Category Archives: Politics

FSC supports illegal forestry in Australia

The following constitutes my submission to SCS Global Services as part of its assessment of Sustainable Timber Tasmania for FSC Certification.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2019/04/10/public-notification/

FSC2

https://au.fsc.org/en-au

https://www.sttas.com.au/

http://www.scsglobalservices.com/

The idea that public native forestry in Tasmania is “environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable” (FSC’s very own criteria!) is complete and utter fantasy.

Just the history of the industry over the last 5 years demonstrates the hypocrisy of this idea, never mind the forestry wars of the last 40+ years!!

The above image is taken from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) website. Unfortunately none of these three titles on the FSC website are live/linked. You can’t click to find out what the FSC means by “Environmentally Appropriate” or “Economically Viable”. So I typed “Economically Viable” into their search box and I got this result:

EcoVia

FSC “could not find any results”!!

I think the FSC has got some issues to resolve.

Luckily I have a clue as to what the FSC means by “economically viable” from the last time Forestry Tasmania attempted to gain FSC certification. The following quote comes from SCS Global Services website:

Can a company that operates at a loss achieve certification?

The FSC certification standard requires that a forest management entity have sufficient financial resources [taxpayer subsidies] to manage the defined forest area in conformance with the full scope of the standard.  The standard does not require that the certified forest is managed at a profit provided that other sources of working capital [taxpayer subsidies] are available and sufficient [$ billions] to enable management in conformance with the standard.

https://www.scsglobalservices.com/news/scs-responds-to-questions-about-the-forestry-tasmania-fsc-forest-management-assessment

So the FSC defines “economically viable” as pretty much anything, including major loss-making public native forestry.

The problem is, under Australian law that is ILLEGAL!!!!!!!

It’s called Competitive Neutrality, and I wrote a blog about it back in 2016:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/10/17/competitive-neutrality-in-forestry/

It is Tasmania’s view that all the State’s PTEs and PFEs, together with its GBEs, are significant Government businesses for the purposes of the CPA. Accordingly, in applying the competitive neutrality principles, significant Government business enterprises are defined as those enterprises which are classified as PTEs, PFEs and/or GBEs.

https://www.economicregulator.tas.gov.au/Documents/Competitive%20Neutrality%20Principles%20Guidelines%20June%201996.pdf

This includes FT/STT.

In 1995 Australia’s governments agreed to the National Competition Policy (NCP) and Related Reforms.

http://ncp.ncc.gov.au/pages/home

The problem is many of those reforms have never been implemented, or have since been watered down.

FT/STT is a classic example!

It was corporatized according to NCP policy, but it has never been run as a commercial business. And yet it competes in the marketplace against private tree growers.

FT/STT has never publically acknowledged that it is a Government business competing in the marketplace against private forest growers both here in Tasmania and on the mainland

FT/STT has never publically acknowledged the need for it to behave in a competitively neutral manner.

FT/STT has never had any Competitive Neutrality Policies and objectives…..ever!

And every week that FT/STT gets another taxpayer handout is another breach of Australia’s Trade Practices Laws.

The fact that FT/STT has never been prosecuted illustrates the broken nature of Australia’s political system, and a conflicted forest industry.

The NCP does not discuss what should be done with Government businesses that cannot survive in a commercial world, businesses like FT/STT.

The FSC does not say where these “other sources” of money may come from or place any limits on the extent of subsidisation.

I wonder what economists think of this idea?

I wonder what private forest owners who compete in the marketplace against loss-making, forest squandering Sustainable Timber Tasmania think of this idea?

So Sustainable Timber Tasmania passes the FSC “economically viable” criteria with flying colors! What a joke!!

Never mind the long suffering Tasmanian taxpayer, or the lowly paid Tasmanian public servant!

The last 20 years

Last year this article appeared in a major Australian news media site detailing the extent of commercial losses from public native forestry in Tasmania:

JL

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/tasmanian-forest-agreement-delivers-13bn-losses-in-giant-on-taxpayers

And that analysis was using FT’s own accounting methods!

If FT had to do its accounting like a private forest grower (ie. Competitive neutrality) the losses would be far greater. What private forest grower can value its entire land estate at $0.00??

No doubt the FSC would see this article as glowing praise for world class forest management!!

Greenpeace

The environmental organisation Greenpeace was one of the founding partners of the FSC. In March last year Greenpeace resigned from the FSC citing ongoing and significant issues with the way the FSC was being managed:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/03/30/greenpeace-leaves-the-forest-stewardship-council-fsc/

With Greenpeace gone it now seems that the FSC is moving towards becoming another forest industry rubber stamping organisation like the PEFC.

