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Australia going backwards on World Heritage listed forests

The Abbott government wants iconic forests removed from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, so they can be logged – a plan opposed by timber companies, their industry body, Tasmania’s Premier…

The Styx forests: world heritage, or soon to be unprotected again? Rob Blakers www.robblakers.com

The Abbott government wants iconic forests removed from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, so they can be logged – a plan opposed by timber companies, their industry body, Tasmania’s Premier and her government.

What is going on? It’s more World Heritage “Alice in Wonderland logic” from an Australian Government disregarding its duties under the World Heritage Convention, and other consequences of its actions.

The government seeks delisting of forests added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA extension) by the international World Heritage Committee in June.

Opening the World Heritage forests to logging is part of rescinding the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement [“IGA”].

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz says “State and Federal Liberals promised no IGA and we intend to deliver …” State Liberals want to “tear up and roll back” the IGA if they win Tasmania’s 2014 election (expected in March).

The Liberals’ World Heritage logging policy is a thermo-nuclear option which, if detonated, will blow up the IGA. But waging war on World Heritage forests would also kill forest peace prospects and cause casualties further afield: collateral damage. So could the Liberals’ policy to revoke the World Heritage extension and tear up the IGA backfire? Why are so many so strongly opposed?

Delisting World Heritage forests to log

Removing World Heritage extension forests from the World Heritage List to log them would, as I explain here:

  • breach Australia’s international treaty obligations
  • damage Australia’s reputation
  • undermine Tasmania’s “clean, green and clever” brand, upon which many of its industries rely
  • strike at the heart of the Tasmanian Forests IGA
  • damage demand for Tasmanian forest products.

For example, each nation party to the World Heritage Convention acknowledges in article 4 its duty to:

do all that it can … to ensure the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage situated within its territory.

The international World Heritage Committee, by inscribing the extension forests on the World Heritage List, legally acknowledged their outstanding universal value. Delisting then logging these forests would contravene our treaty obligations.

The Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive confirmed this week that delisting could damage Australia’s World Heritage reputation and rebound on tourism:

Removing that status clearly sends a signal that it is now worth less or is perhaps less well protected and that is not something that would sit well with us promoting our natural assets … as a competitive edge in the tourism market.

World Heritage boundary change opposed

Other notable bodies opposed to delisting forests by modifying the World Heritage boundaries include:

  • Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings, who warned that her government would “strongly oppose” any alteration to World Heritage boundaries, which she said would be “reckless, politically motivated vandalism which would plunge Tasmania back into conflict.”

  • Industry, union and environment groups which negotiated details for the forests agreement over 3 years and now sit as a Special Council assessing its implementation.

  • Major timber companies operating in Tasmania, including Neville Smith Timbers and Ta Ann.

Styx Valley rainforest: Rob Blakers www.robblakers.com

The Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement

The 170,000 ha World Heritage extension is a key conservation gain of the forests agreement, and the only one fully delivered so far. Undoing it will torpedo the agreement which is a package deal, essentially to:

  • give industry guaranteed wood supply volumes and funding and
  • reserve over 500,000 ha of high conservation value land.

The forests agreement is designed to give customers confidence in the Tasmanian forestry industry, rescue, reinvigorate and transition it a better future. The stated objectives of the agreement are to support:

  • a Tasmanian forest industry that has a strong, sustainable and certain future
  • the formal protection and management of native forests as identified in the Schedules of the Agreement
  • a Tasmanian economy that grows and diversifies creating new job opportunities.

Public funding of $387.4 million has/is being made available under the agreement to achieve these objectives, most of this going to the forestry industry. Without the reserves, the Australian Government and taxpayers get little for their money.

Given the forests agreement’s multiple objectives and carefully negotiated compromises and trade-offs, delisting World Heritage extension forests for logging would undo the whole package. The World Heritage extension is the centrepiece of the reserves.

The Tasmanian forestry industry needs the forests agreement for it to restructure, transition and move forward. The forests agreement and its reserves are also essential to Tasmanian forestry gaining Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, the “green stamp” for forestry products now required for customer confidence.

Only FSC certification will secure demand in the key export markets the industry needs for a strong, sustainable and certain future.

Industry future

Forest industry leaders have highlighted the need to move beyond past forest wars. As Terry Edwards of the Forest Industries Association said recently, “Our markets are calling for conflict free wood.” Nothing is more sure to reignite conflict and protests over Tasmanian forestry than World Heritage logging.

Mr Edwards has written to Tony Abbott requesting his government reverse its policy to undo the forests agreement as this would jeopardise FSC certification prospects and forestry related jobs.

Two of the biggest companies in Tasmanian forestry recently said the agreement has allowed them to expand and create jobs for the first time in years. Ta Ann’s Evan Rolley stated that without the forests agreement, “I don’t think we’d be operating the business, frankly”. Mr Rolley said of the future, “We will not be processing wood products that come from any other areas that are contentious.”

James Smith, executive chairman of Neville Smith Timbers, stated that the forests agreement has:

“allowed us to re-think what we’re doing within our business and engender confidence with our customers…[I] have no doubt that where we’re heading there’s a bright future.”

That bright future would be destroyed if the Liberals proceed to delist World Heritage extension forests and tear down the forests agreement, reigniting Tasmania’s forest wars. That would kill off FSC prospects and drive away remaining customers, turning a potential win-win through the agreement into a lose-lose for the state’s economy, forests and society.

A backwards step

Just when Tasmanian forestry is looking to the future, the Abbott government seems intent on dragging the industry back to a past which customers don’t want and won’t buy. But the Liberals have not presented a viable Plan B to the forests agreement.

