International Report Ranks Tasmanian Logging Alongside Burma, The Philippines And Indonesia

February 20, 2006

International report to European Union on ‘destructive legal logging’ slams Tasmanian Third-World practices

A report prepared by international environmental organisations has ranked the Tasmanian logging industry alongside Third World countries such as Burma, the Philippines, Indonesia and Suriname.

“The findings in this report directly repudiate the Government’s claims that Tasmanian logging is environmentally sustainable,” said Wilderness Society Campaigner Geoff Law, releasing the report in Australia today.

“It sweeps away the industry’s soothing rhetoric and exposes the destructive and inhumane side of logging in Tasmania. It is refreshing and encouraging to see that the international community is alert to what is happening in Tasmania.”

Cam Walker, from Friends of the Earth (Australia), said that the report blows the whistle on destructive practices such as the replacement of native forests with plantations, 1080 poisoning on private land, threats to endangered species such as the wedge-tailed eagle, and the creation of greenhouse gases by large-scale burning.

The report was prepared by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (Netherlands) and other international groups for presentation to the European Union. It is entitled ‘Legal Forest Destruction’ and explores the distinction between legality and sustainability.

It  presents a number of case studies around the world where destructive but legal logging occurs ‘in which the negative social and ecological effects are profound’ (p.5). The logging industry in Tasmania appears alongside examples of destructive logging in Indonesia, Burma, Suriname, the Philippines, Russia and Cameroon.

The report is critical of the following aspects of logging in Tasmania:

  • The high rate of land-clearing (‘at least 90,000 ha of native forests having been converted to plantations in the last seven years’, p.10);
  • The reliance on clearfelling and burning,with fires ‘so hot that they create a mushroom cloud, the type of cloud that is normally associated with an atomic explosion’, (p.10);
  • Threats to endangered species (‘the endangered wedge-tailed eagle has a significantly greater risk of extinction in this region if planned logging and plantation conversion operations proceed’ p.12);
  • The1080 poisoning of native animals (still carried out on private land in Tasmania);
  • Aerial application of chemicals and resultant risks to those Tasmanians who ‘have been directly exposed to some of these chemicals as a result of over-spraying and chemical contamination of water supplies’ (p.11);
  • The fact that ‘Tasmania is the only state in Australia where oldgrowth forests are converted to short-rotation tree-crops’ (p.11);
  • The shedding of jobs in the Tasmanian community because of the replacement of jobs-rich, high-value-added processes with woodchipping;
  • The impacts of logging on other industries such as tourism, leatherwood honey and organic farming;
  • Exemptions under which the logging industry operates which shield it from environmental laws and planning laws.

The report takes note of the May 2005 Supplementary RFA but points out that the agreement ‘may in fact accelerate destruction as new roads are built into previously inaccessible areas.’ It also points out that the agreement to phase out tree-clearing still leaves ‘about 70,000 ha more clearing, even if the decision is properly implemented’.

The report points out that many of the areas ‘protected’ by the Supplementary RFA were never threatened by logging in the first place, while forests that were subject to conservation campaigns, such as the Great Western Tiers, Blue Tier and Ben Lomond forests, are still being destroyed.

The report on Tasmania concludes with an analysis of Gunns’ attempt to sue conservationists for over $6 million and warns:

If Gunns succeeds in either tying up the environment movement in court for years, or worse, in making out some of its major claims, it will have far-reaching ramifications for the environment and all those who campaign for it.

Further information: Geoff Law 0409 944 891, (03) 6224 1550

Click here for the report (pdf file - 1.2 mg)