Buying FSC certified wood products does not save the world’s forests.

New Zealand

Imagine if this response on economic viability was given within a New Zealand context, where the forest industry is fully commercial and profitable?

“Yeah we just waste taxpayers money to grow trees and give them away! Who cares about farmers?”

New Zealand farmers would be marching on their Parliament House to bring down the Government!

Here in Tasmania? Not a whisper of protest!

Bunnings

Bunnings, Australia’s largest timber retailer, is threatening to stop selling public native forest products next year (2020) unless the products achieve FSC certification.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/08/04/bunnings-finally-takes-a-stand/

The marketplace is finally saying “enough is enough”!

For both Vicforests and STT this is crunch time!

Wind up

Four years ago former State politician Sue Smith called for the winding up of FT/STT. How she described the forest industry then is still the same today, but worse.

https://www.themercury.com.au/news/politics/former-mlc-sue-smith-urges-forestry-tasmania-windup/news-story/50272c2ae1798a9358999278b5563073?fbclid=IwAR2YxZMeGSksYF7eI5NxmEmnPxYe2BQ3a8vUdCmr38t1hclWC7tS3JqC-xc

How in anyone’s imagination can this agency achieve FSC certification?

Blackwood

Who is going to grow commercial blackwood when the Tasmania State government and STT waste taxpayers money giving away public native forest blackwood, supported by taxpayer subsidies and the Forest Stewardship Council?

Nothing has changed

Sustainable Timbers Tasmania does not have a business plan, nor does it have commercial objectives.

Neither does it apologise every year for its continuing waste of Tasmanian taxpayers money.

“This is the number of teachers and nurses you missed out on this year thanks to our activities. But don’t worry! We are sustainable!!”

Nothing has changed.

But from my perspective it is the failed economics of public native forestry that is the primary reason that Tasmania will never have a Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative.

If the FSC “Economic Viability” criteria are so easy to achieve, one must assume the other two criteria – “Environmentally Appropriate” and “Socially Beneficial” – are just a walk in the park!

As a forester I believe this is about the worst possible outcome for the forest industry. It is certainly the worst possible outcome for the Tasmanian community.

  1. And finally, who gets to pay for STT’s FSC assessment? That’s right! The long suffering Tasmanian taxpayer. Show me a private forest grower who has their FSC assessment paid for by the taxpayer. Answer! NONE!!

PPS. STT is just the forest manager. The State Government owns the forests! The same State Government that wants to log the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The same State Government that IS logging ancient rainforests in Conservation Reserves. For the FSC to certify STT would be an even bigger act of hypocrisy than that of the Tasmanian State Government. The Tasmanian Government determines Forest Policy NOT Sustainable Timbers Tasmania!!

When will Tasmania get a real forest industry based on profitable private tree growers?

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The burning of Notre Dame and Tasmanian Special Timbers

NotreDameFire

The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 15/4/2019 provides the perfect metaphor for the continuing destruction of Tasmania’s natural heritage.

The world was horrified that the 800 year old World Heritage Listed cathedral was on fire. How could humanity lose such a treasure?

But here in Tasmania 800+ year old heritage is destroyed every single day!

Here in Tasmania 800+ year old trees are cut down every day, at taxpayer expense, to provide a lowly subsistence for the rent seekers in the Tasmanian special timbers industry; sawmillers, furniture makers, luthiers, craftsmen, shop keepers, etc..

Trees such as Celery Top Pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius) and Myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii) live within Tasmania’s cool temperate rainforest and can live for 800-1000 years, germinating long before Bishop Maurice de Sully commenced the construction of Notre Dame in 1160.

Some of these trees are even in designated Conservation Reserves that were specifically established to protect these very same ancient trees and forests.

Such is the perverse corrupt nature of public native forestry and politics in the island State of Tasmania.

https://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/energy_and_resources/forestry/special_species_timber_management_plan

The public response to the damage at Notre Dame has been nothing but extraordinary. €100s millions have been pledged by individuals to rebuild Notre Dame and restore this international treasure.

Meanwhile in Tasmania these 800+ year old trees are destroyed with no process transparency, no FSC certification, at considerable public expense and no thought for the heritage that is being destroyed.

These people are the Notre Dame arsonists of Tasmania:

http://livingwoodtasmania.org.au/

https://www.facebook.com/TasmanianSpecialTimbersAlliance/

and many, many more. They number in the thousands in Tasmania!