World Heritage logging will be destructive in net economic, environmental and social terms. So it seems the Liberals' motivation is more political. Perhaps an obsession to undo achievements predating their election? Or, part of an anti-green strategy to crowd out the Palmer United Party at the 2014 Tasmanian election?

Regardless, Mr Abbott should reconsider and provide national leadership, upholding Australia’s international legal obligations. He should rule out World Heritage delisting and logging – not help hardline Tasmanian Liberals breach international law, tear down past achievements and wage forestry war for political purposes, despite market realities.

Meanwhile, iconic World Heritage Areas in Queensland, the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef, also face multiple threats. These include:

Then there’s cane toads and the latest Ranger uranium mine spill in Kakadu.

If we don’t fulfil our international duties of care for our World Heritage Areas, what chance Australia’s lesser known environmental assets?

The Weld River forests: part of World Heritage extensions. Rob Blakers www.robblakers.com

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95 Comments sorted by

  1. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    I can understand your emotion Tom but thermo nuclear option!
    " The Liberals’ World Heritage logging policy is a thermo-nuclear option which, if detonated, will blow up the IGA. But waging war on World Heritage forests would also kill forest peace prospects and cause casualties further afield: collateral damage. So could the Liberals’ policy to revoke the World Heritage extension and tear up the IGA backfire? Why are so many so strongly opposed? "
    You do state some truth it seems about an extension…

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    1. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Greg North

      It always amazes me that people believe that humans can actually function as purely rational being even though they have rational and emotional selves in parallel. I have not yet met anyone who is completely rational and find it quite acceptable to be passionate when it comes to protecting irreplaceable values, especially when others are equally passionate about turning these values into cold hard cash - once done and forever gone.
      How do you discuss rationally with an ideology?

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    2. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, this piece is written by an aspiring politician.
      "Tom Baxter stood for the Tasmanian Greens in a May 2013 "
      As we have seen demonstrated so many times political discourse is dominated by theatre where one side attempts to demonise the other, in pursuit of power.
      I don't see how it fits in with The Conversations Charter: https://theconversation.com/au/our_charter
      eg:
      "Unlock the knowledge and expertise of researchers and academics"
      "Provide a fact-based and editorially independent forum, free of commercial or political bias"
      Nice photo at the top, showing clear-felling regrowth alongside older forest which is possibly regrowth from the 1898 mega-fire.

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    3. Tom Baxter

      Corporate governance lecturer at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Murray Webster

      This piece draws on my journal article at http://www.pams.com.au/demo/StaticContent/Images/NELA/NELR_2013_Issue_3.pdf plus part of my PhD research. The piece was requested by The Conversation, quite properly.
      Yes Greg, that para is a colourful analogy, but in the context of what have been widely called the "forest wars", it reflects the political effect of the Liberals' stated intention to delist World Heritage listed forests for logging and "tear up" the forests agreement.
      In the Disclosure Statement at top of the article I disclosed my Tasmanian Greens candidacy at the Nelson Upper House election, so readers can take that into account.
      The photos show areas now inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, which the Liberals' proposal would remove from the TWWHA.

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    4. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Agreed Suzy, I do struggle to find any examples of humans discussing rationally. We still takes sides and adopt a battle mentality, probably much like the feudal lords and warring tribes in our past - at least we no longer kill each other with such propensity (here in Australia anyway).
      I find the photos in this story quite descriptive of an overriding pattern in Tasmania's wet eucalypt forests.
      The top photo shows forest regenerating after clear-felling, alongside older forest which (as I…

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    5. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Tom Baxter

      Tom

      Your PHD research is not mentioned at the top of the article - perhaps you can tell what it is so we can judge its relevance to this topic.

      You mention the Liberals political intentions, but you don't mention the political motivation for Labor pushing through this WHA extension in the first place, which was to appease Greens allies in Tas and Federally by overiding an agreed amendment to the agreement between the timber industry and conservationists which would have allowed the industry…

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    6. Tom Baxter

      Corporate governance lecturer at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Mark, I’m well-qualified to write on this topic, given my job, experience, qualifications etc.

      But to answer your question, my PhD research is on Australian forestry regulation, with specific focus on the exclusion of RFA forestry operations from Australia’s primary environmental statute, the EPBC Act. My PhD includes a chapter on World Heritage, so is entirely relevant to this topic. Since I don’t have the PhD yet, I figure the info in The Conversation’s limited disclaimer space is more important…

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    7. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Tom Baxter

      Tom

      Sorry, but from the evidence displayed in your several articles on this topic, plus your Greens political candidacy, I'll never be convinced that you are being objective or balanced in your research and writings on this or other forestry-related topics.

      I've written several articles on this topic myself, plus I have a 35-year career in forestry, but despite having two tertiary qulaifications in forest science, I'm not allowed to write articles on The Conservation because I'm not a currently…

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    8. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Tom Baxter

      No ecological expertise apparently?

      It would be informative to see how the political inclinations of The Conversation team and boards are represented on something like ABC's Voting Compass compared to the Australian population.

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    9. James Whitmore

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      We have total confidence in Tom's credentials to write on this topic, that's why we asked him. Tom has very openly disclosed his Greens candidacy, as we ask of all our authors. As to the content, well, that's why we have comments!

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    10. Rob Blakers

      Photographer

      In reply to Murray Webster

      Rather a glaring error here Murray, that anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with Tasmanian forest types should not be making.

