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Forestry and timber stories

FSC tick for plantation wood

Edition 178_Sustainable Timber Tasmania...restructured and renamed

Sustainable Timber Tasmania has achieved Controlled Wood certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for its plantation operations.

As Forestry Tasmania, the agency gained independent certification under the world’s largest forestry certification scheme, the Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification, through the Australian Forestry Standard.

It also holds certification under the International Standards Organisation’s Environmental Management System.

But activists contend that only FSC certification delivers "social licence".

Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) is undergoing a fundamental restructure as it works towards gaining full FSC Forest Management certification.

It has met 94 FSC criteria, but was told by auditors last year that it needs better plans for the protection of threatened species and old-growth forests to pass a further nine criteria.

The Minister for Forests, Guy Barnett, said: “Achieving FSC Controlled Wood certification clearly demonstrates FT’s commitment to obtaining the more rigorous FSC Forest Management standard, and gives us renewed confidence that we are heading in the right direction.”

The Government has distanced the troubled agency — that reported a $67 million loss in 2015–16 — from plans to allow logging two years earlier than previously legislated in 400,000ha of native forest classified as Future Potential Production Forest in the so-called peace deal negotiated in 2012.

Only private businesses with appropriate certification will be given access to log the area if a new start date is approved by Parliament.

The Liberal Party won majority government in 2014 after campaigning on a promise to "rip up" the forestry deal, but activists are pledging to fight any move to early production and some forestry export businesses have expressed alarm publicly.

Veneer producer Ta Ann Tasmania will not take logs from the disputed area and woodchip exporter ARTEC has written to the Government opposing the whole idea. The ARTEC letter was leaked to the media.

One sawmiller told The Mercury the threat of renewed conflict would prevent it operating in the contested forests.

However, FSC Australia’s Chief Executive, Adam Beaumont, said the issue would not affect STT’s certification audit because STT would not be involved in any logging that takes place.

Mr Beamont said: “If the Government is going to hand part of the land to a private operator I would like to see the Government mandate that the operation gets FSC certification to provide an assurance to the public that the land is well managed.”

He said similar arrangements were common in places such as Indonesia and West Papua where land is State-owned but logging is conducted by private companies.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of STT, Rob de Fegely, said the business would gain greater clarity with its wood-production operations separated from its land-management commitments.

He said managing biodiversity, water, soil, tourism access, roads and fire protection had “blurred” the organisation’s past business performance.

“Wood production in my opinion has unfairly had to carry a lot of those external costs that other people have wanted, but quite clearly now it can’t do purely on the basis of the revenue they get from selling wood,” Mr de Fegely said.

Plans to make the company financially sustainable involve selling plantations and passing some functions over to private companies.

Mr de Fegely said: “We’ve got traditional industries that will need to redevelop and we’ve got new industries we need to initiate.

“And I think having the time and the knowledge that, essentially, our contractual obligations will remain is great security for everybody.

“We’re hopeful we don’t have a lot of conflict in the processes that we’re doing because we have got time to do these things, so we have got time to consult with people, we have got time to discuss what we’re doing, where we’re going, to find out what works for some people and what doesn’t work for some people, and a chance to analyse how we develop our longer-term plan.”

One plan under consideration is the logging of 357,000ha of Wielangta Forest.

A motion against it was voted down in State Parliament in November.

Earlier, the Government had announced plans to extend the popular Great Eastern Drive and to link it to the Tasman Peninsula by upgrading the Wielangta Forest Drive.

“Under the Government’s plans, tourists would be sharing the road with log trucks and witnessing the clear-felling of the same forest that would bring them there,” Greens tourism spokeswoman, Andrea Dawkins, said.

Mr Barnett told the House the Greens were under a “false premise” that tourism and forestry operations could not coexist.”

Image courtesy of Sustainable Timber Tasmania

30 November 2016, Edition 178

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