Opening 1.2 million hectares of native Queensland forests for the timber industry would not lead to mass logging operations according to Timber Queensland chief executive Rod McInnes. Source: Sunshine Coast Daily
McInnes said the industry was more than comfortable with the release of the native forests for sustainable timber harvesting, after the forests were removed from the industry’s reach in 1999.
The plan was revealed after leaked departmental documents showed Queensland’s agriculture minister John McVeigh had signed off on the release of the native forests for logging.
A departmental letter dated January 16, revealed McVeigh had approved the changes – reversing the Bligh Government’s locking up of the native forests.
“This includes the state forest areas within the 1.2 million hectares previously identified in the western hardwoods and cypress regions for proposed inclusion in the protected area estate and the remaining state forest areas in central Queensland, the Mackay-Proserpine area and the north Queensland ecotone forests,” DAFF Director-General Jack Noye wrote.
“The reinstatement of these state forest areas has provided a much needed boost of confidence to the native forest timber industry through the provision of greater certainty of supply.”
The move to re-open native forestry logging comes after the previous Labor Government sold off most of the state’s hardwood plantations in 2010, to help bolster its budget. The fire sale of the then-Forestry Plantation Queensland owned forests saw the state assets sold to Canadian interest Hancock Plantations for $600 million, which local timber companies decried at the time.
However, McInnes said the forestry industry would not be logging in sensitive environments, or those in central and north Queensland protected by World heritage status.
He said the industry was bound by independent third party auditing stating which specific areas they could log, and even given access. There would be no clear felling of timber, which has long been a hallmark of the industry in southern Australia.
“In Queensland, we simply don’t clear fell forests – we do everything according to how sensitive the local environment is and of the total 1.2 million hectares, the most we would be sustainably harvesting would be about 30,000 hectares a year,” he said.
“Even then, our sustainable practices mean harvesting in those native forests is the equivalent of removing a few selected trees in an area the size of Suncorp Stadium.”
McVeigh has offered 25-year contracts to 14 licensed timber companies to log cypress forests across state forests in southern and central Queensland.
McInnes said the renewal of the sales permits was essentially guaranteeing a longer contract for companies that already had an allocated licence to log such areas.
“Anyone who’s already got a Crown Wood Allocation now simply has a 25-year sale guarantee for their allocation,” he said.
“That doesn’t actually change how much timber is logged in the cypress forests each year, just how long the contracts are.
“What I’d be expecting in the next few years, are that rather than each of the 14 companies keeping their contracts, they might sell them now they are long-term, and four or five bigger commercial operators will take those allocations on, through amalgamations.”