Image for Kelty report outlines government action. L’Estrange, Abetz, Milne, Gunns threat.

Environment groups (ENGOs) have welcomed the public release of Bill Kelty’s interim report on the Tasmanian forest principles agreement and called on governments to urgently implement the report’s proposals.

A summary of the proposed actions for governments as stated in the interim report is below.

The interim report states that the capacity to reach an agreement will be enhanced by ‘… a commitment by governments to deliver formal legislative protection to ENGO HCV forest reserve proposal areas’.

Environment Tasmania, The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation remain committed to the Tasmanian forest principles agreement and will work to deliver all outcomes, including the protection of Tasmania’s native forests and the development of a sustainable timber industry in Tasmania. 

Position of environment groups on specific issues

1. Protection of native forests

A full moratorium on further logging and road construction in high conservation value forest reserve areas is overdue and needs to be urgently implemented by governments.  Environment groups expect governments to quickly legislate to protect high conservation value forests reserve areas and to establish the mechanisms for voluntary exit from native forest logging and the transition to a sustainable timber industry.

2. The Tamar Valley Pulp Mill

The interim report does not state a requirement for the ENGOs to support the Tamar Valley pulp mill.  Environment groups continue to oppose the Tamar Valley pulp mill proposal.  Gunns has made improvements to some environmental aspects, particularly native forest use, but it does not have a social licence to proceed, due to outstanding issues of concern.  Mr Kelty has recommended a review of the current proposed pulp mill assessment.  Any new assessment of the proposed mill would have to be independent and robust.  There also needs to be an exploration of alternative investment, plantations processing and job creation opportunities for rural and regional Tasmania.

[Includes excerpts from Mr Kelty’s interim report]

The chance to establish a workable understanding will be enhanced if there is ‘… a commitment by governments to deliver formal legislative protection to ENGO HCV forest reserve proposal areas’.

1. Moratorium implementation

There was a strongly held view by ENGOs and industry that the moratorium should be in place by 15 March which includes a commitment to wood supply to meet all existing wood supply obligations and protection of ENGO HCV forests as part of the interim outcome.

The 6-month moratorium needs to include:

– an end to logging and road construction within ENGO HCV forests
– an agreed process for re-scheduling operations
– a commitment to wood supply to meet existing wood supply obligations
– The involvement of independent auditor Professor Jerry Vanclay

It is proposed that legislative change(s) to reduce saw-log volumes that reflect exited saw-log volumes and mechanisms for transition over time are identified and progressed by the State government.

2. Future forest industries

It is proposed that options for a diverse range of plantation processing developments and investments for Tasmania be investigated and assessed. An independent person be appointed to review the current pulp mill assessment, which would attempt to clarify the main areas of concern within the current assessment of the proposal from Gunns Ltd

3. Regional impact

It is proposed that Professor Jonathan West and Dr Jacki Schirmer be used to study and develop regional / community based transition plans to be adopted and implemented.

4. Climate change

The group propose to develop a specific submission of the impact of the agreement and the alternatives to in relation to climate change and carbon tax considerations

5. Restructuring

It is noted that progress has been made in that a verified boundary of proposed ENGO HCV Forest areas has been undertaken and nearing completion. It is noted that various resource scenarios can now be determined. During the restructuring process any redundancies and job layoffs should be assisted by the retraining and re skilling packages. Worker’s Assistance Packages recommended to be coordinated by Forest Works. Associated mechanisms to support the voluntary exit of logging, harvest and haulage contractors from the native forests sector will also need to be made available.

There is an expectation that government resources will be required to establish the mechanism(s) to support the implementation of the moratorium and assist with industry transition/restructuring.

6. View of non signatories

Ensuring that there are mechanisms for broader public participation, engagement and communication about the process will be critical.

• Download the Report: HERE
• Sue Neales, Mercury: Forest industry cracks emerge
• Patrick Caruana, The Age: Kelty recommends Tas pulp mill compo
• Download Greg L’Estrange, Eric Abetz Examiner specials
• Christine Milne: Getting the facts straight

And, from Border Watch

Timber giant fires warning

Posted on April 4, 2011, 8:08am (Border Watch - Mount Gambier)

Timber giant Gunns will exit the region and move interstate if the State Government proceeds with the forward sale of state-owned timber assets, the company has warned.

In a submission made to Wednesday’s senate inquiry in Mount Gambier, scathing criticism was directed at the government for its “little consultation, arrogant and unprofessional behaviour” and the uncertainty it had created within the industry across the South East.

The timber giant has been tight-lipped regarding the issue to date, but a written submission obtained by The Border Watch states the major employer in the region — which runs pine sawmills in Tarpeena and Kalangadoo — would eventually be forced to divest from the area if various conditions were not applied to the sale.

“Gunns would be in a position where it would not have the confidence to invest in its processing facilities in the Green Triangle,” Gunns general manager David Ford explained in the report.

“Without investment, existing processing facilities will become outdated and uncompetitive.

“Gunns has made a commitment to its shareholders that it will expand its radiata pine softwood processing facilities in Australia and it will achieve that in an environment conducive to capital investment.

“The Green Triangle region is currently not considered to be a region that provides confidence in capital investment in processing facilities.”

With investment drying up, Mr Ford concluded that processing would be taken out of the region.

“If Gunns is unable to determine that the right environment exists in the Green Triangle region to grow its investment in softwood processing facilities, it will select a radiata pine region that will support the investment of a modern high technology sawmill,” he wrote.

He warned that if the company were forced to look elsewhere it would hit local communities hard.

“It will have a devastating impact to local communities if Gunns exits the region,” Mr Ford states.

Full story HERE

Forest value questioned

Confusion surrounding the future water agreements faced by the region’s forest plantations will slap a discount sticker on any forward sale of rotations, according to a submission by industry insiders.

A submission made by Gunns timber product general manager David Ford states the “massive confusion” around the application of future water licensing agreements for forests in the Lower South East will lead to any potential buyer discounting their value.

“Given that a full crop rotation of radiata pine can be anywhere between 30 to 38 years, the adoption of policy can significantly change through the rotation, which greatly increases the risk profile of the investment,” he states.

“The new owners will subsequently discount the value of their purchase to pass the risk back to the original owner, which in this case is the South Australian Government.”

Mr Ford asked why the proposed sale was proceeding when the State Government had, through its proposed water policy, greatly increased the risk profile for a potential purchaser.

“This will lower the price a potential buyer would be prepared to pay,” Mr Ford writes.

“The South Australian taxpayer would have a strong case that the State Government has orchestrated an environment that actually diminishes the value of their forestry asset.”

Despite holding reservations in commenting on a South Australian issue, Western Australian senator Chris Back could not hold back his disbelief in how very little he said the proposal made sense financially.

“The State Government will not just lose the income stream from ForestrySA, but also the GST, the payroll taxes,” he said.

“If they really do need this injection it appears they will sell these forests far below value.”

Border Watch story HERE