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Friday analysis: Trying to shut down native forestry one court case at a time

Last week we suggested that the conservation lobby had changed tactics in its battle to shut down the native timber industry in this country. That, it seems, was something of an understatement. Source: Bruce Mitchell

To say that today’s news that the Bob Brown Foundation has launched legal action which it hopes might end native forest logging in Tasmania comes a shock, is also something of an understatement.

This goes way beyond annoying coupe invasions, way beyond a frivolous Bill in various State parliaments.

It is a national appeal for attention.

The fact that it is before the court limits what can be said.

But on the face of it and based on conversations this morning with industry people in Tasmania, a couple observations can be made.

The first is that on the face of it, the behaviour the Bob Brown Foundation is basing its claim on – that Tasmanian logging lacks proper enforcement mechanisms, Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s practices are not sustainable, and the state and federal governments are failing to properly enforce environmental standards – describe an industry which has for some time now probably not existed.

The industry in Tasmania, indeed across Australia, has come a long way in recent years.

Secondly, win, lose, or draw, this action is going to tie up a lot of people in a lot of red tape for many months to come.

As we suggested last week, it has in many ways become a war of attrition.

Staying in the courts and in Tasmania, it seems the Gunns story just won’t go away.

Investors in Gunns’ failed eucalypt planation managed investment schemes are suing the estate of the late Gunns Ltd boss John Gay and former Tasmanian premier Robin Gray.

The investors have also been given approval to sue two of Gunns’ insurers as well.

Again, because of impending court action comment must be limited, but if the claim succeeds, it may just open the door to similar cases across Australia.

The whole managed investment schemes involving woodlot projects promoted by a number of other companies did not end well for a lot of people across Australia.

The Victorian Government’s native timber decision will not, of course, end well for anyone.

One possibly overlooked sector – overlooked until Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, drew attention to it – is the firewood industry.

He pointed out that firewood merchants and timber harvesters are already warning this winter’s firewood shortage is probably just a foretaste of a permanent shortages should the government proceed with its native timber harvesting plans.

Mr Bull quite rightly points out that firewood supply is largely a by-product of timber harvesting operations.

That’s little comfort to those faced with the prospect of shivering through a Victorian winter.

But if that shortage of firewood extends to the people in metropolitan Melbourne, and they start asking where their firewood is, and then start asking where it comes from, maybe the timber industry, the people in Gippsland may find they have a fresh wave of supporters.