      The shorter canopy in the top photo is not, as you state, eucalypts regenerating after clear felling, but is in fact the mature successional state of the wet forests, pure rainforest. Note the same forest type in the south-facing gully at the left side of the image - a clue that could not be missed. This puts those massive eucalypts lining the ridge at up to…

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    11. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      I guess we could agree to disagree, but I have been doing aerial photo interpretation of forest types for over 20 years including technical supervision of the NSW comprehensive Regional assessment for the NSW Upper and Lower North East Regional Forest Agreements. And was commissioned by an environmental department to review mapping of rainforest by aerial photo interpretation....
      Not sure where you got the 115 year old tree farm comment from.
      here is a paper that concludes managed forests which…

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    12. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Mark

      You appear to be scathing of Tom for supposedly being a Green's candidate and for not disclosing some of his qualifications, but how about you do the same.

      Your support for the 'right' side of politics is plain with your continual writing of articles for organisations like Quadrant and the discredited blog site "Jennifer Marohasy".

      Your criticisms of other's politics and supposed bias would be a little more credible if you weren't so political and biassed yourself.

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    13. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mike

      The huge difference is of course that I have two tertiary qualifications plus a 35-year career in what I am writing about, so I'm speaking on the basis of training and experience over a long period, rather than just an ideal fashioned into a political agenda.

      I think its pretty sad when people with knowledge who simply defend their profession by trying to correct obvious misconceptions are labelled as 'Right'. I guess the genesis of this is that it conflicts with people of the Left who are typically at the heart of campaigns against resource use industries, therefore I must be 'Right'. However, in reality, I may have a variety of positions on a variety of different topics, so it is a huge generalisation to label anyone as Right, Left or anything in between.

      I find it interesting that you describe Jennifer Marohasy is 'discredited' - by whom and for what reason? Is it simply that you don't agree with her views?

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    14. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Mark

      Everyone has political views and biasses. You may well come from a long background of forestry with many tertiary qualifications - but that does not stop you from having views that are informed by your own perspective and political position. An experienced forester may be someone who wants it left alone for wilderness heritage or who wants to exploit it for resource extraction. Both are valid points of view - but they are in ideological opposition. That does not make one right and the…

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    15. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mike

      You are right that my comments about forestry reflect my own personal journey in forestry. However, this means that they are informed by training and long-time experience in the topic at hand, plus a knowledge of the fundamental facts and statistics that apply to how forests are being managed.

      Yes, I often criticise those who hold 'Green' political views as they apply to forestry - mostly because those views are not based on a full understanding (or often hardly any understanding) of what…

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    16. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Mark

      I find nothing wrong with criticising other people's views on forums such as this. It is - after all - the whole point of allowing comments, and given that I am pefectly happy to criticise others, I would be hypocritical not to accept that other may do it as well.

      And that is exactly what I am most critical about in this and other forums - people being hypocritical in their comments. You see it all the time in apologists for one side or the other of politics. They will criticise the…

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  2. Rochelle Vincent

    Student

    I am horrified at the way this government is attacking anything related to environmental protection and advancing emissions reductions. It surely is just political but also absolutely pig-headed.

    I can't think of any reason to rescind the World Heritage listing. The logging industry is in favour because they recognise the benefits to their industry and FSC certification and obviously the state of Tasmania needs the green image.

    The government has already been embarrassed by the realisation that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is actually making the government money while reducing emissions.

    To me, these two examples show the Abbott government is driven by something other than the best interests of Australia and the people of Australia. I am utterly frustrated and scared about where Australia is being led.

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    1. Jane Middlemist
      Jane Middlemist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      citizen

      In reply to Rochelle Vincent

      I feel the same way Rachelle, except perhaps for where Australia is being "led" I would substitute "dragged" protesting and screaming - and being ignored by this government with its tin ears.

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    2. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rochelle Vincent

      Given the way the current government has been treating the environment, I predict that the Green vote will substantially increase at the next election.

      Climate change, Tasmanian forests, Great Barrier Reef, WA sharks, destroying the environmental approval process - the list grows longer every day. These are things that people actually care about - and the government is doing its best to alienate as many people as possible just so their big business mates can make bigger profits.

      I have never been an activist - but Tony and co is driving me towards it.

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    3. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Rochelle Vincent

      "Ï can't think of any reason to rescind the World Heritage listing."

      Firstly, lets be clear that Tas had 1.4 million ha of WHA-listed forests and other native vegetation, but this discussion is only about the 170,000 ha extension to this that was listed in June.

      A major reason is the way it was pushed through to meet a Labor-Greens political agenda. The deceitful way it was misrepresented as a 'minor boundary modification' specifically to avoid scientific scrutiny of its values by the World…

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    4. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Mark, There has been a sharp decline in the forestry industry, from 2006 to 2011, jobs fell from 6,400 to 3,450. The dollar, less demand from Japan etc all contributed. "there is little evidence to date that suggests that the forestry and forest products industry could grow significantly and become a major employer as in past decades. For some forest products, it is no longer evident that Tasmania has a global competitive advantage." page 19 Tas Govnt.
      http://www.treasury.tas.gov.au/domino/dtf/dtf.nsf/LookupFiles/Structural-Change-in-the-Tasmanian-Economy-Info-Paper.pdf/$file/Structural-Change-in-the-Tasmanian-Economy-Info-Paper.pdf
      It's not a big industry, it can no longer assume to to become anything other than harmful to the Tasmanian "brand". This move by this government is political, and blaming greens etc. ignores other salient issues and the reality that the industry won't solve Tasmania's problems.

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    5. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice

      Yes, the jobs have fallen as you say, but you are ignoring the role of activists such as Markets for Change and others who continue to actively target international export markets to 'trash' the Tasmanian brand, typically with grossly distorted imagery about the real situation in Tas, particularly the extent of forests that were already reserved for conservation.

