Sunday, 3 January 2016

Greens Forestry Policy - Sustainable Plantations that bring thetaxpayer a return.

For our environment, our economy and for our society it is well and truly time we stopped logging the State’s 2 million hectares of state native Forest. 

Our Native Forest estate is a priceless environmental asset that needs to be managed for everyone, so that our environment is protected, taxpayers benefit and more people can have more access to these beautiful places.

State Forests include some of the most important and bio-diverse forest in the State such as the Gardens of Stone State Forest in the Blue Mountains, Wedding Bells State Forest in the mid-North Coast and Tanja State Forest on the far South Coast.

With the end of logging we can save tax-payers millions, greatly improve environmental protection and provide far more access for recreational and sensitive eco-tourism access to some of the State’s most beautiful natural places.

"In 2014 NSW tax payers lost $12 million dollars by logging 23, 807 hectares of State native forests." (Forestry Corporation 2013-14 Sustainability Supplement page 26).

Key points: 
The Greens 2015 Forest package has 6 key points:

1.          An end to all logging and mining in State Native Forests by 2016;

2.         High conservation State Native Forest to be immediately transferred to the National Park estate;

3.      The balance of State Native Forest to be managed by Department of Environment so that:

a.      Environmental values are highest priority;

b.      Wildlife corridors are reforested and protected;

c.       Recreational activities consistent with environmental values are promoted; 
d.      Eco-tourism and Aboriginal cultural activities are promoted.

4.      An $80 million 4 year transition package for timber workers and communities impacted by the end of native forestry operations;

5.      Plantation forestry profits invested in increased planting for both soft-wood and hard wood timber.

6.      A $40 million 4 year forestry-related tourism and recreation grant scheme to promote access to, and investment in, the remaining state forest estate.

Greens MP and Forestry Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“Logging State Native Forest is a lose-lose for the NSW public: we lose our beautiful forests and we lose millions of dollars to do it.
“Why on earth is our government paying out millions of dollars a year to destroy our natural assets? It just makes no sense.
“We need a just transition out of loss making native forestry to the far more profitable and jobs rich plantation industry. This package provides for that.
“It’s time we opened up the 2 million hectares of Native Forestry to recreational uses and ecologically sustainable activities that protect the forest and benefit taxpayers and local communities.
“If we stop the logging then there is more than enough forest to accommodate bush walkers, mountain and dirt bike riders, horse riders and sensitive eco-tourism. This can all be done while promoting the environmental outcomes in every forest.
“State Native Forests are precious refuges for countless native plants and animals that depend on these forests for survival.  It is only bloody mindedness that sees them chopped down to lose money.
“With the international mixed native woodchip price in terminal decline the multi-million dollar losses in native forestry will not end.
“It is time that the ‘log at whatever the cost’ mentality was replaced by a measured and rational policy that brings this loss-making and damaging logging come to an end.” 
“This is a package that’s good for regional economies, good for our forests and good for the millions of residents across NSW who want more access to our precious public forests,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Carol Vernon, Greens candidate for Oxley electorate on Mid North Coast, said:
“This new policy will only affect the logging of state native forests. Privately owned native forest plantations and State Plantations are not affected by this plan. 

“Our state plantations are a viable money earner for NSW but the management and logging of our state native forests is a burden on taxpayers. Local ratepayers also bear a huge burden in maintaining roads and bridges for heavy logging vehicles, with no rates paid by the state government to offset that expenditure.

“Here is an exciting opportunity for the forests of the Mid North Coast to deliver industries and business ventures that will provide a return to our shires.

“Ecotourism and recreational activities consistent with environmental values such as controlled mountain bike riding and horse riding on trails could generate real jobs to our rural communities. Our flourishing diverse and unique biodiversity, from koalas to rare plants and insects, will become a greater magnet for visitors.

“By aiming to phase out logging by the end of 2016, the Greens have set an ambitious target, however, this target will save taxpayers and yet still allow a transition for affected workers not working with state plantations or forestry management.”


