Tag Archives: Forest Stewardship Council

ACCC suing Government Business Enterprise (GBE) over alleged anti-competitive conduct

ACCC

At long last the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking action against anti-competitive State Government businesses.

Hooray for that!!

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-09/accc-suing-tasports-over-alleged-misuse-of-market-power/11781852

And it is in Tasmania!!

Now who would EVER imagine anti-competitive GBE behaviour in Tasmania?

https://www.accc.gov.au/

I’ve written about this issue previously as it relates to the forest industry in Tasmania, particularly public native forestry:

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

and

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2019/05/13/fsc-supports-illegal-forestry-in-australia/

ACCC Chairman Mr Rod Sims said the case against Tasports was the first of its kind under the amended misuse of market power provision, an “important law reform designed to protect the competitive process and help us address the harm that anti-competitive conduct does to consumers and the Australian economy“.

Does handing out $100 millions of taxpayer dollars over decades to a failed State-owned forest enterprise, which is in direct competition with private forest growers, amount to anti-competitive behaviour?

It sure does!

Does selling 99% of your forest produce “off-market” in long-term secret sales contracts, with absolutely no competition or price transparency, amount to anti-competitive behaviour?

It sure does?

Now is the ACCC prepared to take on any more anti-competitive Government Buisness Enterprises?

I sure hope so!

Wouldn’t it be a laugh for Sustainable Timbers Tasmania to gain FSC Certification, only to then be prosecuted by the ACCC for anti-competitive behaviour?

Only in Tasmania!

Tasmania will never have a proper commercial forest industry until anti-competitive welfare forestry is stopped.

 

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?

Public Notification

To:          Interested Parties

From:    SCS Global Services

Date:     8 April 2019

Re:         Notification of Planned FSC Certification Evaluation of Sustainable Timber Tasmania

Summary:  As part of an upcoming Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®) certification evaluation, SCS is currently seeking stakeholder input regarding the forest management program and practices of Sustainable Timber Tasmania.  Please comment via email or contact our offices (contact information below).

In pursuit of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) endorsed forest management certification, Sustainable Timber Tasmania will be undergoing an audit on the full weeks of 20 and 27 May 2019.  The audit will be conducted by SCS Global Services, a FSC-accredited certification body. The Forest Stewardship Council is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC sets standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way.

Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) is a Tasmanian Government Business Enterprise responsible for sustainably managing  public production forest (Permanent Timber Production Zone land) and undertaking forest operations for the production and sale of forest products from these forests.

The 812 000 ha PTPZ land is approximately 12% of the Tasmanian land area. PTPZ land includes 375,000 ha of native forest that is available for wood production. It also includes 120,000 ha that contributes to Tasmania’s Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve system and a further 200,000 ha of non-production forest. STT manages 28,000 ha of plantation, comprising both hardwood eucalypts and softwood.

STT is seeking FSC certification for approximately 713,000 ha, the remaining PTPZ land area is managed either by third parties or is not eligible for FSC Forest Management certification due to its plantation conversion history.

Scope and Certification Evaluation Process

SCS Global Services (SCS), a FSC-accredited certification body based in California, will conduct this FSC Main Evaluation.

Performance will be evaluated against the The FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard of Australia (v1-0; 2018).  A copy of the standard is attached to this message.

The evaluation process includes the following components:

  • Public notification: distribution of the standard and solicitation of comments on the certification applicant; Audit planning and document review;
  • Field assessment: A representative sample of field sites and operations within the defined forest area are inspected by a team of auditors;
  • Stakeholder consultation is carried out prior to and during the field assessment;
  • Synthesis of findings: conformity to the standard is ascertained and the certification decision is formulated;
  • Reporting: a draft report describing the evaluation process, findings, and certification decision is produced;
  • Peer review: the draft evaluation report is peer reviewed by 2 independent natural resource professionals;
  • Finalization of the report and conveyance to the SCS Certification Committee for the final certification decision;
  • Certification decision: the final report and certification decision is conveyed to the applicant; a public summary of the certification report is released if certification is awarded.

Call for Public Participation

SCS is seeking comments on the forest management of Sustainable Timber Tasmania or other topics pertinent to their seeking FSC certification, such as whether Sustainable Timber Tasmania complies with the legal, social, technical, and environmental requirements of the standard or identification of high conservation value forests[1] within its managed lands.  Comments can be submitted via email to FSCConsultation@scsglobalservices.com, standard mail, or facsimile. All comments and sources will be kept in strict confidence at the request of the commenter.  Also, please feel welcome to forward this message on to other stakeholders that you think may have an interest in sharing their perspective on this assessment.