      For example, Ta Ann Tasmania lost a contract for its products to be used in sports stadiums being built for the London Olympics…

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    6. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      You can be appalled, but I am not. There is this thing called the biosphere, which is impacted by deforestation of the planet. Also, you are as much an activist as any "green".
      Discrediting gunns is a part of the story, the rest is that there wasn't the demand in the market, and in relation to forestry tasmania, it's just not profitable.
      "-in the last 6 years it has received $100 million in subsidies from the federal govnt.
      -In the last four years it has lost an average of $100 million per year
      -It has an unfunded superannuation liability of well over $ioo million
      -The Tasmanian government has recently promised to prop it up with an additional $100 million subsidy." August 2012
      http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/08/21/tasmanias-forestry-sector-akin-to-work-for-the-dole/
      And this is the conclusion of the government in Tasmania. So why is the federal government considering stirring the bee hive? Appeals to who? Probably not the vast majority of Tasmanians. Mainland ... people?

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    7. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice

      .... and your expertise of forestry economics is? ... or are you just repeating things you've read in highly flawed reports by the agenda-driven Australia Institute which is comprised by a cabal including a former Greens political advisor and others with links to the extreme Left?

      Of course, if your biggest customer (Gunns from which they made around half their income) suddenly announces that they are walking away (as they did in 2010), Forestry Tasmania was going to lose money. Why is…

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    8. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      In he report Structural Change in the Tasmanian Economy , information paper
      http://www.treasury.tas.gov.au/domino/dtf/dtf.nsf/LookupFiles/Structural-Change-in-the-Tasmanian-Economy-Info-Paper.pdf/$file/Structural-Change-in-the-Tasmanian-Economy-Info-Paper.pdf
      The figures describing forestry Chart 2.1: 1991-92 to 2011-12, as a proportion of gross value added by industry, include agriculture forestry and fishing, which combined, add under 10% to the Tasmanian economy.
      **So what proportion of 9-10% does forestry account for Mark?
      Becoming nasty towards me doesn't help your argument, you are not considering overall market and economic factors. You continue to talk about the environment and trees. But the wood? The Tasmanian Government doesn't think forestry is as important as it once was. The conclusion on page 19 is telling. As quoted in my reply above.
      You clearly have insight so I'm interested to hear your response to this question.

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    9. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice

      Having now looked at this report, I find it interesting in the way the economy has been sub-divided into various sectors despite the reality of overlap between them.

      For example, the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries sector entails significant input from the Public Services Sector (ie. Govt agencies such as Forestry Tas, Private Forests Tas, and Forest Practices Board); the Private Sector Services Sector (ie. machinary sevicing, and professional scientific and technical services such…

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  3. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    This phenomena is certainly not new.

    It was proven time and again that the proposed Franklin Dam was not going to be economic, and many banks would not support it.

    But this did not stop the state government of the day from wanting to build the Franklin Dam.

    The delusion of “growth” gets in the way of any rational or logical thought, and the natural environment is believed to be obstructing “growth”.

    So the natural environment has to be cleared to create "growth".

    I have seen the same thinking with some farmers and basically all real estate developers.

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  4. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    As the writer indicates the only credible motivation for this absolutely destructive move by the Abbott government is political. They think a re-awakening of forest wars will favour them . How about the new Coalition Tasmanian MP's lobbying Abetz re this? Or are they part of the plot?

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    1. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to wilma western

      Wilma

      If you knew the full story about this, you would realise that the initial WHA extension was itself a politically expedient act by Labor to appease Greens allies in Tas and Federally.

      It was rushed through as a 'minor boundary modification' to avoid any scientific scrutiny by the World Heritage Committee, even though its area exceeded the 10% threshhold for such a 'modification' to an an existing World Heritage Area (Tassie already had 1.4 million hectares of World Heritage-listed native vegetation, and the extension was 170,000 ha). If this had been scrutinised, its likely that much of it wouldn't have been WHA-listed.

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  5. Ben Marshall

    Writer

    For a certain style of government, waging war simultaneously on all fronts, especially when newly elected, is an effective tactic when your enemy, in this case the Australian people, might be too overwhelmed and depressed to take up arms in so many battles.

    Or to clumsily swap metaphors mid-stream, once fires are lit, as Howard was so effective in doing, the fire-lighters can stand back and watch people expend time and energy putting them out. During which time the government can light other…

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    1. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Why the far Right so bitterly loathe ...... Green packaging?

      I suspect the severe deceit used by the far Left Greens and their acolytes tp prosecute often largely unwarranted environmental campaigns that put people out of work for no good reason is a substantial reason why.

      This article itself is a good example of this deceit, largely perpetrated by omitting key information, and selectively using other information fashioned to match their agenda.

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    2. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      "...is a good example of this deceit, largely perpetrated by omitting key information, and selectively using other information fashioned to match their agenda." << something the "far right" would never stoop to, of course - is that your point? That to be considered "left" is to have higher developed morals than the "right" and distinguish themselves by their higher standards from the "right" to be taken seriously by same?

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    3. Ben Marshall

      Writer

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Hi Mark,

      yeah, the study thing about packaging was for real apparently. I read it in New Scientist from memory. It was looking at how Right and Left seem to have different core values that may be hardwired rather than cultural artifacts.

      And, yes, I feel your anger and frustration, ironically shared by the Greens on the other side of the shouting match. Are we having fun yet?

      Also ironic is we all want sustainable forestry, timber, and paper-making industries.

      In a complex bunch…

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    4. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Ben

      I'm not surprised that you are "convinced that many of the campaigns waged by tree-huggers are entirely warranted" simply because the other side of the argument, that is the factual details that should counter the emotion, are simply never aired in the public arena.

