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Ministerial advisor wants to dismantle Forestry Tas


Sue Smith

Forestry Tasmania should be dismantled and all its assets sold off, according to Sue Smith, the deputy chair of the ministerial advisory council. Source: ABC News

Forestry Tasmania, which manages the state’s forests, is considering selling its hardwood plantations to pay back borrowings used to cover its operating deficit. But the deputy chair of the ministerial advisory council on forestry, Mrs Smith, said that did not go far enough.

“It is time that the Government made the strong decision to actually dismantle Forestry Tasmania and to actually sell off the total working arm, and the research and development arm of Forestry Tasmania into the private enterprise,” Mrs Smith said.

“It will ensure that we do not encumber the people of Tasmania with further debt because if we follow the past history, Forestry Tasmania has a sale, it solves some of its problems, then the political interference that happens sees it in financial troubles again.

“It’s not just the markets around the world that cause these problems with forestry, it’s the continued political interference that we see at state and federal level at the whim of parties who see that it might be something that’s favourable at that time.”

Mrs Smith said that the business needed to be sold to private enterprise.

“We have no hope, I believe, as a state in seeing a government business enterprise in the business of forestry that can succeed into the future because of the political interference we continue to see,” she said.

Mrs Smith targeted plans to sell the hardwood plantations.

“Even when we sell this hardwood plantation, they’re talking about at the moment that’s only going to solve a short-term problem, it’s not going to solve the long-term one so I think the people of Tasmania can expect to continue to have to put their hand in their pocket intermittently unless a government of the day takes some stronger decisions that are being taken at the moment,” she said.

Mrs Smith said she was not speaking on behalf of the advisory council.

Last week’s estimates hearings was told Forestry Tasmania’s debt capacity had been increased by $10 million to $40 million.

State Opposition Leader Bryan Green said Mrs Smith’s position as deputy chair made her the Minister’s most senior independent adviser on forestry.

He called for the Resources Minister Paul Harriss or Mrs Smith to step down.

“I think either the Minister’s position is untenable, or Sue Smith’s position is untenable,” Mr Green said.

He described Mr Harriss’ decision to sell Forestry Tasmania’s hardwood plantations as the first step towards selling the business’ assets.

“We wonder about the sustainability of Forestry Tasmania given that there is going to be selling off [of] the plantation asset. That will limit their ability to generate revenue into the future,” he said.

“It seems like Sue Smith … is echoing what most people are saying out there, that by the Government’s actions to privatise the plantation resource – which is a short term solution – you’re effectively signing the death warrant for Forestry Tasmania.”

Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor backed Mrs Smith’s comments.

Government parliamentary secretary Adam Brooks rejected Mrs Smith’s calls, reaffirming the Government’s intention to ensure Forestry Tasmania remains viable.

In a statement, Mr Harriss said taxpayer subsidies to Forestry Tasmania had ended, and it was being put on a sustainable path.

Regarding the sale of plantations, Mr Harriss said Forestry Tasmania was simply bringing forward the sale of trees to cover operating costs over the transition period.