The Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Bill 2014 was passed in the Lower House of the Tasmanian Parliament on 5 June 2014 (World Environment Day). Due to a number of questions that Legislative Councillors asked of the state government and could not be answered, the government agreed that debate on the Bill should be delayed until the spring sitting of the Council.
This Bill proposes the revocation of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Act (TFA Act), as promised by the Liberal Party at the state election, but includes many of the components of the TFA and many new measures.
Legislative Councillor for Rumney, Tony Mulder, who was the author or instigator of many of the more concerning amendments to the TFA Act, has stated that this Bill should be passed without delay because it changes very little of the TFA Act. He has claimed that it fails to ‘tear-up the TFA’ as promised by the Liberal Party. While the Bill contains many of the same elements of the TFA Act, Mulder’s claims are greatly exaggerated. We can only assume that this is a ploy to divert his fellow Councillors’ attention from the many very disturbing new measures in the Bill.
The TCT has made a submission to the Legislative Councillors, outlining our concerns and requesting an opportunity to brief them. With two months until debate continues, we hope to meet with as many Councillors as possible, with a view to getting their support to remove some of the more worrying aspects of the Bill.
A summary of TCT’s key concerns
PART 2: Section 4. Future potential production forest land
As has been well publicised, this clause essentially converts the 400,000 hectares of Future Reserved Land (created under the TFA Act) into Future Potential Production Forest (FPPF) land. What were potential reserves instead become potential logging areas.
The FPPF land is unavailable for timber harvesting for about six years, other than potentially for speciality species harvesting, subject to approval.
There is no timetable (as in the TFA) for these areas to become reserves and, if this Bill is enacted, it will require a two-thirds majority of both Houses to proclaim a reserve ‘of any class’ for any FPPF land.
PART 2: Section 6. Exchange of land
Unlike Section 7, which deals with conversion of land, there is no time frame set for exchange of land i.e. land may be exchanged as soon as the legislation is commenced.
There is no statement of purpose for this section, either in the Bill or the minister’s second reading speech; however, Section 6(b) makes it clear that the reason for exchanging land is to help Forestry Tasmania (FT) maintain wood supply.
FT may want to exchange Permanent Timber Production Zone (PTPZ) land, which may include non-forest, non-commercial forest, forest with environmental constraints or recently logged forest, for areas of Future Potential Production Forest which have commercially valuable forest. Some of these outcomes are negative and perverse and some may be acceptable but constraints need to be put in place.
There is no statement in the Bill that the areas of land exchanged need to be of equal size, which is very concerning.
Section 6(2)(d) requires that the implications for FSC certification (which may be considerable) are to be considered, but there is nothing stopping exchanges of land that might negatively affect FSC.
In its submission to the Legislative Councillors, the TCT suggested the Bill be amended to state that the reasons for exchanges of land are to assist with provision of wood supply while improving or retaining forest protection. We recommended the Bill should be amended to include a set of conditions for exchanges of land, for example.:
- the areas being exchanged must be the same or differ negligibly e.g. by 5–10%;
- the area of forest being transferred to PTPZ should be demonstrated to not contain high conservation value forests (HCVF).
- the area of forest being transferred to FPPF land must not have been recently logged.
PART 2: Section 7. Conversion of reserved land to future potential production forest land
This section automatically transfers any reserved land (established in December 2013) to FPPF land if it is excluded from the World Heritage List. Because the recent proposal to UNESCO to revoke 74,000ha of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area failed, this clause should be removed. However, we fear that it could remain and be enacted if a future World Heritage nomination was made and was successful.
Apart from that concern, the danger of this section is that it might create a perverse and unmanageable reserve boundary. For example, it could result in exclusion barriers being on future potential production forest rather that reserved land thus preventing the Parks and Wildlife Service from enforcing its legislation and prosecuting offenders. Facilities such as toilets, car parks and reserve boundary signage might need to be relocated to a new, less desirable location and at considerable cost.
PART 3. Consent for Special Species Timber Harvesting
FT may not apply for approval for Special Species Timber Harvesting in future potential production forest, which is clearly intended to avert any claim that FT could harm its FSC certification by logging FPPF land.
A Forest Practices Plan will be required for special species harvesting in FPPF areas(as well as approval of the Crown Lands minister) and this applies even for very small areas to be logged.
Part 5A: Compensation Arrangements
The compensation provisions are taken entirely from the TFA Act.
Section 16A, Part 5A states that forest products are defined as sawn timber, veneer and poles, piles and posts and any other forest product, but NOT including woodchips or whole logs that are to be further processed outside Tasmania and any other product excluded by regulation. This provides a potential financial disadvantage to businesses that sell woodchips and whole logs outside Tasmania for processing.
Section 16E(2) states that the holder of a forestry compensation certificate is entitled to compensation if the forestry corporation informs the minister that this is so. There is no independent oversight of FT’s decision that compensation is payable.
Section 16F states that the minister is obliged to pay compensation on receipt of FT's compensation certificate but has a role in determining the amount (Section 16G). The minister must obtain advice from the Solicitor General (but does not have to act on that advice).
Part 5A, section 16E(2) states that compensation is payable if FT’s capacity to supply logs in accordance with a wood supply contract is diminished as a result of (a) change of law of the state or (b) a change of policy e.g. in relation to forest practices.
While this Bill will remove the requirement under the TFA that the forest practices system must be consistent with the TFA objectives, including provision of wood supply, this section in effect replaces that requirement with a requirement that compensation be paid if, in FT’s view, the forest practices system is changed in a way that effects wood supply.
Part 7: National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 amended
Section 27 amends the objectives of Conservation Areas and Regional Reserves to specifically include special species timber harvesting.
Part 8: Nature Conservation Act 2002 amended
Section 30 requires a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament before FPPF and Permanent Timber Production Zone land can be proclaimed a reserve.
Interestingly, land other than FPPF and Permanent Timber Production Zone land simply requires approval of both Houses of Parliament to be reserved, not two thirds. This means that land that is currently Crown land can be reserved by a simple majority of both houses. We are expecting 20,000ha of Crown land (remnants of the CLAC process) to be reserved – so this is good.
Section 31 amends the statement of purpose of Conservation Areas and Regional Reserves to include special species timber harvesting.
Schedule 3: Objectives for management of Future Potential Production Forest Land
This schedule establishes the management objectives for Future Potential Production Forest land, which appear to be rather predictable (taken from the Crowns Land Act) except for the last paragraph (m) which surprisingly states that the FPPF can be used ‘to allow for private, commercial or industrial use’. Paragraph (m) does not include a caveat such as in paragraph (h), i.e. that tourism etc. should be consistent with the area’s natural and cultural values.
In a submission to the Legislative Councillors, the TCT suggested the Bill be amended by deleting paragraph (m), or if this is unsuccessful that words be included such as ‘to allow for private, commercial or industrial use consistent with the area’s natural and cultural values’.