      You'd have to be very strongly interested to do the required research to find them. A large part of the reason for this is that the media operates on sensational headlines and quick sound bites which are well suited to anti-campaigns…

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    5. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Hi Ben,
      I don't think most of Australia's environmental non-government organisations would support a Northern European model. They use timber that is not suitable for higher-value products, as fuel for electricity:
      "Wood confirmed as the primary source of renewable energy in Europe":
      http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=28819
      "Biomass Generates 32% of All Energy in Sweden"
      http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/06/biomass-generates-32-of-all-energy-in-sweden
      Australia's ENGOs and The Greens are totally against that. We are still in a 'post-colonial' mindset.

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    6. Ben Marshall

      Writer

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Thanks Mark, your kind reply gives some definition to extent of my ignorance on this. If 88% of mainland forests were reserved, I'd be impressed.

      I've never even visited Tasmania (to my shame) but have seen some pretty awful practice on an industrial scale in Vic and NSW, hence my general support of restrictions on old growth logging. But I take your point that I have not read the reports you mention. It would seem there is more ground for compromise, and satisfactory outcomes for all, than…

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    7. Chris Owens

      Professional

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Ben, many of the forests "protected" have already been gutted by the loggers. Think of any protected forest and look closely and you will see evidence of a long history of logging, prior protection. Mark didn't disclose how he is a logging industry spokesperson, or how his "facts" sit with the 1% old growth left in the central highlands forests of Victoria, but despite that they are still logging them: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/conservation/just-1-of-central-highlands-old-growth-survives-20110911-1k498.html

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    8. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Chris Owens

      Chris

      Firstly, I am a professional forester with forest science qualifications and act as a sometime voluntary spokesperson for the Institute of Foresters of Australia. So no, I am not a 'logging industry spokesman' .... although I certainly believe that it is sensible to have a domestic timber industry, and to manage forests with a balance between conservation and wise use.

      Secondly, there are certainly areas that that are now in reserves after a long history of timber harvesting and regeneration…

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  6. John Newlands

    tree changer

    What puzzles me is that carbon farming is a central tenet of Direct Action, Somehow we can log pristine forest and draw down CO2. Note even logging ostensibly for cut timber involves plenty of diesel, trampling of undergrowth, burning of litter and stumps as well as sending less than perfect logs to the chipper not the sawmill. Since the trees are up to 400 years old it's clearly not sustainable unless there are plantations somewhere planted in the 1600s.

    Even loggers are dismayed by some practices. A bromance between the Abbott federal govt and the likely Hodgman state govt will undermine everything that has been worked out so far. It's grubby and backwards looking. If/when old growth logging is resumed no doubt the valuable timber will be nearly given away to 'prove' the market exists. This will all happen from March 2014. Here we go again. . .

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to John Newlands

      I completely agree with your thoughts John, I remember standing next to an old man as a logging truck rolled through Mole Creek in Tasmania with one tree on it. He must have been 80-90 years old, and had logged single trees in the 1930's. He was completely disgusted by clear-felling, and talked at length about not being able to "see where he he'd been". I don't think this policy will work at all. I also raised the issue of certification once before, and was told it wouldn't be a problem. Yeah right. Yes, I don't think some realise how alike we are to other asian nations which seem to be trying to log as fast as possible. Shame about the biosphere.
      Mark Poynter, yours is not the only opinion, repeatedly mentioning the words green and labour, miss the point.

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    2. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      I understand the sentiment Alice and used to feel the same way, however my studies in ecology have demonstrated that single tree logging in Tasmanias wet eucalypt forests is not sustainable because it does not provide the conditions required for young trees to grow. This was recognised decades ago and is one reason why clear-felling and burning was developed. In these forests nature does it with intense wildfire where nearly all the existing trees are killed and an ashbed is created with blue sky above - seeds fall onto this ashbed, germinate and the forest grows back.
      Tassie had mega fires in 1898, 1934, 1966/7. Its overdue for another one.

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    3. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Sorry Alice, I don't recall saying that mine was the only opinion. In fact, at the risk of being accused of arrogance, my words are informed analysis rather than opinion simply because as I work in forestry, I know far more about this than most posters could be expected to.

      Your comment that we are like supposedly "other Asian nations trying to log as fast as possible" is ill-founded. If you look at the Australian Govts State of the Forests Report and you will see that only 7% of Australian forests…

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    4. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Some forty years ago I was involved in a series of studies conducted by the Forests Commission Victoria into the impact of timber harvesting and other forest-based activities on regional economies. Key findings were that forest activities such as tourism, camping and other non-harvesting pursuits brought more economic activities into the regions studied than did the traditional activities of timber harvesting, milling and chipping of waste. In fact, the harvesting operations were supported by significant…

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    5. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Sebastian Poeckes

      Sebastian

      Interesting stuff. 40 years ago, native forests were Australia's major timber source while the pine plantation estate was being grown, so it was acknowledged that harvesting levels were high on the expectation that plantations would eventually take over, as they now largely have.

      Accordingly, in Victoria since 1978, the annual level of native forest harvesting has declined by 80% and the area of public forest placed into parks and conservation reserves has increased from about 5…

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    6. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Yes, Mark. Distortions caused by subsidies over time can lead to many more and bigger problems than the issues they are aimed at. Just as the various "decentralization" schemes (ugly word) and other attempts to distort locational benefits and disbenefits have had, universally, negative outcomes, so the whole concept of subsidizing access to the island state should be reviewed. You speak of Tassie's need for a diversified economy, but the truly sustainable shape of such an economy will not be visible…

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    7. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Murray Webster

      I keep bees Murray. Bee-keepers, (and Peter Cundall), are some of the most vocal opponents because once twice three times, biodiversity changes in these forests? I suppose I'm saying there is a broad spectrum of people who do not like aspects of clear-felling, and would like the truce to stand.

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    8. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Fair enough Alice, yes there are a range of opinions out there.

