BY ALEX BAINBRIDGE
HOBART — Calls for a moratorium on the rapid increase in timber plantations in the state have increased, following a 200-strong public meeting, organised by the Wilderness Society, in the Town Hall on July 26.
The area covered by plantations is increasing by around 15,000 hectares per year, according to TWS coordinator Geoff Law. TWS is protesting against the negative environmental effects of these plantations, particularly in native forest areas, including pollution of water courses, poisoning of animals and destruction of ecosystems.
Another reason for protest is the destruction of farming communities, particularly in north-west Tasmania. According to anti-plantation campaigner Malcolm Ryan, 248 farms have been bought by plantation companies since the 1997 regional forest agreement was signed. Locals are concerned that this will lead to further reductions in rural services such as postal deliveries and school bus routes and property values of farms next to plantations have plummeted.
Writing in the May-July issue of the Daily Planet, Greens state parliamentarian Peg Putt charged that rural people are discriminated against. "Tasmanian governments have stacked the deck, removing the rights of people affected by plantations. Declaration of a Private Timber Reserve deliberately circumvents normal public rights of objection and appeal and denies local councils control over these land use issues."
Resistance organiser Bea Brear told Green Left Weekly that no one should believe that the profit-driven forestry industry will adopt sustainable practices purely under the influence of market pressures. "The most urgent priority for sustainability is the ending of logging in old-growth and other high conservation value forests", Brear said. "Existing plantations should certainly be used as an alternative source of timber until the timber industry can be organised on a sustainable basis."
Brear also said that longer-term solutions need to be planned, including nationalising the big forestry companies, thereby removing the profit motive from their operations. "Under certain conditions, plantations can be part of a sustainable timber industry, along with other alternatives such as hemp", she said. "But the development of plantations should be determined democratically and according to environmental principles."
TWS has organised a protest against Labor's forest policies outside the party's national conference in Hobart on August 2.