The Tasmanian Ministerial Advisory Council on Forestry has finally produced a Strategic Plan for the industry.
Yes another strategic plan for the forest industry!!
Our public library shelves are at breaking point, weighed down by the dozens of these plans, strategies and reviews that have been produced over the past 40 years, all to no avail.
Two issues ensure that the use-by date of this Plan has already expired:
- The State Government deliberately excluded non-industry representatives from the Advisory Council. This Plan only represents the interests of a small select group of Tasmanians. It is a 100% political document! This Plan is only as good as the next election if that!
- The two most contentious issues of a) public forest management, and b) the future management of Forestry Tasmania, should have been dealt with a separate section within the Plan. Instead these issues are woven through the document, fundamentally compromising the entire Plan. If the forest industry cannot unchain itself from these two issues, and focus on profitable tree growing, then the forest industry is doomed.
If the future of the forest industry is to be based on profitable tree growing then this Plan fails completely!
Reviewing the Plan is therefore an academic/intellectual/painful exercise.
As a forester having read many previous forest industry plans and strategies, reading this Plan is painful and frustrating. Besides the poor structure and legibility, much of the contents are straight out of previous plans I’ve read. There are very few new ideas in this Plan.
The surreality of the Plan is overwhelming, in that the Plan completely ignores the current hostile political, social and economic context of the forest industry.
“The future growth potential of private plantations is significant”. This statement on page 6 of the Plan says a lot about the future growth of the forest industry. Unfortunately it is not expanded upon anywhere else in the Plan.
“Government involvement will be as an enabler rather than as a commercial participant.” This statement on page 9 of the Plan is the most curious feature of the Plan. It stands alone with no further detail or explanation of what it might mean. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
“It is recommended the Forest Practices Act and the implementation of its provisions be reviewed in keeping with progressive developments in forest practices and science”. A review of the FPA is certainly needed, especially around plantation development and management. Forest plantations should exist within the same regulatory environment as any other primary industry, just like in New Zealand – a level playing field.
“While the industry comprises a diversity of often competing interests and business models, individual stakeholders also share a range of common interests. Within this context, there is a need for an umbrella organisation to develop and represent the shared interests of the whole of the value chain on matters of common concern”. The Plan calls for the formation of a new industry representative body. Private forest growers are the future of the forest industry. They need strong leadership and a strong voice.
That’s it! Four statements in the Plan that I think have some merit and potential. The rest of the Plan is padding or worse.
The main con is the absence of non-industry representation on the Advisory Council, making this Plan a 100% political document;
The Plan assumes indefinite ongoing access to taxpayer subsidised public forest resource;
The complete absence of profitable tree growers and profitable tree-growing as the basis of any successful forest industry;
Log pricing is not discussed nor are transparent competitive markets;
The Plan is not a response to a review of the forest industry. Firstly we need a document that lists the major problems and challenges facing the forest industry. Then we need a strategy that addresses those problems and challenges. The logic needs to be transparent – problem, solution, outcome! By itself this document provides the reader with no context by which to judge the strategy, let alone any possible outcomes. I would classify this as a major flaw.
These Plans are always about what the Government can do for the industry, never about what the industry must do for itself; and
Hence always involve spending large amounts of taxpayer money;
Private Forests Tasmania is not mentioned in the Plan!!
The Plan retains the stupid rhetoric about “resource security”. The forest industry does not need “resource security”! The very successful New Zealand forest industry does not talk about resource security, because the NZ industry is based on a private forest resource. “Resource security” in NZ only comes from profitability; either pay a good market price or go out of business! “Resource security” is a forest industry euphemism for loss-making, taxpayer-subsidised, politically protected industry. “Resource security” is anti-competitive and against the principles of competitive neutrality. Private forest growers should not be subject to “resource security” so neither should the public forest grower. In my opinion the word “sustainable” has come to serve the same purpose within the industry. The Plan uses the word “sustainable” ad nauseum whilst the word “profit” appears only once!
The inability of the Strategy to recognise and address issues of competitive neutrality, such as the proposal that the State Government fund forest road construction and maintenance (p. 20). Government money must then also go to private forest growers for road construction and maintenance in order to achieve competitive neutrality!
The section on Meeting Community Expectations (p. 13) is a complete joke, in fact it is laughable.
The section on Special Species Timbers (p. 17) is a joke;
The section on Private Forests (p. 14) is completely inadequate. The objective of private forest growers is profitability. Improving profitability and competitiveness is not discussed in the Plan at all.
I could go on, but the patient is already in the Terminal Ward.
The weaknesses and omissions in this Plan mean that it has already been consigned to the dust bin of history. In 3 years time the Strategic Plan of 2017 will be long forgotten. Yet another failure by the Tasmanian forest industry to reinvent itself.
Another 3 years wasted. More subsidies, more politics, more community conflict can only follow.
PS. Another significant omission from the Plan is the subject of a budget and funding. Of course we all know that the long suffering taxpayer will be asked once again to throw money at the forest industry by way of this Plan, to the tune of $100s millions of dollars. Given the billions of dollars that have been wasted on the forest industry over the past 30 years, taxpayers should be extremely wary of supporting any forest industry plan that does not include significant forest policy and industry reform. This Plan contains very few recommendations for policy and industry reform.
PPS. If the forest industry and the Tasmanian community are serious about the future of the industry then I recommend these two reports as a good place to begin:
These reports contain plenty of great recommendations for reform, none of which have ever been implemented.
Speaking of redundant Forestry Growth Plans does anyone remember this one?
It’s a complete joke!! By December 2003 ………
Complete cloud cuckoo land stuff. And here we are 14 years later still in cloud cuckoo land. Pathetic!