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    9. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Sebastian Poeckes

      Sebastian

      I'll just say that the talk of subsidies about forestry by those who are critical of it typically includes Govt money used to pay compensation to those forced to exit the industry. In my book this isn't a subsidy at all, certainly not a subsidy for a continuing industry.

      In Tasmania, after the Regional Forest Agreement, the Govt paid a substantial amount for the industry to develop sawlog plantations as compensation for reserving 400,000 ha of native forest that had been earmarked…

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    10. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice

      Interesting that you refer to an Australia Institute report given that they are a Green-Left think-tank run by a director (one of the co-authors of your linked article) who was formerly a political advisor to Bob Brown. The other co-author is an environmental law academic who often writes about economics in pursuing an anti-forestry agenda.

      They wrote an article at one point where they understated the direct employment in the Tasmanian timber industry by half, and typically they simply ignore the much greater associated employment in the processing, manufacturing and retail sector.

      For this they should be 'discredited' in relation to forestry matters, and you should take what they say with a grain of salt.

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    11. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice

      You are presuming that forestry equates to clearfelling, when that's not necessarily the case. In fact, in TAS over a long period, the majority of harvesting has been some form of selective harvesting such as shelterwood.

      Clearfelling is chiefly practiced in the wet forest types which I wouldn't have thought were preferred forest types for apiary.

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    12. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Well Mark, it's many years since I had day to day involvement in forestry, but at that time all forestry operations that I had knowledge of were subsidised by the taxpayer to a greater or lesser extent, Australia wide.

      The regional economic studies that I referred to above further demonstrated that regional multipliers from forestry operations were less than those stemming from forest based tourism. To it's credit the then FCV did not attempt to suppress this information, but it wasn't really widely disseminated - a couple of conference papers, a minor journal and that's about it. And those studies took in all the downstream activities you mention above. Not much would have changed in the intervening decades due to increased mechanization and industry concentration.

      In other words, I've come to see forestry as largely a make-work scheme for regions that don't have much going for them.

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    13. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Sebastian Poeckes

      Sebastian

      I have to admit to being sceptical of your recollections of that research. Forty years ago was around the early 1970s when native forests overwhelmingly supplied our timber needs. The softwood plantation expansion began in only 1964, and it wasn't until 1995 or thereabouts that plantations overtook native forests as our primary timber supplier.

      So, native timber industries in the early 1970s were far more socio-economically significant than they are now. On the other hand, forest-based…

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    14. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      Well, Mark, you may be right, at least in part.
      It was all a very long time ago, but I clearly remember that the impact of tourism, even then, was surprisingly large. And forest based tourism using the definitions current in the FCV back then was a surprisingly important influence on total tourism. 4WDs and trail bikes were already important components of forest based recreation and that part of the studies was based on surveys. In fact the regional studies program was horrendously expensive as…

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    15. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Sebastian Poeckes

      Sebastian

      Yes, we may well have met as I attended the Vic School of Forestry, Creswick from 1975 to 77, and Melbourne University from 1979 to 80. I presume that Sebastian P isn't your real name, as its a bit unusual and I would have thought I would have remembered it.

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    16. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to Mark Poynter

      The dates coincide perfectly. I'm sorry that my lectures haven't stuck in your memory, but why would they? One boring bearded lecturer is much like another and it was all just so very long ago.

      I'm glad you've had a long and interesting career in forestry. I moved on into the central agencies after that and basically left the sector entirely.

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  7. Robert Gray

    logged in via Facebook

    The World Heritage Centre approved this 170,000 ha, 12% increases as a Minor modification in June this year. The Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention states for Minor modifications to the boundaries:

    "163. A minor modification is one which has not a significant impact on the extent of the property nor affects its Outstanding Universal Value. "
    Thus rescinding all or part of this minor adjustment will be deemed to have no impact on the OUVs of the existing…

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  8. Tom Baxter

    Corporate governance lecturer at University of Tasmania

    Robert, it was the World Heritage Committee (as distinct from the Centre) which approved the TWWHA extension in June.

    Yes, as I wrote in my article at http://www.pams.com.au/demo/StaticContent/Images/NELA/NELR_2013_Issue_3.pdf [its footnotes omitted below]:

    "Australia may attempt a ‘minor modification’ to exclude either the full 170,000 hectare TWWHA extension or (as seems more likely) forested parts thereof. A minor modification is defined as ‘one which has not a significant impact on the…

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    1. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Tom Baxter

      Tom, my reply, also cut and pasted from above thread:

      "I guess we could agree to disagree, but I have been doing aerial photo interpretation of forest types for over 20 years including technical supervision of the NSW comprehensive Regional assessment for the NSW Upper and Lower North East Regional Forest Agreements. And was commissioned by an environmental department to review mapping of rainforest by aerial photo interpretation...."

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  9. Rob Blakers

    Photographer

    Murray Webster, I'm afraid that your credibility takes a second tumble here.

    Please note the image credits. I was in the chopper and took the photos. I've walked in these very forests. They are majestic oldgrowth forests, not the post logging and post-wildfire regrowth that you have interpreted them to be.

    And the simple fact is that when these forests of enormous trees, secondary rainforest layers and deep soil profiles are logged and burnt there is a massive release of carbon, which is multiples more than what might optimistically be regained over the regrowth, avoided emissions and tiny percentage of enduring wood products, when viewed in the time-scale that counts - the next several decades.

