L to R: Tasmanian Resources Minister Guy Barnett, wooden boat builder Andrew Denham, Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman.
Tasmania is due for its next State election by March 2018 but we are already in campaign mode. Battlelines are being drawn and as many battlegrounds opened up as the politicians can handle.
The forest industry is an old campaign warhorse. This old nag has been dragged onto every election battlefield for the past 35 years. Up until the 2014 election it was with the support of the forest industry.
But times have changed.
It’s all about logging public native forests; an issue that for a number of reasons (economic, social, political and environmental) is now completely toxic in Tasmania.
At least some sections of the forest industry now recognise the enormous cost of last 35 years of “forestry wars” to both the industry and the Tasmanian community.
The last 3 years have seen the new Liberal State Government dismantling the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement (TFA), which was a landmark agreement between the forest industry and conservationists developed over many years of often difficult negotiation.
The media is already full of campaign stories. Major sections of the forest industry are in open opposition to State Government policy as the Government ramps up its campaign:
Forestry plan set for logjam as industry group prepares opposition campaign
Sawmill boss warns against return to Tasmanian ‘forest wars’, says wood may go unclaimed
Forest Industries Association of Tasmania wants more information on State Government logging plan, not convinced it will be good for the industry, conservationists are strongly opposed
Ruth Forrest MLC calls for proof of demand to unlock forest
But sections of the special timbers community and the Special Timbers Alliance have come out in support of Government policy:
Tasmanian special timbers sector affirms support for Liberals’ forestry plan
Tasmanian Special Timbers Alliance
Pro-forestry advocate wants showdown with the Greens at 2018 Tasmanian election
The next few months will also see the release by the Government of a draft Special Species Timber Management Plan that is perfectly timed to fuel the divisive election campaign.
How do we build a healthy profitable forest industry within this hostile context?
An angry, divided community/electorate is what the Government wants. How else can they hope to win the election?
The Tasmanian community is not given any opportunity to resolve this dispute amicably. Thirty five years of forestry wars have left the forest industry and the community bitterly divided. The political system exacerbates the problem and the forest industry lacks leadership.
When will the forest industry and the Tasmanian community realise that politics and politicians will never solve the industry’s many problems?
When will the Tasmanian community realise that if it wants a forest industry for the future then a vote at the ballot box every 4 years is not enough?
Rural communities especially need to take the initiative. The future of the forest industry is with profitable private tree growers. The New Zealanders do it. Tasmanians need to do it too.
It’s going to be a long and bitter election campaign with the Tasmanian community the big losers.
The next 12 months will do the Tasmanian blackwood industry and the Tasmanian community no good whatsoever.
Google News already knows that the forestry wars have recommenced!
People thinking of buying or promoting Tasmanian specialty timbers or specialty timber products sourced from public native forest need to think carefully about what their support does for this conflict and the Tasmanian community. Farm grown timber is a safer alternative.
When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?