Protecting our Forests for the Future
The Greens have a detailed package to protect this State’s almost 2 million hectares of State Native Forest. This is a priceless environmental asset that needs to be managed for everyone, so that our environment is protected, taxpayers benefit and more people can have more access to these beautiful places.

Currently State Native Forests are managed to benefit a small loss making woodchip and logging industry. NSW taxpayers have lost more than $40 million from logging State Native Forests over the past 4 years according to Forestry Corporation figures obtained by the Greens (Forestry Corporation 2013-14 Sustainability Supplement page 26). In 2014 NSW tax payers lost $12 million dollars by logging 23,807 hectares of State native forests (Forestry Corporation 2013-14 Sustainability Supplement page 26).

Logging native forests not only destroys beautiful forests containing essential habitat for native plants and animals, but it leaves the tax payer well in the red. The Forestry Corporation continues to subsidise private contractors and loggers to the tune of millions of dollars a year. 

On average NSW taxpayers lose $495 for every hectare of State Native Forest that they allow to be logged.  This is in stark contrast to the average $5,837 that taxpayers benefit for every hectare harvested in the much smaller plantation estate. Last year alone State-owned plantations delivered $48 million in profit harvesting 8,223 hectares of plantation timber. This is the future of the State’s forestry industry, not loss making and destructive logging of native forests.

Ending logging is a win for the environment, recreation and the economy:

For decades NSW State Native Forests have been plundered for woodchips to deliver fewer and fewer jobs and ever greater environmental and financial losses to taxpayers. 

Ending logging will allow for high conservation forest to be immediately added to the National Park estate, filling in the gaps in places such as:

(a)  Gardens of Stone State Forest (Blue Mountains);

(b)  Tanja and Mumbulla State Forests (South Coast);

(c)  Pine Creek, Wedding Bells and Royal Camp State Forests (Mid North and North Coast)

(d)  Pilliga, Glen Elgin and Gibraltar Range State Forests (West and North West NSW) 

Less high conservation State Native Forest will be managed by the Department of Environment to ensure that wildlife corridors are restored and retained and environmental outcomes are the priority. Within that remaining state forest estate the ending of logging will create significant opportunities for recreational engagement and sensitive investment.  This includes:

(a)  Creative eco-tourism opportunities including forest lodges and multi-day regional walking initiatives;

(b)  Aboriginal cultural access including low impact commercial operations by traditional owners; and

(c)  Far greater recreational access for bush walkers, mountain bikers, day trippers, horse and trail bike riders in a forest estate that is not being devastated by logging.

This access is to be managed by the Department of Environment with environmental values being the prime consideration. Done well it will greatly limit the commercial and recreational pressure on National Parks while delivering far greater access to, and social and economic benefit from, revitalised State Native Forests.

Funded initiatives:

Last year alone state-owned plantations delivered taxpayers well over $40 million in profit from over $200 million in revenue each year, in a jobs rich, environmentally sustainable regional industry. This plantation estate props up Forestry Corporation’s chronic loss-making native forestry operations. The annual losses of native forestry operations have averaged $14 million. This must end.

Ending Native Forestry operations, and reinvesting plantation profits will free up resources to invest in:

(a)  An $80 million 4 year transition package for timber workers and communities impacted by ending native forestry operations;

(b)  increased investment in jobs rich state-owned plantation reserves; and

(c)  A $40 million 4 year forestry-related tourism, Aboriginal cultural and recreation grant scheme to promote access to, and investment in, the remaining state forest estate.

The transition package will be available for retraining and financial assistance packages for workers who suffer financially as a result of the end of native forestry operations. This includes retraining and priority jobs access to new jobs created in an expanded plantation estate. Funding will also be available for community projects designed to assist in the transition.

The transition package will include significant investment in buying back unsustainable wood supply contracts entered into by the NSW government over the past 2 decades. Unsustainable wood supply agreements are already costing tax payers with the Forestry corporation spending more than $8.5 million purchasing back North Coast contracts last financial year.

The tourism, cultural and recreational package is designed to promote innovative and sustainable projects within the State Native Forest estate. This includes projects such as tree-top rope parks, regional multi-day walk development, local walking tracks, bridle and bike tracks and low impact forest lodges.