Environmental groups across NSW have lauded the decision by one of the country’s largest wood product manufacturers to end its wood-chipping program, which was largely reliant on timber sourced from clear-felled northern NSW state forests.
While Boral blamed the high Australian dollar for the decision to end its wood-chipping program, announced on Wednesday, most groups believe it has been hastened by world-wide community pressure to source woodchips from sustainable sources.
‘Boral had applied to the Forest Stewardship Council for ecological certification of its products on the North Coast but many consider it unlikely that a fair audit of their operations would allow the award of such a certification,’ said Greens forestry spokesperson David Shoebridge.
‘This step shows that Boral considers its operations are unlikely to meet even the relatively modest requirements for ‘controlled wood’ certification by the Forest Stewardship Council,’ he added.
In recent years the NSW state government has struggled to find sufficient timber to satisfy Boral’s contract, leading the government to consider allowing logging in national parks.
North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh said it has been ‘a long battle against this insidious threat to native forests and their inhabitants’.
‘While we have been successful over the years in stopping various proposals to expand wood-chipping, in the end it has been market forces that have brought this environmental vandalism to an end.
‘Since 1981 around 300,000 tonnes of woodchips per annum have been exported to Japan from north east NSW’s native forests, with around half of this being sourced from trees specifically logged for woodchips.’
Mr Pugh said plantations now provide 81 per cent of Australia’s total log harvest, with the markets preferring timber from hardwood plantations over native forests.
Worth more standing
North Coast Environmental Council president Susie Russell said the decision gives the NSW government ‘an opportunity to dramatically reduce the intensity of logging that is trashing north coast forests’.
‘Our forests are worth more standing. They provide food and shelter to species of animals found nowhere else in the world. They protect our catchments and downstream water quality, and, if left to grow old act as a reservoir, providing water in times of low rainfall,’ she said.
‘Our question to Premier O’Farrell is this, ‘Will he give our forests a reprieve and let them grow older so they can provide future generations with valuable environmental services? Or will he subsidise another wood-chipping industry that props up a handful of logging and trucking jobs at the expense of environmental benefits for all?’, she asked.
NSW Nature Conservation Council Campaigns Director Kate Smolski has called on the sate government to end costly subsidies that prop up the uneconomic and environmentally damaging industry.
‘Logging in all our native forests should end because it kills threatened species and their habitat, but there are also very good financial reasons for a rapid transition to plantation forestry,’ she said.
‘Last financial year taxpayers subsidised NSW Forest Corporation’s native forests operations to the tune of $8 million.
‘It is absurd that the people of NSW are paying millions of dollars each year to prop up an industry that destroys thousands of hectares of wildlife habitat every year and which does not enjoy public support.’
In an unrelated decision, Boral has decided to close its Murwillumbah floorboard manufacturing plant, leading to eight redundancies.
It will also close its Queensland-based softwood distribution business.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that 21 further staff are expected to be redeployed.