Timber companies launch ad campaign

Issue 

By Lisa Macdonald

Over the last two weeks, residents of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Tasmania have been subjected to a new television and print media advertising campaign which promotes the continued woodchipping of Australia's native forests. The campaign, contracted through John Singleton Advertising at a rumoured cost of $2 million and funded by five of the largest woodchipping companies in Australia, was launched by the National Association of Forest Industries on September 10.

The advertisements have sparked a heated debate in the industry on ethics and advertising. They claim that woodchipping is simply an effective use of logging waste and that woodchipping in native forests is compatible with the goal of environmental sustainability.

The main emphasis of the advertisements, however, is on the jobs that supposedly will be lost if woodchipping in native forests is outlawed.

These claims are dishonest and a cynical attempt to roll back the majority public opposition to woodchipping in native forests.

The launching of the campaign follows the admission by NAFI's director, Robert Baine, at a WA timber industry meeting in Bunbury on August 1, that "We [the forestry industry] don't have credibility. People do not believe us."

According to Kevin Parker, national campaign coordinator for the Wilderness Society, the NAFI campaign is a "slick and expensive attempt to buy public opinion on this issue" and is "desperate and inappropriate".

"The industry would have better spent this money on restructuring the industry around plantations. This would ensure the survival of the industry and increased jobs for timber workers", Parker said.

NAFI's claim that woodchipping is an effective use of logging waste flies in the face of Department of Primary Industry figures which show that over half of what is logged from Australia's forests ends up as woodchips (is that all "waste"?). Reports from conservation organisations are that in some areas, south-east NSW, for example, up to 80% of the timber taken from old growth forests is woodchipped.

The further claim that an end to woodchipping in native forests will, by definition, mean lost jobs misrepresents the nature of the woodchip industry. According to Peter Wright, national biodiversity campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation, "Jobs have been lost [in the timber industry] because of mechanisation, increased competition from the plantation sector and a shift in output to low value-added products like woodchips.

"The native forest industry has been steadily shedding jobs since woodchipping began in the 1970s. The woodchip companies have been sacking people and closing down small sawmills by monopolising the timber supplies", he said. "These people are not interested in jobs or families — they are solely motivated by the fast profits that come from woodchipping our native forests."