Queensland government should not rush into plantation privatisation.

National environmental organisation Friends of the Earth today expressed alarm at the impending privatisation of Forestry Plantations Queensland (FQP). Spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Anthony Amis said “for the past decade we have been monitoring the logging activities of Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP). The Victorian State Government privatised its 105,000 ha plantation resource in 1998. Queensland should learn from Victoria's misadventure so that the same mistakes are not made again”

logging in the Strzelecki Ranges, 2007

press release - November 4 2009
 

Queensland government should not rush into plantation privatisation.


Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth today expressed alarm at the impending privatisation of Forestry Plantations Queensland (FQP).  Spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Anthony Amis said “for the past decade we have been monitoring the logging activities of Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP). The Victorian State Government privatised its 105,000 ha plantation resource in 1998. Queensland should learn from Victoria's misadventure so that the same mistakes are not made again”

“In Victoria, Hancock was granted logging rights to large amounts of native forest in the Strzelecki Ranges. This indigenous reforestation was mislabeled as plantation. Currently Hancock are logging 1,500 ha from a nationally rainforest reserve in the Strzelecki Ranges. Hancock also own most of the available habitat of the Strzelecki Koala, Victoria's only endemic Koala, yet after one decade the company does not have a Best Management Practice for protecting this species. Since buying into the Strzeleckis, over 7,000 ha of Koala habitat has been logged by Hancock. Similar issues could occur in Queensland with some of their 'indigenous' plantations” said Mr Amis.

"Privatisation effectively ends public accountability. Freedom of Information (FoI) laws no longer apply to a company that purchases state assets. Earlier this year Friends of the Earth was denied information from FQP about pesticide runoff into Queensland waterways. FQP claimed that because they were in the process of privatisation they were exempt from FoI. Likewise, HVP are exempt from FoI laws in Victoria. HVP own many plantations that are located in domestic water supplies, yet the public is not allowed to know if pesticides are running off these plantations after being sprayed” said Mr Amis. “How will the Queensland public know if their waterways are safe if plantations in those water supplies are exempt from public scrutiny? Already that door has been slammed on Queenslanders and privatisation will keep that door bolted shut” said Mr Amis.

“Also the buyer of FQP will inherit historical information which may be relevant to worker health issues. In the 1960's and 1970's many forestry workers in Queensland were exposed to dangerous levels of 2,4,5-T and other pesticides that were used in plantations. If the plantations are sold, the purchaser will inherit confidential information that may be of great interest to these workers (or residents) who are attempting to get a just outcome over past misuse of pesticides” said Mr Amis.

“In Victoria, Hancock purchased the rights to log Victoria's plantations for 99 years. Plantations can use vast amounts of water, as young trees are extremely thirsty.  Plantations can contribute to reduced streamflows. In some catchments in Victoria where Hancock plantations are located, water can be worth almost $1,000 per million litres (ML). Yet Hancock does not have to pay anything for the water that their plantations use. It could be argued that in the Victorian context, the water used by the plantations over a 99 year period would be worth much more than the timber logged from those plantations, totaling many billions of dollars. In times of reduced rainfall due to climate change, it is non-nonsensical for Governments' not take into account water use in plantations. Effective privatisation of domestic water supplies in Queensland is something that should not be supported” concluded Mr Amis.

For more information call Anthony Amis (03) 9419 8700 Monday or (03) 9830 6164 Tuesday.

Further information: http://www.hancock.forests.org.au/docs/LoggingIndex.htm