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    1. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      Well I had another look to confirm my first impression, but just to make sure we are talking about the same photos:

      1. Top photo is old forest interspersed with coupes of regrowth from clearfelling - coupe boundaries are clearly visible and identifiable by the rapid transition from smaller trees to bigger ones. Several coupes are visible in a patchwork across the image, including a recently burnt one in the top right indicated by the reddy-brown colour. Did you have a GPS and compass bearing…

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    2. Rob Blakers

      Photographer

      In reply to Murray Webster

      The first of the 3 images is what we are talking about here, with the ridge of eucs above a rainforest understorey to the left, and an expanse of lower canopied vegetation occupying the lower 2/3 of the right hand half of the image. To repeat, this is oldgrowth rainforest dominated by celery-top pine, sassafras and myrtle, It is not clearfall regen. The same forest type continues under the eucs and down the left side slope mentioned in a previous post.

      Murray, I'm finding this a bit disturbing…

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    3. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      Rob, I disagree with you. Conversation does involve disagreement...
      As I said I have spent decades doing mapping of native vegetation using aerial photography. I also spent 3.5 years in Tasmania, doing a PhD in digital photogrammetry at the Uni, as well as aerial photo interpretation in the Warra Long Term Ecological Research site.
      What is going on here is my interpretation of the imagery, nothing more, nothing less.
      What do you think the brown patch in the top right of the top image? Its looks distinctly like a logged/burnt coupe. About the same size and with about the same density of remaining taller trees as the other patches of smaller trees. Very much a forestry coupe pattern and on a range of aspects - whereas rainforest tends to be on protected slopes.
      Anyway as I said initially perhaps we will have to agree to disagree.

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    4. Rob Blakers

      Photographer

      In reply to Murray Webster

      How much deeper do you want to dig yourself Murray?

      You have perfectly illustrated and substantiated the arrogant forester syndrome referred to in my previous post.

      We are talking about the uniform area of relatively low forest that lies below the recent brown clearfall scar at the top right of the image. Forest type shapes that may superficially resemble a logging coupe pattern are not necessarily from logging. Hydrology, fire history, soil type, slope, aspect etc etc will determine species composition within a forest.

      Google me, send me an email, and I'll send you a larger sized image.

      Then please come back and publicly admit your mistake.

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    5. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Murray Webster

      Murray, It looks pinkish, like the clouds, late afternoon sun coming in from the side, new growth tips?, colour photography is a tricky business, but it looks like trees on a small ridge which has caught the pink light, which is not uniform over other parts of the landscape also.
      There must be some steep slopes under those trees. They look to be the same over the landscape, with higher story trees

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    6. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      I am confident in my interpretation of the imagery. If you want to send me some GPS coordinates and time for the photo, then I can have a look at a range of satellite/aerial photo image dates which would readily show clear-felling. If not then I have made my arguments for anyone who is interested.
      I hadn't seen the Colbeck website previously, but that same area is the one I identified independently as being recently logged and burnt. http://www.richardcolbeck.com.au/2013_media_releases/getup_continues_tradition_of_dishonesty

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    7. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      Rob, upon signing into LinkedIn, I noticed a request for connection from you. Is there any professional interest you have in my services?

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    8. Rob Blakers

      Photographer

      In reply to Murray Webster

      Murray, that was an attempt to find a quick contact so that I could send a larger file so that you could see that the mostly rounded and diverse tree tops in question are indeed rainforest (myrtle, clery-top pine, sassafras etc) and not the even aged, uniformly pointy tipped, eucalypts that are characteristic of post logging regeneration.

      I'm afraid that given that your incorrect desktop analysis, and your reluctance to correct that error, it is rather unlikely that I would be seeking your professional services.

      For you, or anyone else who cares to view a larger (copyrighted) image of the Styx Valley oldgrowth forest, with a recent clearfall at the top right of the picture, go to:

      file:///Users/robblakers/Desktop/Styx%20Valley%20forests,%20Tasmania.jpg

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    9. Rob Blakers

      Photographer

      In reply to Murray Webster

      I don't have GPS co-ordinates, and they are not needed to identify the trees.

      I do acknowledge an error on my part, however. The recent clearfall at the top right hand side of the picture is not, as I had stated in an above post, the strategically logged TN048A that abuts the old WHA boundary. Rather, it is an agglomeration of a couple of clearfalls and a plantation, with TN050E being the most recent of these. They lie a few km to the east of TN048A and and the drainage immediately to their west (<100m distant) forms the boundary of the new WHA. Both incursions have oldgrowth forest to their south.

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  10. Robert Gray

    logged in via Facebook

    Typical green party response from the author to the fact that this was considered a minor modification to the boundary of the exsting WHA that already covers a massive 22% of Tasmania and fine examples of Tall Eucalypt old growth forest, to point out it was the committee not the centre that gave in to the massive lobbying effort of the former ALP Green federal government. The committee, with the help of the centre, decided to rush this through as a minor modification without proper assessment, despite a recomendation from the committee's key advisor ICOMOS, even the compromised IUCN (its Australian representative over saw the "independent" assement of the claims) pointed out that 10% is normally the absolute limit of a minor adjustment.
    Why not zoom in on the photo used here it is the same one cropped by Get Up! to hide the recent clearfell harvesting now claimed as pristine wilderness, see http://www.richardcolbeck.com.au/2013_media_releases/getup_continues_tradition_of_dishonesty

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    1. Tom Baxter

      Corporate governance lecturer at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Robert Gray

      Robert, The photos accompanying this article are reproduced in full as provided by the photographer, not cropped. I wonder, from where did Senator Colbeck obtain the photographer’s photo and copyright approval to reproduce it?

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    2. Rob Blakers

      Photographer

      In reply to Robert Gray

      Robert Gray, this particular coupe was a perfect example of strategic logging. It is an island of clearfall, surrounded by magnificent, ancient oldgrowth forest, the best of its type in Tasmania. It is situated hard against the old World Heritage boundary and is now several kilometres within the new World Heritage boundary. Should that entire forest really have been turned over for logging because of this one coupe?

