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Last century thinking threatens forests, ignores climate remedy

koala vs wood pellets

Between Palerang, Queanbeyan and the whole south coast, and in the north, native forest are still being logged and fragmented with government/industry regional forest agreements that value native forests more as woodchips than as greenhouse gas carbon ‘sinks’ and wildlife habitat.

HOPEFUL CONTRACTUAL agreements with multi-nationals threaten to lock in forest destruction for decades to come and cost taxpayers millions when the wood is not available, according to the Australian Forest and Climate Alliance (AFCA).

AFCA sent out a media statement refuting a claim by NSW Lands and Forestry Minister Paul Toole (the same Nationals minister who oversaw a swag of unpopular council amalgamations in his last portfolio) that 20-year Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) “support the sustainable management of native forests” [i].

AFCA Coordinator Frances Pike said: “RFA renewals are about ensuring access to public native forests well beyond the next two decades.

“Tasmania’s August RFA renewal permits indefinite extensions beyond 2037 in five-yearly intervals. Bar Ministerial discretion, lacking a definitive end clause, corporate and foreign access can be locked in [ii].

“As contractual supply arrangements accompany RFA renewals we might not be able to afford to ‘buy back’ our forests.

“Take the existing NSW timber supply agreement. As well as multi-millions subsidising ongoing Forests Corporation NSW (FCNSW) native forest losses, taxpayers have had to compensate a multinational, FCNSW’s primary RFA client, BORAL [iii].

“We’ve paid BORAL millions of dollars for not supplying ‘wood that didn’t even exist’ [iv]. The fate of our forests and our access to them depends on ‘commercial in confidence’ supply agreements we don’t see.

“RFAs are far from ‘sustainable’. Even forestry workers describe current forest practices as ‘murder’ and ‘criminal’ [v].

RFAs facilitate destruction of catchments, decimate wildlife and severely deplete a forest’s capacity to sink and store carbon, are exempt from federal national environmental law [vi] and are reaching for logging in national parks.

NSW North-coast Koala populations have declined 50% over the past 15–20 years. Since 2006 under the NSW RFA 74,907 hectares were subjected to unlawful logging practices, 23,742 ha of which was high-quality Koala habitat, says AFCA [vii].

Gliders and endangered possums are also losing the fight. Coordinator Frances Pike said “The court case on in Victoria is about an RFA driving species to extinction. This is Minister Toole’s ‘sustainable’, despite the NSW Auditor General finding in 2009 that ‘North Coast Forests being cut faster than they can grow back’.

“RFA renewals are part of a wider forestry industry agenda. Its blueprint for Australian forests to 2050 recommends thinning and burning forested lands under the guise of bushfire mitigation.

AFCA also claims that a scheduled expansion of so-called trials will see national parks and reserve areas, irrespective of tenure, opened up for logging. This comes with a taxpayer bill of $300 million, to fund the heavy machinery operators [viii].

“NSW is the test state for roll outs across the continent. Timber NSW’s home page takes you to Campaigns: ‘Beyond Tenure’. Under the guise of ‘ecological thinning’ NSW Murray Valley National Park is already being logged.

“Minister Paul Toole was present in August when his National Party outlined its intention to permanently reverse this national park’s tenure so that it can be permanently logged.

“As Parliamentary Secretary to Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce in 2015, ex Federal, and possibly returning Tasmanian National, Richard Colbeck (ix), supported Timber NSW’s vision to log NSW national parks and Crown lands [x].

“Behind the urgency to renew RFAs is a corporate rush on global forest resources, driven largely by an international emission accounting rort. Japan replacing nuclear with wood pellets.

“Countries replace coal and other unwanted energies with wood, exempt from emission accounting in the energy sector and called renewable because ‘trees re-grow’.

“Japan is replacing the energy equivalent of 12 nuclear power stations with 60 million tonnes of wood pellets. This is three times current annual global wood pellet consumption. Also embracing wood biomass energy is China, to where we ship most of our wood.

“Ironically, China’s 13th five-year economic plan vetoes logging of its own natural forests beyond 2020 [xi]. But our government is working with corporations to maintain ‘the social licence for the industry to operate’. Another FIAC recommendation is how to keep us on track so we keep agreeing to log, deplete, burn and export our forests.”

IMAGES: Wildcare Australia Inc Facebook, Shutterstock.


[ii]  See accompanying notes with extracts from both 1997 and 2017 versions of Tasmanian RFA legislation for deleted and added clauses that permit former 5 year reviews to become ‘automatic extension licences’ (subject only to Ministerial discretion, no public process)
[vi]  List of refs in accompanying doc





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