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Tas government to sell off hardwood

The Tasmanian Government will investigate selling off Tasmania’s publicly-owned hardwood plantations as part of a plan to downsize Forestry Tasmania. Source: ABC News

Resources Minister Paul Harriss delivered a ministerial statement to Parliament, vowing to end subsidies to the forest estate manager.

Mr Harriss told Parliament the business was not viable under its current structure, and that a Treasury official would sit on the company’s board during what it called its transition to profitability.

Mr Harriss said selling the hardwood plantation estate was a way of helping Forestry Tasmania make money.

“Forestry Tasmania’s hardwood plantations provide a saleable asset with the potential to generate significant revenue in the immediate term,” he told Parliament.

“Any sale will need to be assessed against the requirement to maintain contractual wood supply obligations and against any potential impact on forest management certification.”

The Minister also said Forestry Tasmania (FT) would have to be shrunk, and indicated that would involve job losses.

“It is an unfortunate fact that if FT is to be put on a long-term sustainable footing, it will need to be smaller and more efficient, increasingly focused on its core business and more commercially agile,” Mr Harriss said.

He also indicated a southern port would need to be found to export woodchips, and suggested Hobart’s Macquarie Wharf was being considered.

“I can indicate that any expression of interest which is based on use of Macquarie Wharf in Hobart will need to be presented on the basis that there will not be a woodchip pile on the wharf and that processing will occur offsite.”

Opposition Leader Byran Green said the Government was looking at “selling the farm”.

“The Minister, the Premier, the Deputy Premier and everyone that stands beside him have completely misled the Tasmanian people, they do not have a mandate to sell the farm, Madame Speaker, they do not have a mandate to sell off the plantation resources,” he said.

Labor also claimed that the forest sales were a breach of the pre-election promise not to sell assets, but Mr Harriss denied that.

“They’re in the process of growing trees, and Forestry Tasmania will scope that process out, they will advise the Government, and they will make their decisions about funding the commercial operations of the business from that opportunity,” Mr Harriss said.