First, let me apologise for the long period since the last newsletter. We have had a few changes here at the TCT, most significant being the departure last December of long serving TCT officer manager Trish McKeown. Those who knew Trish would know she didn’t want a great fuss being made about her, but I do feel it necessary to say thank you to her publically on behalf of all TCT members, councillors and staff, past and present.
The TCT has long advocated for better management and regulation of firewood collection. As well as encouraging other heating methods, we have supported a move away from sourcing wood from old-growth trees (alive, dead or fallen) because of their importance for biodiversity, towards using young regrowth trees from forests that are not habitats of threatened species or ecological communities. Until recently, my support of plantation wood for firewood had been dismissed.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Forest Management audit report, produced by auditing company SCS Global Services, was released by Forestry Tasmania on 1 March 2016. The state government responded by acknowledging that 90% of the auditor’s forest management standards were met, missing the point that there were 12 major non-conformities and just one prevents certification being granted.
The bushfire situation in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) has worsened significantly in the last 40 years. In the early 1980s, malicious and spiteful lighting of fires was rampant, particularly along the Lyell Highway, although this human malevolence seems to have largely abated. Accidental ignitions from campfires and other human folly require vigilant controls, but they are not the most significant threat. Since the early 2000s fires started by dry lightning have become the most significant concern.
Just prior to Christmas 2015, the state government released for public comment its ‘Embracing the Climate Challenge: Tasmania’s draft climate change action plan 2016-2021’ (Draft Plan). However, as the TCT’s submission pointed out, the Draft Plan has major blind spots when it comes to forestry, native forest clearing for agriculture, population increase and management of biodiversity.
In the last newsletter we outlined our concerns about a proposal to clear 1804 hectares of native forest on private land near Ansons Bay in north-east Tasmania and how, just two weeks before clearing was to commence, the TCT successfully intervened to notify the Australian Government of the operation. They in turn notified the landowner of his legal obligations. To date no clearing has occurred at the site.
The Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014 (FRFI Act), passed the Tasmanian Parliament on 2 September 2014 and commenced on 22 October. It includes provisions which amend the statutory management objectives and purposes for all conservation areas and regional reserves (clauses 27 and 31) to specifically permit harvesting of special species timbers.
In the late 1960s to early 1970s the Reece Government in Tasmania funded the landscape-scale conversion of native forest to radiata pine plantation in the Fingal Valley/Mathinna and Scamander (Skyline Tier) areas. This was done as much to create jobs for unemployed miners in the region as for any guaranteed commercial outcome. In the early 2000s clearfelling of mature pines on the visually prominent and steep eastern slopes of Skyline Tier triggered community interest and concern.
The Tasmanian Government introduced the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Bill 2014 (the Bill) into the House of Assembly on 24 June 2014. The Bill was passed by the House at 11.15pm on 26 June 2014. The Liberal Government went to the election in March with a promise to introduce ‘tough’ new laws to impose mandatory sentences and large fines for protesters who prevent, hinder or obstruct forestry or mining activities.
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.
It seems that the entire Tasmanian conservation movement is united in its opposition to the Abbott Coalition government’s proposal to the World Heritage Committee to revoke 74,000 hectares from the 170,000 ha which was added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) in June 2013. As well as writing to the Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, the TCT made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications which is investigating this proposal
On 29 January 2014 the Tasmanian Parliament passed the Pulp Mill Assessment Amendment Bill 2014 for the purpose of removing all doubts regarding the legal validity of the permit for the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill and, specifically, to prevent the TCT’s Supreme Court case continuing and potentially finding the permits had lapsed.