Date of the Evaluation

The field evaluation is scheduled to start 20 May 2019.  When possible, SCS will make arrangements to meet with interested parties during the evaluation if appropriate, but it is preferred that comments are submitted before the field evaluation commences.

Dispute Resolution Procedure

As provided by the FSC Interim Dispute Resolution Protocol and the SCS Forest Conservation Program Quality Manual, dispute resolution procedures are in place and available to interested parties at http://www.scsglobalservices.com/your-feedback.

Additional Information

More information about FSC and SCS can be obtained from www.fsc.org and www.SCSglobalServices.com. Information about Sustainable Timber Tasmania can be found athttps://www.sttas.com.au/.

Please Contact Us
Robert Hrubes Brendan Grady
FSC Lead Auditor SCS Director of Forest Management
2000 Powell St, Suite 600; Emeryville CA 94608, USA
Tel +1 (510)452-8034, Fax +1 (510) 452-6882
FSCConsultation@scsglobalservices.com

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

Evan Poirson | Program Associate, Forest Management Certification

C F Martin Guitars & Sustainable Tonewoods

CFMFTF

Martin The Journal of Acoustic Guitars is a glossy magazine published by CF Martin Guitars every 6 months.

The latest edition (Vol. 7, p. 64 – 69) contains a great article about what CF Martin are doing about promoting sustainable tonewoods.

https://issuu.com/cfmartin/docs/mag808_martin_journal_vol7-final_li?e=23350636/43337570

CF Martin has a problem, a problem called success.

Most of the world’s premium guitars are built from a combination of mahogany, rosewood, and ebony. However, these traditional tonewoods often come from areas of the world that are under severe pressure from logging and development.

“We’ve done such a good job of convincing the customer that these traditional, rare and exotic timbers make the best guitars, that it’s difficult to move customers away from those materials,” said CEO Chris Martin.

Being an old company can have its advantages and its disadvantages. In the case of CF Martin tradition and heritage can prevent change, even if that change is desperately needed. And in the international tonewood market change is definitely needed; change away from using rainforest and old growth timbers to a more sustainable future.

The customers of CF Martin are becoming a problem.

They are addicted to rosewood, mahogany and ebony!

So Martin Guitars approach to sustainable tonewoods is to establish a close working relationship with a third party forest certifier, in this case the Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

But…

one of the biggest challenges the FSC® and the Rainforest Alliance have had over the years is consumer awareness. “One of the goals has been to make the consumer more aware of these brands and, in turn, for these brands to become more relevant to the consumer.”

Hence the Rainforest Alliance has created the Follow the Frog program, which Martin Guitars has signed up to support.

https://www.martinguitar.com/FollowtheFrog

http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/followthefrog

www.fsc.org

Here’s a great video with Martin CEO Chris Martin explaining the history of the company’s relationship with the FSC and the Rainforest Alliance. Well worth watching:

In the mean time Martin Guitars are caught between an inflexible customer base and a rapidly changing tonewood market.

In the coming years, Martin will introduce a new line of guitars using temperate hardwoods from North America that relies on both historical and new shapes and designs.

I have absolutely no doubt about CF Martin’s commitment to sustainability, but I do have a few suggestions for them:

  • Can the FSC logo be displayed on the front page of the Martin website?
  • Under the “Guitars” section of the website, why can’t I select and view FSC guitars?
  • Even when I find an FSC guitar using the Search facility, the FSC logo isn’t prominently displayed.
  • And if I go to this page under Custom Shop (https://www.martinguitar.com/custom-shop/tonewoods/) the message is all about rare and exotic tonewoods.  Nothing about a sustainable future at all.

So whilst the commitment to sustainable tonewoods is there I think the marketing and promotion at CF Martin still needs extra work, whilst at the same time the focus on traditional, rare and exotic timbers needs to be ramped down.

I wish CF Martin all the luck in the world in their endeavours to change the acoustic guitar market.

Another year of special timbers obfuscation and decline

FTAR2015

The Tasmanian State Government and Forestry Tasmania regard special timbers production as a taxpayer-funded community service. Tasmania’s most valuable timbers are produced for the poor, the needy, and the deserving.

