If someone wanted to damage you, your property, your lifestyle, your future and/or your business how would you feel about it if they also expected you to pay them to cause the damage?
That’s basically why so many Tasmanians oppose forestry as it’s conducted here.
Overall it seems that the shift of focus of Tasmania’s timber industry from valued timbers to wood chips has fuelled a range of dysfunctional results, including huge losses to the industry involving multiple bankruptcies (e.g. Great Southern, TimberCorp, FEA) and lost profits for Gunns. The ongoing efforts to shoehorn the idea of turning trees into their lowest common denominator of fibre, has corrupted our political system and threatens a massive community revolt.
The forestry story has previously been focused on environmental objections versus forestry interests that decry objections as “green” (and therefore presumably irrelevant). Without paid representatives and professional media spokespeople, the stories of communities and ordinary individuals have been swamped by paid spinmeisters.
I will try to tell the story simply - complex and extensive though it is - and to go beyond the name calling, accusations and assumptions of entitlement that are usually contained in forestry’s self-interested narrative.
The island …
… of Tasmania is about 63,000 sq km much of which is inaccessible. Overall, it offers one of the few remaining places on the planet where some natural wilderness still exists along with low population densities that promise rural lifestyles that could be enjoyed in peace and tranquillity.
Because there are still some natural forest areas that remain beautiful and offer peace and tranquillity, the island offers the opportunity for relaxed lifestyles, intimate relations with nature and innovative industries (for example, self sustaining retirement centres) except for …
The forest industry
… which dominates Tasmania’s landscape, resources, infrastructures and governments and enjoys multiple exemptions from the laws that apply to, and protect, the rest of us; that judges public grievances against it and finds itself blameless; that depletes the landscape and our water catchments at our expense; and that constantly expects more money and more resources from us in order to feed global fibre markets and line the pockets of a few.
Astute readers will note that trying to compete in a global low margin/high volume commodities market from a small island with relatively high costs was always a very dubious proposition. It seems to fit a 19th century “big is good” mentality but doesn’t fit Tasmania.
The only way that forestry has been able to maintain any semblance of profitability is via generous subsidies and exemptions from laws coupled with low or no cost resources and other forms of public assistance. Forestry describes their heavily subsidised state as “sustainable”.
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