asked to review.

Rest assured, had this decision been the opposite, it would have had a devastating impact on all forestry operations around the state, both on public and private land, and would have had dire impacts on the economy, as well as the environment.

A different outcome in the court would have left forestry businesses in limbo, unable to invest into growing their business. And that would have seen more Tasmanians out of work, less money flowing into the Tasmanian economy and the sequestering carbon in Tasmania come to a screeching halt.

And while the appeal drags this case on, the Tasmanian forestry industry is confident the outcome will be the same – that we meet all of the stringent requirements set out in state legislation.

It’s important to note that the future of forestry wasn’t on trial here. The decision just shows the court agrees with the Government’s decision to allow responsible forestry businesses to operate with a certain level of co-regulation (and it’s important to note that the industry’s co-regulation is still closely-monitored and highly-enforced).

Any attempt to portray this as a fight for the future of forestry is disingenuous at best, and obtuse at worst. It’s a tactic we often see from those trying to stop forestry in Tasmania.

Yes, forestry has had some issues in the past, but we continue to transform. Today we are an industry full of scientists, researchers and professionals who have been striving to make ongoing improvements to forestry’s environmental protection, methodologies, systems and processes for decades. And we are not done improving yet, it is always an ongoing process for any responsible industry.

That improvement has been recognised by the Tasmanian Government, by allowing us to monitor ourselves, and now the courts agree.

Tasmanian forestry is working hard and listening, and we want to continue to play a pivotal role in growing the economy, supporting local jobs and being a solution to climate change. A different decision from the court last week could have stopped this world-leading industry.

And if that had happened, Australia’s insatiable demand for wood and wood products (which Tasmania helps meet) would not have reduced. But rather than seeking wood from Tasmania’s legal and responsible industry, that timber would have been sourced from overseas, where industry standards are not as robust.

Tasmania’s forestry is key to the state’s wellbeing, and we’re glad the courts have backed us to keep supporting the economy, community and environment. We’re sure the appeal will find the same.

Nick Steel is the CEO of the Tasmanian Forest Products Association.


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