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    3. Rob Blakers

      Photographer

      In reply to Robert Gray

      Sorry Robert, you shouldn't believe everything that Mr Colbeck says. Get Up! got it right.

      The recent logging incursion in the image is not (as I mistakenly stated below earlier) the strategically logged TN048A that abuts the old WHA boundary. Rather, it is a couple of coupes and a plantation with TN050E being the most recent of these that lie a few km eastwards. The drainage at their western edge forms the new WHA boundary.

      They are in the Permanent Logging Zone and are not in the WHA.

      http://www.richardcolbeck.com.au/2013_media_releases/getup_continues_tradition_of_dishonesty

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  11. Tom Baxter

    Corporate governance lecturer at University of Tasmania

    My key point in relation to the World Heritage listing these Tasmanian forests is that it was for the international World Heritage Committee (a subset of UN member nations – as is the Security Council) to decide whether to or not. They added the forests to the World Heritage List at their annual meeting in June. Presumably after considering the detailed nomination information provided by the Australian Government, and the views of the Committee’s international expert advisory bodies. The World Heritage…

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    1. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Tom Baxter

      Tom, Well said. This piece appears to deal with your area of expertise and refrains from emotive and derogatory terminology.

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  12. Tom Baxter

    Corporate governance lecturer at University of Tasmania

    I see from today's news a report urging an end to subsidies to the forestry industry, which this report says have “cost taxpayers roughly $420 million since 2011”: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-16/report-urges-governments-to-stop-27wasting27-public-money-sup/5158838
    So there is an alternative, more economically rational, hard-nosed response than the forests agreement, which given the new Government's approach to Holden and facing massive budget deficits, it (and taxpayers) might find attractive.
    I've not had time to see the ANU/Aust Institute report yet. My initial view, as a Tasmanian, is that I'd be concerned that tearing up the forest agreement, stopping subsidies and letting market forces rein, would cause massive industry pain. That also seems to be the view of many, including the companies and industry association FIAT I quoted in my piece.

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    1. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Tom Baxter

      I think an economic appraisal of whether to do forestry in native forests or not, would consider the difference in cost between managing under National Park versus managing as multiple use state forest. Including the cost of wildfire and fire management activities. I don't have the numbers and have no idea what they are. They are the options we are considering. It seems to me that we would weigh up the cost of both options, but it seems we are only looking at the cost of one scenario.
      The Report you refer to is by the Australia Institute. I have heard that there are some current or ex Greens Staffers in there. Tom, do you know any of the Board of director have any past or current association with The Greens?

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    2. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Murray Webster

      Murray

      You are right, the Australia Institute is known as Green-Left think tank managed by Richard Dennis who is a former political advisor to Bob Brown. Dennis is a co-author of the linked articl, along with Andrew McIntosh who is an environmental law academic who has often written about economics in relation to Tas forestry and is obviously pursuing an agenda against it.

      The Australia Institute board also includes Ben Oquist, former Chief of Staff to Greens leader, Christine Milne.

      A former article from this pair was pilloried for understaing the timber industries employment by half, and typically they ignore the associated employment in processing, manafacturing and retailing.

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    3. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Tom Baxter

      Tom, Murray

      Senator Richard Colbeck, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture has issued a media release about the latest Australia Institute report by Denniss and Asst Professor Macintosh which you are referring to, entitled:

      "Report tells a false story about forestry in Tasmania" Dec 17th

      I couldn't post the link for some reason, but you can get off Senator Colbeck's website.

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  13. Tom Baxter

    Corporate governance lecturer at University of Tasmania

    Further to my comment re a recent report by the Australia Institute, as reported at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-16/report-urges-governments-to-stop-27wasting27-public-money-sup/5158838
    The Australia Institute's report deserves to be considered on its merits. Its lead author Dr Andrew Macintosh from the Australian National University is a prominent academic and nobody's puppet. The Australia Institute provides details of its board and staff at http://www.tai.org.au/node/3

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    1. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Tom Baxter

      Tom

      You describe Dr Andrew Macintosh as a prominent academic

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but from my observations, Dr Macintosh is an environmental law academic who has gained prominence not from publishing peer-reviewed academic articles based on this primary expertise, but from writing highly publicised reports and opinion pieces about forestry economics for the Australia Institute which is widely acknowledged as a 'Green-Left' think tank.

      Invariably these reports have espoused closing native forest timber industries either because A) they don't employ many people; or B) because we could supposedly make more money by being paid for their standing carbon.

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    2. Mark Poynter

      Forester

      In reply to Tom Baxter

      Tom

      For your information, Senator Richard Colbeck, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture has issued a media release about the latest Australia Institute report by Denniss and Asst Professor Macintosh, entitled:

      "Report tells a false story about forestry in Tasmania" Dec 17th

      I couldn't post the link for some reason, but you can get off Senator Colbeck's website.

      It pretty well backs up my earlier summation of the Australia Institute and supports my concerns about Macintosh being party to an agenda which has little to do with academic objectivity.

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  14. Robert Gray

    logged in via Facebook

    Here's another photo of a perfect example of strategic logging. It is an island of clearfall, surrounded by magnificent, ancient old growth forest, the best of its type in Tasmania at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-28/logging-in-a-southern-forest-benjpg/4396160 This time in the new extension of the pristine TWWHA in an area assessed by the Independent Verification Group in southern Tasmania, of which the former ENGO lobbyist undertaking the assessment said "The assessment area is essentially fully forested, mostly tall eucalypt, and has been subject to some past episodes of logging". However Brendan Mackey of the IUCN noted the assessment “cannot substitute for formal World Heritage or National Heritage assessment but it will provide evidence of whether or not such formal assessments should occur”. These formal assessments did not occur so it is wrong to claim that the extension includes areas formally assessed to contain world Heritage Values.

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