Forestry Tasmania recently released their annual report for 2015, and it provides another wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the disaster that is public native forest management in Tasmania in the 21st century.

http://www.forestrytas.com.au/news/2015/10/2014-2015-forestry-tasmania-annual-report

Things are going from bad to worse. For my review of last years Annual Report go here:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2014/10/31/continuing-the-decline-forestry-tasmania-2014-annual-report/

But first an apology to readers. I have just become aware that I have been a victim of Forestry Tasmania’s special timbers obfuscations. Forestry Tasmania has an obligation and commitment to supply and report on “millable” special timbers sawlog production. But by including non-millable “outspec” and “craftwood” products in the reporting mix since 2008, they have created confusion and obfuscation to the point where “non-millable” products now dominate special timbers production and reporting. But FT has no obligation or commitment to produce or report on non-millable special timbers. Reporting on special timbers “millable” products is now at a minimum. Sustainable yield has become irrelevant. See below for details.

Special timbers are mentioned in many places in the Annual Report with the main production discussed on pages 21-22. Once again there is absolutely no discussion of commercial matters.

Deception #1

In 1991 with the Tasmanian Forests and Forest Industry Strategy, again in 1997 with the Tasmanian Regional Forestry Agreement (RFA), and again in 2010 with the Special Timbers Strategy Forestry Tasmania made the commitment to supply 12,500 cubic metres per year of millable special timbers sawlogs to the market (see Table below). This comprised 10,000 cubic metres of blackwood with the remainder being other species. That’s 25 years of commitment to supply and report on special timbers sawlog production.

This commitment was given within the context of significant ongoing “sovereign risk” concerning access to and management of the public native forest resource.

There has never been an obligation or commitment to supply or report on non-sawlog special timbers production.

In addition in both 1999 and in 2013 Forestry Tasmania published sustainable yield estimates for blackwood sawlog production. This has significance as the only other sustainable yield calculation that FT produces is for native forest eucalypt sawlog.

FT is therefore obliged to report against their repeated special timbers commitments and against the blackwood sawlog sustainable yield estimates.

However you have to go all the way back to the 2007 Forestry Tasmania Annual Report to get a clear unambiguous report on the production of total special timbers “millable logs”. In that year there was a separate table showing non-millable (craftwood & outspec) production. This was the first time that non-millable production was ever mentioned in the annual report.

Between 1995 and 2007 (12 years) Forestry Tasmania did not publish special timbers sawlog production by species. Only total production figures are available for this period.

From 2008 onwards the reporting of special timbers production becomes increasingly obfuscated. From 2008 onwards it is unclear exactly what the actual sawlog production by species is, as non-sawlog (outspec and craftwood) becomes mixed into the reporting structure.

The use of simple production tables and charts to show production by product and species, and hence demonstrate sustainability/profitability is completely absent.

Instead FT uses charts to show production by species, but it is unclear whether these charts relate to combined millable and unmillable production, or just the millable production. By 2014 and 2015 however it is clear that the charts of production by species refer to the combined and not the millable sawlog production. [Never mind the fact that the 2015 chart (p. 22) shows “Area (hectares)” and not “Production (cubic metres)”].

These are experienced, professional people who know how to write reports.

This is pure obfuscation!

So much for commitment! So much for transparency!

It’s a deliberate attempt to obscure the fact that millable special timbers sawlog production has plummeted, due to decades of overcutting of the resource and sovereign risk. See Chart below.

Here is the table of special timbers millable sawlog production commitments made by Forestry Tasmania in 1991, 1997 and again in 2010, against which they have not reported since 1995.

Annual supply targets for special timbers millable* logs for the ten-year period to 2019.

Species Annual volume (m3)
Blackwood 10,000
Silver Wattle 500
Myrtle 500
Sassafras 500
Celery-top pine 500
Huon pine 500
King Billy pine Arisings only
Other species (including figured eucalypt) Arisings only
Total 12,500+

* Millable logs include ‘Category 4’ sawlogs and ‘utility’ logs (Special Timbers Strategy 2010, p. 21).

I have contacted FT in the hope of gaining some clarity around their special timbers millable log production data.

Deception #2

The 2013/14 Forestry Tasmania Annual Report had a list of objectives for the 2014/15 year which included:

Produce 11,300 cubic metres of special species timber [quality unspecified], and conduct at least 12 tenders for special species logs (2014 Sustainability Report p.56).

