Forestry Tasmania exhibits commitment to Forest Council Stewardship certification bid

In February 20, 2017

Forestry in Tasmania emerges every three to four years as an election issue and in 2017, it will be no different.

Resources Minister Guy Barnett last year revealed to Parliament how Forestry Tasmania would look in the future, the direction it would take, and gave a bit of detail on the government’s forestry agenda over the next few years.

This included a continuation of the undoing of the previous government’s Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement by unlocking 357,000 hectares of informal reserves, identified for protection for the area’s conservation values.

This year too will be a test for Forestry Tasmania, soon to be known as Sustainable Timber Tasmania, as it continues the process to gain Forest Stewardship Council certification.

The certification exists in 112 countries, covers 20,000 different products, 30,000 certified businesses and covered two million hectares of forest estate.

Some of the world’s biggest businesses have the certification – Lego, IKEA, McDonald’s, Tetra Pak – while some of the country’s biggest retailers, like Bunnings, Woolworths and Coles – are increasingly sourcing FSC-certified products.

With Tasmania, state-owned forestry companies in Victoria and Western Australia in their own pursuits of FSC certification.

Last year, FSC auditors told Forestry Tasmania that it needed to do more work to identify and assess high conservation values in its forests, protect endangered species, and come up with a plan to protect Aboriginal sites.

These concerns have been somewhat addressed in the company’s Draft High Conservation Values Assessment and Management Plan, released more than a week ago.

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said he and other environmentalists were studying the report to see if it conflicted with the government’s plan to open up the contentious 357,000 hectares of informal reserves to logging by private operators in 2018.

Although the government and Forestry Tasmania have distanced themselves from the plan, so not to impact its chase of FSC certification, Mr Bayley believed that the proposal didn’t stack up with regard to consumer demand for FSC-certified products, growth in mountain bike tourism, and protection requirements for the threatened freshwater lobster.

“The government keep talking about jobs and growth in the industry and how things are fabulous and it’s pretty much all attached to the plantation sector or Forico and their woodchip exports,” he said.

“Derby’s fortunes have multiplied many times over in the past year so are they seriously contemplating rolling back the land tenure upon which Derby invested in mountain bike tracks and logging it?”

Mr Bayley said the government’s refusal to wind back its legislative requirement to supply 137,000 cubic metres of high-quality sawlogs to the state’s sawmillers to 96,000 cubic metres, as the Forestry Tasmania board had recommended, meant that the rest would need to eventually come from Future Potential Productive Forests which were known not to be FSC-compliant.

The government has flat-out refused that wood sourced from the informal reserves, as Future Potential Productive Forests, would make it into Forestry Tasmania’s supply chain, maintaining it would only be available for private operators to supply to the mills themselves.

Mr Bayley said the Wilderness Society will argue to FSC auditors that Forestry Tasmania will be associated with the logging, however.

“Unless you renegotiate Forestry Tasmania’s contracts down, which they say they’re not going to do, how does that wood get into the supply chain and meet Forestry Tasmania’s wood supply commitments?” he said.

“We argue that it is all Crown land, that it is all owned by the state, and that opening up Future Potential Production Forests jeopardises Forestry Tasmania’s certification.”

“The thing that we really need to watch is the government dropping its commitment to FSC … but it’s increasingly clear that they have competing policy objectives.

“They want to get FSC but they want to unprotect a whole lot of forests.”

A Forestry Tasmania spokesman described the new draft report as a response to stakeholder input and non-conformances.

He said the scope of the assessment related to Permanent Timber Plan Zone (PTPZ) land but also considered high conservation values in the broader landscape.

But the government’s plan to open up the contentious land could result in Forestry Tasmania having to revisit and alter the report.

“Any significant changes outside of PTPZ land would be considered on a case-by-case basis, which may, or may not, lead to Forestry Tasmania altering the content of its HCV Management Plan,” the spokesman said.

Forest Stewardship Council chief executive Adam Beaumont visited the state last week to meet various stakeholders and businesses carrying the FSC brand.

“Consumers just won’t put up with reckless forest management and either will the big retailers,” he said.

“In the fast-moving consumer space – toilet paper and tissues – FSC is everywhere. But in the solid timber market, where the bulk of the hardwood estate is natural forest under public ownership, FSC certification hasn’t been as prevalent.

“The standard is high and the bar is high because community expectation is high and so are the expectations of our members.

“If you want a ticket in the game to sell to ethical markets then you need FSC.”

Mr Beaumont would not be drawn on whether the government’s plan to open up 357,000 hectares to private logging operations would impact Forestry Tasmania’s bid for certification, saying that decision would rest with independent auditors.

“We would strongly encourage the government to get FSC certification across whatever area they decide to open up,” he said.

 

Forestry Tasmania exhibits commitment to Forest Council Stewardship certification bid by Matt Maloney.  Available from <http://www.examiner.com.au/story/4472167/industrys-road-ahead/> [19 Feb 2017, 2 p.m.]
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