The State Government appears to be building a case for opening up protected logging reserves, pointing to new figures showing an increase in private forest harvests. Source: ABC News
Forestry Tasmania has suggested lifting a moratorium on logging for 400,000 hectares reserved until 2020 so the ailing business can meet contractual obligations.
An annual report from Private Forests Tasmania – yet to be publicly released – showed a 48.5% rise in harvests in private forests over the 2015-16 year.
Resources Minister Guy Barnett said it was a sign the industry was strengthening.
But he conceded the growth was mostly in plantations, while Forestry Tasmania’s request was related to native forests.
“Most of those figures relate to turnover in the plantation sector, but also there’s a 90 per cent increase in the native forest sector,” he said.
He also admitted the Forest Industries Association wanted to see more information about the need to unlock forests, and had asked the Government to do an assessment.
The Wilderness Society said linking the Private Forests Tasmania figures to reversing the moratorium was nonsensical.
“I think this points to either desperation or incompetence,” spokesman Vica Bayley said. “Everybody knows the growth in the forest sector over the last two or three years has been purely plantation based.
“This looks like a delusional attempt to hide behind the good work of the plantation sector and somehow point to the fact that this means they need to undo reserves so logging can begin again.”
Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor said Mr Barnett was being wilfully misleading.
“The two are totally unconnected, Minister Barnett is making it up as he goes along,” she said. “The Government has made no case for logging the 400,000 hectares – they know the growth in forestry in Tasmania is from the plantation sector.”
Visiting Triabunna, Mr Barnett argued forestry growth would drive up regional employment.
“We have a plan for growth in the forest sector to grow the industry to create jobs, particularly in regional communities,” Minister Barnett said.
Graeme Elphinstone runs a Triabunna-based engineering company that manufactures trailers used by the logging industry.
He said more forestry activity in southern Tasmania would keep regional towns alive.
“I don’t think there’s any one golden ticket,” he said. “We’ve got to keep industry in Tasmania and we’ve got to keep it viable in southern Tasmania.
“The tourism industry providers need other industries for them to survive in the off-season.”