That is an immediate breach of their commitment to produce 12,500 cubic metres per year of millable special timbers sawlog per year.

And so to this year’s Annual Report:

During 2014/15, Forestry Tasmania produced a total of 11,042 cubic metres of special timbers from Permanent Timber Production Zone land. This comprised 5,051 cubic metres of millable logs, with the remainder being [non-millable] ‘out of specification’ sawlog and craftwood.

Of the 11,042 cubic metres special timbers produced 3,744 cubic metres (34%) were “sold” through Island Specialty Timbers (IST). Of the 3,744 cubic metres “sold” through IST 220 cubic metres (2.0% and 5.9% respectively) were sold through the online tendering process to ensure that the best possible prices were obtained.

I created the chart below to clearly show what we currently know with certainty about special timbers production for the last 9 years from Tasmania’s public native forests. You won’t find a chart like this in any Forestry Tasmania publication.

Over the last 3 years FT has collected a whopping 17,700 cubic metres of special timbers non-millable craftwood off the forest floor at taxpayers expense for which they have no supply obligation or commitment!! That’s equivalent to 900 truck loads. For the same period only 15,700 cubic metres of special timbers sawlog was produced. That’s 20,000 cubic metres of sawlog short of the supply commitment!! Most of the missing volume is blackwood sawlog.

Why aren’t the alarm bells ringing??

Where is this vast volume of craftwood going? Who is buying it?

What are the sawmillers/boatbuilders/furniture makers doing with no sawlog resource?

Remember most of the special timbers story is about blackwood which makes up to 90% of annual production. So despite having a commitment to supply 10,000 cubic metres of blackwood sawlog per year, plus a sustainable yield estimate against which to demonstrate good forest management, we do not know with any certainly exactly how much blackwood sawlog has been harvested over the past 9 years.

Instead the chart shows the final declining years of Tasmania’s special timbers industry, including our iconic blackwood industry. Blackwood timber could be grown by Tasmanian farmers if they were encouraged. Instead all we get is politics, conflict and wasted taxes.

Welcome to Tasmania!

FTSTchart

Only two other useful pieces of information are provided in the Report concerning special timbers production. One is that 216 cubic metres of Huon pine sawlogs and 128 cubic metres of Huon pine craftwood were recovered from West coast forests, rivers and beaches. No information is available on how much it cost Tasmanian taxpayers to have this timber brought to market.

The other information is the curious comment:

The [IST] tendering program received strong interest, with the highlight for the year being a 0.57 cubic metre blackheart sassafras log that sold for $3,815 per cubic metre.

It’s curious because a) the Government has absolutely no interest in the real market value of its special timbers assets, and b) my records show that the IST highlight for the year was in fact a Tiger Myrtle log which sold at the April 2015 tender for $5,900 per cubic metre!! Curious!!

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2015/06/18/ist-blackwood-sawlog-tender-results-2014-15/

Clearly the market is prepared to pay exceptional prices for quality Tasmanian timber. But forestry is not about business or profits. It’s a community service funded by taxpayers. Prices apparently are completely irrelevant.

Deception #3

Finally after many years we get a clear statement of exactly how much taxpayers money is being wasted subsidising boat builders, furniture makers, guitar makers and Salamanca trinket makers.

The community service obligations costs are set out on page 64-65 of the 2015 Annual Report. They total $6.87 million dollars of which $0.9 million dollars (13%) is used to fund special timber workers. That is a subsidy of $81.56 per cubic metre of special timber produced.

Community Service Obligations

In August 2014 the State Treasurer and the Minister for Resources directed Forestry Tasmania to provide the following community services. In undertaking these community service obligations Forestry Tasmania incurred net costs and was funded to the extent indicated below.

Special species management

  • Net cost $0.90 million
  • Government funding $0.90million
  • Identify, manage and harvest special species timber and manage the Huon pine log stockpile (Annual Report p. 64).

Tasmania is subsidizing wood that sells for hundreds to thousands of dollars per cubic metre in raw log form.

Tasmanian blackwood timber retails for $7,500 per cubic metre, and Tasmanian taxpayers subsidise this!! Why?

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2015/10/26/blackwood-pricing-and-the-forest-industry-2/

Can anyone please provide me with some logic here?

That’s a $900,000 Tasmanian taxpayer subsidy so that the best possible prices are achieved on just 2.0% of the special timbers produced!!

