The timber and paper needs of Victoria could be satisfied entirely from existing plantations, creating 2000 jobs in the process and saving native forests from further encroachment. These are the findings of a recent report commissioned by the Conservation Council of Victoria.
The report, released in early April and put together by economist Judy Clark, was summarised in the Potoroo Review, newsletter of the Concerned Residents of East Gippsland. It found:
- Sawn timber from pine plantations will treble over the next eight years. Victoria already uses an equal amount of pine and hardwood for sawn timber.
- By the mid-1990s, plantation eucalypts, pine thinnings and recycled paper could provide all Victoria's paper needs.
- One hectare of plantation pine produces 10 times as much timber a year as one hectare of native forest.
- The Department of Conservation and Environment spends twice as much managing Victoria's native forests for wood production as it does managing plantations.
- Victoria has 17,000 ha of eucalypt plantations in the ground, some ready to use now. Using these existing plantations, more paper could be made than at present, reducing the need to import.
- 1135 new jobs could be created processing thinnings from pine plantations and sawmill off-cuts.
According to Jill Redwood of the Concerned Residents of East Gippsland, pulp made from plantation timber uses more efficient and less harmful technology than that used for pulping old growth eucalypts. The process uses half the wood of a conventional pulp mill to create the same amount of paper, and no dioxins are produced.
"Why isn't the government encouraging the shift to using these plantations?", asks Redwood. "One possibility is that powerful companies would like to keep obtaining woodchips at rock bottom prices from our native forests."
Redwood said that many companies' plantations are being kept waiting in the wings for the inevitable time when either governments stop pandering to the timber industry or forest resources run out.
"Couple the facts from this latest report with the large percent of Australians who believe our remaining native forests should be saved, and the government is no longer able to justify the subsidised destruction of our last remaining old growth forests."
CROEG asks that letters urging a shift to plantation timber be sent to Premier Joan Kirner and opposition leader Jeff Kennett. acted on (051) 54 0145 or (064) 58 0299.