Landowner opinion on trees

PFT2

This message arrived in my email recently:

Private Forests Tasmania, Institute of Foresters of Australia, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association and the Forest Practices Authority seek your opinion on growing trees on your property, the benefits and barriers that you face.

Could you please assist us by participating in this 5 minute survey.  If you would like to know more, please consider attending a field day.  Please complete by 7th March 2019.

https://www.pft.tas.gov.au

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MCVC72B

I’m heartened by the presence of the TFGA in the above list, but disheartened by the absence of FIAT/TFFPN.

I’ve copied the survey questions here:

Question Title

  1. Do you currently, or have you in the past, had a tree plantation or native forest growing on your property? Y/N
  2. Do you know that trees can benefit your overall farm production? Y/N/Some
  • Livestock – welfare, weight gain, survival rates, milk yields, shelter.
  • Crops and pasture – pasture production, drought protection, water evaporation, wind.
  • Biodiversity – soil erosion, wildlife habitat, climate change.
  • Financial – trees are money in the bank.
  1. If any, what do you consider are the barriers to planting and growing trees on your property?

(You may select more than one answer).

  • No barriers
  • Time poor
  • Establishment costs
  • Not enough benefits
  • Lack of incentives
  • Management costs
  • Harvesting costs
  • Lack of information
  • Loss of agricultural land
  • Risk
  • Time it takes trees to grow
  • Market uncertainty and low returns
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Do you plan on adding trees to your property in the future? Y/N/Maybe
  2. Would you consider planting trees if you had any of the following?

(You may select more than one option).

  • Financial assistance
  • A Joint Venture with a forest company
  • A better understanding of how trees can contribute to your overall farm profitability
  • A better understanding of how trees can benefit your livestock, crops and pasture
  • You could receive carbon credits
  • You had access to good tree planting advice and assistance
  • Other (please specify)
  1. What are your overall thoughts on tree growing?
  2. Would you consider attending field days to learn more about planting trees on your property and the benefits to you? Y/N/Maybe
  3. What would you specifically like to learn about at field days?
  • (You may select more than one option).
  • Livestock benefits
  • Crop & pasture benefits
  • Shelter and windbreaks
  • Financial benefits
  • Carbon credits
  • Plantation establishment
  • Management
  • Design
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Please provide any additional comments or feedback.
  2. Would you like to join our mailing list to receive up to date information on private forest matters in Tasmania? Y/N
  3. Your details
  • Name
  • Company
  • Address
  • Address 2
  • City/Town
  • State
  • Postal Code
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number

 

As a forester I read this survey and think – NOTHING HAS CHANGED! The forest industry thinks exactly the same way today as it did 50 years ago!!

How is that humanly possible?

Given what has happened in Tasmania over the last 50 years how can people NOT change?

This is just extraordinary.

The forest industry has spent the last 50 years lurching from crisis to failure to crisis. The forest industry today is a mere shadow of yesteryear, but still the attitude and thinking remains unchanged.

I could just as easily write a survey for members of the forest industry to respond too, because for me the weight of inertia and lack of vision lies not with Tasmanian farmers, but with members of the forest industry (most broadly defined).

Firstly let me state plainly:

Tasmania will never have a proper forest industry while we continue to log public native forest! The past 50 years proves that beyond any doubt whatsoever!

Secondly:

Growing trees for wood production is business. Not politics! Not community service! Not ideology! Not subsidy!

Many/most people in the Tasmanian forest industry choke on either or both of these statements.

And therein lies the problem.

Progress with Tasmanian farmers in building a new forest industry is not possible whilst the old mindset remains.

And I see no indication of such change.

Private Forests Tasmania, and its predecessor the Private Forestry Division within the old Forestry Commission, has been around for almost 50 years!!

PFT should have been doing these surveys every 2-5 years since it formed. I know there have been farmer surveys in the past but obviously nothing came of the results.

Here are two examples of how the New Zealand forest industry engages with farmers:

https://nz.pfolsen.com/market-info-news/

http://www.laurieforestry.co.nz/Monthly-Newsletter

I don’t know ANY company in Australia that behaves like this.

And does this survey mean that no one in the forest industry including retailers, manufacturers as well as sawmillers, has any ideas on how to engage with farmers? No ideas at all on how to motivate, recognise, reward and encourage Tasmanian farmers to grow quality timber?