So what’s the deception?

The deception is that any of this special timbers management and sales are logical let alone reasonable. Logic and reason, let alone profitable, sustainable forest management are completely absent.

Our forest managers and our politicians are definitely playing us for fools.

That this fiasco provides a sound moral, political, social and commercial basis for logging the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is just offensive.

That this fiasco is applying for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is just a joke. Forestry Tasmania is a million light years from good profitable, sustainable forest management.

That this fiasco already has PEFC Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) certification makes a complete mockery of that particular certification system.

For his usual brilliant review of FTs miserable commercial performance and management for 2014/15 you should read John Lawrence’s blog here:

http://www.tasfintalk.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/has-ft-turned-corner.html

My apologies for such a long blog but what can one do when faced with such a disaster.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial, profitable forest industry?

Summary of Stakeholder Submissions and Responses

seeking_your_input_blog_banner_2014

My apologies for such a long blog but the ongoing fiasco of Tasmanian State forest policy and practice continues to dominate the commercial and political landscape.

I wish it were different!

As part of the application process for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification Forestry Tasmania recently released a summary of issues raised by stakeholders and Forestry Tasmania’s responses to these issues. These two reports are available from their website.

http://www.forestrytas.com.au/topics/2014/11/forestry-tasmania-s-forest-management-plan-now-available

As usual my comments relate to Forestry Tasmania’s commercial management and performance, as well as to special timber issues. These are discussed in the report Forest Management Plan – Public Summary of Stakeholder Submissions and Responses (103kb PDF).

Commercial management

The first thing that is immediately obvious in the response documents is the ongoing absence of any serious discussion around commercial management and performance. There is not even a section in the document with the heading Commercial Management and Performance.

I find this utterly extraordinary. Actually I find it quite offensive!!

At a time when Tasmania faces a budgetary crisis and we are sacking teachers and nurses and dropping other essential public services, we continue to subsidise Forestry Tasmania. A Government Business Enterprise wasting scarce taxpayer’s money getting native forest products to market!

This is apparently more important than our children’s education or the health of the community!

It also says a lot about the lack of corporate governance by the State Government and the State Parliament.

Clearly FT does not regard taxpayers as important stakeholders. Also not enough Tasmanian taxpayers are visiting their local FT offices and complaining about this ongoing waste! Common people! Get to it!!

Here’s some stakeholder comments on commercial matters:

  • A common comment was that insufficient consideration was given to production and economic considerations. Some stakeholders were concerned that there was an over emphasis on environmental and social considerations compared to economic considerations in the draft plan.
  • Some stakeholders commented that Forestry Tasmania needs to be financially self sufficient and return a profit to its shareholders.

 

I couldn’t agree more with these stakeholder comments. And here’s FT’s response:

Positive financial outcomes are one of six strategic objectives now identified in the released Plan. Forestry Tasmania will implement the systems and strategies outlined in the Plan to meet the other five objectives, while also seeking to meet the objective of achieving positive financial outcomes. Forestry Tasmania’s Ministerial Charter details the activities that the Government expects us to undertake. In addition, Forestry Tasmania also produces a Statement of Corporate Intent, which is available on our website and describes the organisation’s financial performance targets as agreed by its Board and shareholder Ministers.

I find this response pretty pathetic especially within the context of the State budget crisis. Both the Ministerial Charter and the Statement of Corporate Intent are incredibly lightweight documents. You can find them here:

http://www.forestrytas.com.au/forest-management/policies

and

http://www.forestrytas.com.au/forest-management/forestry-tasmania-ministerial-charter

They provide little information on how FT is going to improve its commercial management and performance. I would think that given the ongoing State budget crisis and need for taxpayer support, that these matters would form a major part of the Forest Management Plan. Instead the FMP ignores these important issues.

Clearly the stakeholder concerns expressed above are in fact correct and have yet to be dealt with.

Forestry Tasmania continues with the charade that wood production is not a profit-driven, commercial business. Curious really. All private tree growers against which Forestry Tasmania competes in the marketplace, certainly regard wood production as a profit-driven, commercial business.

 

Special Timbers

At least there is a section in the document dealing specifically with special timbers (page 5). Not surprising given that this issue has dominated much State parliament discussion.

