An update on current Tasmanian forest issues

May 2, 2003

An update from Peter Sims, Tarkine National Coalition/ FoE Tasmania forests campaigner:

"When bad news comes in trees" was the headline in The Australian newspaper Business Extra published on 30 April. This is a good expose on the self-regulation of the Tasmanian forest industry by reporter Carol Altman.

Carol replaced reporter Bruce Montgomery who has just been appointed as communications manager to the Forestry Industry Association of Tasmania, which includes Gunns Limited. Gunns is the biggest exporter of hardwood woodchips in the world. It owns all four woodchip mills in Tasmania and over two thirds of the eucalypt sawmilling industry.

Now that the smoke is clearing from the autumn regeneration burns we can see the ever increasing areas of native forests, including old growth forests, being logged for plantations right across the State. Forests in the drier south east in an area that has potential salinity problems are being logged, and even the roadside trees to Port Arthur are being logged to remove a road hazard.

Deputy Premier Lennon launched the Southwood project (sawmill, woodchip mill, rotary peeler and wood-fired power station) away from the media and protesters gaze which was reported in the Hobart Mercury as "Hushwood".

News is spreading about Tasmania logging it's ancient forests and the burnt out blight on the landscape as was reported in the Guardian Weekly (24-30 April). See the web site http://www.discover-tasmania.com/ for what's happening.

An organic farmer has been taken to the Supreme Court by Gunns Limited who are appealing against an order to pay $4,000 towards costs of a fence to keep out 1080 poisoned animals from falling into his waterways and onto his property.

The PR machine of Forestry Tasmania, the Government Business Enterprise, currently offers $10,000 for a wood award, after contributing $60,000 to the recent '10 Days on the Island' arts festival and at the same time spent large sums on 10 daily adverts in each of the three Tasmanian daily newspapers exposing the 'myths about forestry'.

Protests against the logging of old growth and forests of high conservation value continued at Triabunna Gunns woodchip plant (4 arrested and fined $1,000), Blue Tier in the North East and at Lucaston (3 arrested) in the South. The main news over the past month was the boycott of the $40,000 Literary Prize by international writers (Peter Carey, Tim Winton and Joan London) and the '10 Days on the Island' arts festival by patrons and by participants. A highly successful alternative arts festival, 'Future Perfect', was organised and supported by top artists and backed by none other than Philip Adams, gardening guru Peter Cundall, Pierre Slicer a Supreme Court Judge, writers Margaret Scott and Richard Flanagan, economist Saul Eslake and Senator Bob Brown.

Performing at 'Future Perfect', Aboriginal singer Archie Roach said that forestry activities are violating land fertilised by his ancestors and "they are taking away what is uniquely ours".

When you see a bottle of Tasmanian wine with the label TAMAR RIDGE, just remember that it is tainted as it is now owned by Gunns Limited.

Timber giant Gunns Limited have dismissed as invalid the Wilderness Society's move for an extraordinary general meeting to discuss old growth logging and financial information on woodchipping activities. However, not defeated, the Wilderness Society will be trying again.

Tarkine update as at 1 May:

The Tarkine is in north western Tasmania and is home to Australia's largest temperate rainforest, one of the Australia's great archaeological sites and encompasses Tasmania's largest remaining unprotected wilderness.

There is still no word from the Government on the decision to log the ancient deep red myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii) forests in the heart of the Tarkine wilderness. Forestry Tasmania have raised with much vigor the issue of gaining access to this area via a track that services an iron ore slurry pipeline controlled by Australian Bulk Minerals (ABM). This mining company needs an indemnity of $600M against any loss of production that may be caused by any break in the pipeline. BHP Steel takes 40% of production from ABM and this customer does not have a stockpile, so any delay in shipments would effectively shut down Port Kembla Steel, and lead to cancellation of this valuable contract which would effectively close the mine at Savage River.

For more information see:

Website : http://www.tarkine.org

Peter Sims
Email: tark@tassie.net.au