Dispute over woodchipping


By Nick Carroll

MELBOURNE — The Rainforest Action Group and the Forest Lands Action Group will stage an action against a ship entering Corio Quay South to pick up a supply of woodchips from the Midway woodchipping company. Supporters are urged to ring the RAG hotline (03 826 6656) to find out when the action will take place.

The action is in support of calls for a moratorium on Midway's export licence and a full inquiry into woodchipping made by the Conservation Council of Victoria and the Geelong Environment Council.

Midway's export licence states that the company can export a maximum of 170,000 tonnes per year. Midway manager and ex-manager of Geelong Region Department of Conservation and Environment Malcolm MacDougall was quoted in the Colac Herald last December as saying, "We are hoping to increase production to a level where a ship would be arriving once a week". This would amount to about 1,820,000 tonnes a year.

Another point of contention is the company's exploitation of the vagueness surrounding the definition of "silvicultural thinnings". The company's licence allows it to obtain no more than 30,000 tonnes of woodchips from "silvicultural thinnings". The rest is to be derived from sawlog residue.

Some definitions of "silvicultural thinnings" include the material generated by activities meant to "enhance the stocking condition of the forest"; "manipulation of forest stands"; and the felling of "part of the forest stand or crop with the view to increasing the growth of the retained crop".

When asked for his definition of the term, MacDougall replied: "Forest activity".

Evidence recently obtained by the Conservation Council of Victoria shows that Midway has been chipping and exporting logs from clear-felled private properties in the Otways in a manner contrary to the Victorian government's Native Vegetation Guidelines. Clear-felling is definitely not silvicultural thinnings.

Midway skirts accusations by placing the onus on its suppliers (80% of timber received at Midway arrives already chipped, making identification of the source of the timber very difficult).