Here’s what the report says about special timbers:

The long term sustainable supply of special species timbers including blackwood was of concern to a number of stakeholders. This was expressed in a number of ways including:

o Suggestions that the Permanent Timber Production Zone land would not be able to sustainably supply industry needs.

Haven’t we known this for decades? Despite all the gloss, spin and promises the supply of special timbers has never been on a sustainable basis.

o Suggestions that current harvesting practices are leading to poor recovery and waste of special species timber.

The inevitable result of poor commercial management and an industrial forestry business model. Again no surprises.

o Requests for a detailed inventory of special species.

Such an inventory would cost more than the resource is actually worth. Which is why FT has never done one.

Response

  • Forestry Tasmania acknowledges the concerns stakeholders have about special species supplies. The Plan has been updated to detail how recent legislative changes affect the special species timbers supply from Permanent Timber Production Zone land. These changes have reduced the area of the Special Timbers Zone managed by Forestry Tasmania from 97 000 to 56 000 hectares. The Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014 requires the Minister for Resources to develop a special species management plan by October 2017. The final Plan indicates that Forestry Tasmania’s future management of special species timbers from PTPZ land will be informed by the special species management plan when it becomes available.

So it’s going to take 3 years (!) to produce a plan that will tell us that the public native forest special timbers industry is over??!! Now let me guess! When is the next State election due? Oh that’s convenient! It’s just after the plan comes out. Stand by for yet another State election dominated by the forest industry! This is just too much! If it’s anything like the last Strategy in 2010 this plan will be a joke.

  • The Plan has been updated to include the results of the December 2013 review of the sustainable level of harvesting from Forestry Tasmania’s blackwood management zone.

This is true! It is now mentioned on page 32 of the Forest Management Plan (FMP). What is not discussed is why the ongoing harvest of blackwood from our public forests continues well above the sustainable yield at 10,000 cubic metres of sawlog per year. Is this blatant fraud or deception?

  • Forestry Tasmania is obligated to make available a minimum of 137 000 cubic metres per year of high quality eucalypt sawlog and veneer log from Permanent Timber Production Zone land. In the process of harvesting this product, a range of other forest products are generated, including special species timbers. Forestry Tasmania has a range of systems in place to maximise the economic value, use and recovery of all forest products arising from harvesting operations. The Plan has been updated to include that in addition to supplying sawmill customers with special species timber, Forestry Tasmania maintains its commitment to its Island Specialty Timber business in order to stock and supply specialty timber products to meet market demand. This includes a tender system for higher quality products.

I could really go to town on this one! Why do we have a legislated sawlog production volume but absolutely NO commercial performance objectives or criteria? It is the epitome of stupidity! And as for the “range of systems …. to maximise the economic value, use and recovery”. Clearly the systems have failed! Either that or the forest products produced by Forestry Tasmania are worthless! Either way the system clearly doesn’t work!

  • Forestry Tasmania is presently conducting an inventory of the special species timber resource , using LiDAR imagery, as a consultancy for the State Government.

What can I say? A futile exercise that will arrive just in time to dominate the next State election. I can’t wait! All of this for a “non commercial” activity! It really is a deeply offensive joke!

 

Well at least FT is being more transparent about the commercial management of special timbers. Here’s what the revised Forest Management Plan has to say:

In general, the harvest of special species timbers from the blackwood and eucalypt forest zones is a commercial activity while the harvest of special species timbers from the rainforest zone is a non-commercial activity and requires funding support (FMP, p. 32).

So a “commercial activity” is defined as one that requires ongoing taxpayer support, whilst a “non-commercial activity” is defined as one that also requires ongoing taxpayer support.

OK! Clear as mud!

Appendix 1 of the FMP (Summary of recent legislative changes related to land previously managed by Forestry Tasmania) is also worth reading as it sets the stage for the next State election campaign, and further blood-letting around the special timbers industry.

Conclusion

The stupidity around State forest policy and management is clearly set to continue for many years to come.

Whilst FT appears to have made some minor progress is terms of transparency and stakeholder engagement, there is still a very long and difficult road ahead.

As a member of the private special timber-growers industry my message to the FSC remains clear and simple:

Absolutely no FSC certification for Forestry Tasmania until:

  1. FT is restructured, managed and governed on a fully commercial and profitable basis;
  2. All harvesting of wood from public native forest both inside and outside the Permanent Timber Production Zone must be on a profitable, commercial basis. Absolutely no taxpayer support for public native forest wood harvesting at all.