If that is the case then it is little wonder that the forest industry is in such dire straits. There is no mental capacity there whatsoever!

If the forest industry wants to genuinely engage with Tasmanian farmers it doesn’t need an opinion survey. Let’s see some real honest genuine engagement!!!

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

The Wooden Boat Festival and the Tasmanian Forestry Wars

AWBF

As I’ve written previously on this website, to have a wood craft festival in the 21st century that ignores the issue of where the wood comes from, who grows it, fails to express concern for the future of the world’s forests, or demonstrate support for private tree growers, seems to me to be the equivalent to denying climate change.

But such is the situation with the Australian Wooden Boat Festival (AWBF) which is on this weekend in Hobart, Tasmania.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/10/08/the-australian-wooden-boat-festival/

The fact that most wood craft festivals in Australia behave in a similar manner is no excuse.

To date the AWBF has managed to avoid being caught up in the long running Tasmanian Forestry Wars, but the events of the last 5 years have changed that.

In 2014 the Tasmanian State election was waged yet again on a battle for the forests. The new Liberal Government scrapped the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement that had been negotiated between the forest industry and the community.

Forest areas that had been earmarked for reservation were opened up for future logging against the advice of the forest industry and the market.

The new Liberal Government then sought, with the support of the wooden boat community, to open up the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) for logging. This move was blocked by UNESCO.

The TWWHA can still be logged, but UNESCO would remove the area from the World Heritage Register.

In 2017 the Tasmanian State Government released the Tasmanian Special Species Management Plan. This Plan allows for the logging of special species timbers, including so called boat timbers, within Tasmania’s Conservation Areas. This logging is to happen at taxpayers expense, with no accountability and no transparency.

These Conservation Reserves were established under the 1996 Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement explicitly to protect rainforest and oldgrowth from logging, even although Tasmanian legislation allows for logging with Conservation Reserves (this IS Tasmania after all).

The new Special Species Management Plan explicitly uses “market demand” and events such as the Deloraine Craft Fair and the Australian Wooden Boat Festival as justification for opening up Tasmania’s Conservation Reserves for rainforest and old growth logging.

That Management Plan has now been in effect for 18 months with zero transparency or accountability. We have no idea what areas have been logged or how much taxpayers money has been wasted.

You can read my critique of this travesty of a Management Plan here:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/10/23/tasmanian-rainforest-plunder/

The fact that some people within the wooden boat community are in full support of this appalling situation needs to be highlighted.

The AWBF is a large successful festival which could be a force for change and for good.

Instead the Australian Wooden Boat Festival is now in line to become another battleground in the long running destructive Forestry Wars.

And the toxic Tasmanian political system will guarantee that the AWBF is used as a weapon to achieve short term political gain. We have seen it all before!

The Future

In the 21st century the AWBF needs to explicitly state its policy on forests, wood sourcing away from public native forests.

Currently the AWBF has no policies on these issues.

Instead the AWBF sits in silence working to ensure that Tasmanian rainforests and oldgrowth remain available for logging.

The State Government will of course threaten that to stop rainforest logging will endanger the AWBF.

The State Government will of course assert that rainforest logging is sustainable (whilst providing zero evidence/transparency/accountability).

In what perverted universe is the harvesting 500 to 1,000 year-old trees sustainable? Based on this very same logic Tasmania will resume logging Huon pine at some point!

It’s time to bring the Australian Wooden Boat Festival into the 21st century. Otherwise pressure must be brought upon the AWBF sponsors to review their support for the event.

Here’s a list of the major sponsors:

https://www.australianwoodenboatfestival.com.au/about-us/partners/

People attending or participating in the AWBF need to realise they are supporting the Tasmanian Forestry Wars and the continuing plunder of our rainforests and Tasmanian taxpayers.

It’s time to stop!!

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT)

fiat2019

https://www.fiatas.com.au/

When the Liberal Party won the 2014 Tasmanian State election and scrapped the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT), which basically represents the Crown sawmillers and which has dictated forest policy in Tasmania for generations, was left bloodied, bruised and depleted.

For the last 4 years the FIAT website has not been updated at all, reflecting the disintegrating condition of public native forestry in Tasmania.

And now I go to their website and find this!

The FIAT website used to have all sorts of forestry propaganda.

Now the FIAT website is reduced to a single16 word sentence!!

THAT’S IT!!

Clearly public native forestry in Tasmania is at crisis point!

FIAT might think they are “committed” but history clearly shows nothing but decades of forest industry conflict and wreckage.

