The Wilderness Society today called on the Member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott, to end his support for classing the burning of native forest woodchips as renewable energy.

Yesterday, Mr Oakeshott, supported by Tony Windsor, moved to disallow proposed changes to the Renewable Energy Target agreed as part of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee’s Clean Energy Package.

“This is an issue of fundamental national environmental significance,” said Wilderness Society National Forest Campaigner Warrick Jordan. “Classing the burning of native forests as ‘renewable energy’ is a hangover from the Howard years. Mr Oakeshott needs to be aware of the broader environmental and economic consequences of his proposal.

“Most Australians consumers would be shocked to know that a power generation method can be classed as ‘renewable’ when it drives the destruction of ancient forests, destroys the homes of iconic species like the koala, and in many cases actually increases greenhouse pollution.”

“These regulations are not about burning a few offcuts at the local mill. The Australian commodity native forest industry is currently in freefall, with markets for woodchips disappearing rapidly and the industry going through a period of fundamental structural change.”

“Burning vast quantities of woodchips for power is a desperate attempt to keep the industry alive while the last healthy forests are liquidated. This is the great white hope of a Tasmanian forest industry which is currently collapsing under the weight of unsold woodchips, and the Victorian and Western Australian governments are seeking to prop up their ailing industries by offering huge volumes of native forest for incineration.”

“The forest industry in Mr Oakeshott’s electorate is facing the same challenges, as mills confront the reality that timber supply contracts cannot be filled due to poor forest management and over-cutting. The solution is not a short term fix to continue destroying forests, but supporting a transition to an economically viable industry based on plantation forestry.”

“The Multi-Party Climate Committee reached agreement on a package to deliver strong economic and environmental outcomes. The Wilderness Society urges Mr Oakeshott ensure that agreement is delivered in full, rather than pursue an approach that locks in forest destruction and shuts out other forms of truly renewable energy.”

• Christine Milne writes to Windsor, Oakeshott

Australian Greens Deputy Leader Christine Milne is writing to independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott to ask them to reconsider their breach of the carbon package agreement.

“Mr Oakeshott has moved, and Mr Windsor has seconded, a motion to disallow the regulation enacting the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee’s unanimous decision to prohibit forest furnaces from gaining renewable energy credits.

“The forest furnaces now being proposed in several states would become a driving force for destruction of Australian forests, woodlands and wildlife habitat, much the same as the export woodchip industry did after its establishment in the 1970s,” Senator Milne said.

“Whether or not they realise it, Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor’s actions would drive native forest logging around the country at a time when resolution of the long-standing forest conflicts is possible.

“I hope the members will reconsider.”

But First, the Legislation Needs to Pass

Paul O’Halloran MP
Greens Member for Braddon

The Tasmanian Greens today said that projects announced at Circular Head today were a small taste of the kind of benefits regional communities could receive, once the legislative components of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) were in place.

Greens Member for Braddon Paul O’Halloran MP said the Circular Head community was one of many regional communities around the state that had suffered from the economic downturn triggered by the global financial crisis.

“There is no doubt that the economic future of Circular Head will be its productive agricultural sector, which is why it’s so important to start training the next-generation workforce to lead the region’s economic recovery,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“There’s been a major downturn in the Circular Head timber industry following to the collapse in global demand for wood products, and re-skilling the workforce is essential for the region’s economic future.”

“The $120 million from the IGA should flow only after the conservation and industry restructure goals contained in the IGA have been fully implemented.”

“Federal and state Labor need to prioritise getting their act together to ensure the money is invested where it’s really needed.  It will be essential that communities are fully consulted through an open and transparent submissions process.”

“The IGA is certainly not perfect, but it does offer regional communities around the state the potential to develop strengthened and more robust economies.”