As I have been saying for many years the only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable private tree growers and no one in the industry in Tasmania (including FIAT) has any interest in such a future.

This sad pathetic plea from FIAT feels very much like a last desperate gasp.

I have been a professional forester in Tasmania for the past 40 years. For it to come to this is very sad indeed, but so utterly predictable…

 

The end is nigh!

Bunnings

The public native forest market is shifting quickly.

Wesfarmers, the parent company of Bunnings Hardware and Officeworks, yesterday announced they will only stock FSC certified products by 2020.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-17/vic-forestry-industry-at-risk-of-collapse/10255128

This means both Vicforests and Sustainable Timbers Tasmania will cease to exist.

Neither of these State Government forest agencies are likely to achieve FSC certification before then. Bunnings is a major customer for both these agencies products.

In less than a week since its launch the new National Forest Industries Plan has been dealt a mortal blow!

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/09/17/national-forest-industries-plan-2018/

Six weeks ago Bunnings gave warning that it was living up to its policies and making a stand against poor forest management practices in Australia:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/08/04/bunnings-finally-takes-a-stand/

All around Australia public native forest management is in crisis.

Stand by for some serious fireworks!

National Forest Industries Plan 2018

Better

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable private tree growers.

And once again the Federal Government and the Australian forest industry have failed to deliver.

Last week the Federal Government launched another plan for the Australian forest industry:

http://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry

http://ausfpa.com.au/media-releases/morrison-government-promises-a-billion-new-production-trees-sets-new-vision-for-growing-australias-renewable-forest-industries/

Yet another opportunity for Australian taxpayers to give generously to the tune of $20 million over the next 4 years with more to come.

But wait! There is a Federal election due before November 2019.

Surely this is coincidence!

Another forest industry plan so close to an election. Is that pork I smell cooking?

Apologies for my cynicism but I’ve seen this so many times before.

Forest industry plans have a short shelf life in Australia. The Use By Date generally coincides with the next election/change of Government.

The Plan is 15 pages long, 15 pages of marketing and spin with very little substance. Just reading the 2 page Preface tells me that I’ve read all this many times before.

If this Plan was an investment prospectus it would be in the bin within the hour.

The Preface tells me:

  • Its all political;
  • Its all about the sawmillers/wood processors;
  • It even mentions “resource security” which is just another term for industry subsidy.
  • Competitive markets, log prices, market transparency are not discussed at all!
  • It tells me that Farmers will play a vital role. Farmers beware!!! Here’s a typical quote: Working with farmers to secure a long-term ‘wood bank’ for the forest industries’ future…. That’s it! Farmers role is to help subsidise the forest industry.
  • Does the Plan discuss profitable tree growing? Not at all!

The Plan has 15 Actions listed under 4 headings. Every one of the Actions is what the Government/taxpayer is going to do for the wood processors. Not one of the Actions concerns what the forest industry will do for itself.

There is no Implementation Plan. How, who and when are these Actions going to be fulfilled? Based in past industry plans I assume few if any of the Actions will see the light of day.

The word “export” is completely absent from the Plan. Access to log export markets is an essential part of the future of any viable profitable forest industry.

The Plan fails to address the many distortions and blockages in forestry markets in Australia (like Government control and manipulation of log prices). One major issue here is the management and performance of the various State forest agencies. All these agencies MUST be made fully commercial and profitable, or they must be must be shut down.

Many reports have been written highlighting the issues preventing investment in tree planting in Australia. This Plan ignores these issues entirely!

As I said in my previous blog forest policy should not be about sawmillers/wood processors. That is the wrong focus. Good forest policy should be about profitable private tree growers. Once tree growing is demonstrably profitable then the investment in processing will follow.

This Plan is all about sawmillers/processors.

The political and industry spin doctors really had fun with this statement:

The National Farmers Federation’s support for the inclusion of farm forestry tree plantings as a supplement to primary agricultural purposes confirms that farmers are poised to support a bigger part of tree growing in our landscape.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has only recently decided that forestry might be a primary industry. To date their interest and commitment has been minimal. They have no policies or farm forestry programs.

The one single positive I can say about the Plan is that it has a stronger emphasis on farm forestry than previous plans, but not in a way I find encouraging.

If you have 30 minutes and want some light entertainment download the Plan and have a read. Then tell me what you think!

Will this Plan ignite the forest industry in Australia?

Or will it join the dozens of previous forest industry plans collecting dust on library shelves around the country?

Cheers!