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Byron Shire
November 30, 2021

Timber inquiry call as ‘secret’ contract extension revealed

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The Whian Whian logging site with logs piled up for removal and the logging track at right. Photo Marie Cameron
Native forest harvesting on private land such as this event at Whian Whian in 2014 is likely to increase as public supplies dwindle due to governments overcommitting to log companies. Photo Marie Cameron

North coast conservationists are supporting a call for an inquiry into Wood Supply Agreements for public lands in North East NSW following revelations a key contract has been secretly extended.

In an unusual move, the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) and the North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) have agreed to support the call by Australian Solar Timbers boss Douglas Head.

The announcement follows the revelation that two years ago, under the guise of a timber buyback scheme, the state government extended its wood supply contract with timber company Boral until 2028.

NEFA and NCEC say the minister never announced the deal and the company didn’t inform the ASX of the change.

The groups say they have ‘serious concerns that the people of NSW have been misled on the wood contract issue’.

NCEC vice-president Susie Russell said that when then minister Katrina Hodgkinson announced the decision by the NSW Government in 2014 to buy back 50,000 cubic metres of sawlogs a year from Boral Timber for $8.55 million she told the media, ‘we have focused on reducing demand rather than trying to increase supply.’

But, Ms Russell added, ‘nowhere in the media announcements was the information that while the contracts had been reduced between 2015 to 2023, they had also been extended for a further five years, to 2028.’

‘The effect of this was that NSW taxpayers paid $8.55 million to buy back 465,500 m3 of sawlogs (9.5 years at 50,000m3 pa) given to Boral for free in 2004, while also giving them commitments for another 580,000 m3 of sawlogs for free (five years at 116,000m3 pa).

‘The fact that the extension of the wood contracts was not made public either by the minister or Boral in its statement to the ASX suggests that they were trying to hide it.

‘Conservationists only recently became aware of this, when a senior bureaucrat mentioned it in conversation.’ Ms Russell said.

Dailan Pugh from the North East Forest Alliance said there could be ‘no doubt that Boral Timber have received favourable Wood Supply Agreements compared to other sawmillers in terms of species commitments and log sizes, leaving other sawmillers with their scraps’.

‘The 2014 payout of $8.55 million to Boral Timber to buy back annual commitments of 50,000 cubic metres of large sawlogs was primarily to reduce commitments down to actual yields, it will not stop over-logging.

‘The five year extension to the WSA does not pass the pub test. Under the guise of a buyback, why did NSW taxpayers pay Boral $8.55 million, and then give the timber back, with a 25 per cent bonus, for free?

‘Because of this, in another 10 years it is likely that Boral will have a virtual monopoly on the dwindling supply of large sawlogs from public native forests, and again be owed millions for the Forestry Corporation’s inability to supply what this government again gave away.

‘Since 1998 it has cost NSW taxpayers at least $12.9 million to buy back timber given in Wood Supply Agreements to sawmillers for free, because the Forestry Corporation inflated resource assessments and the government gave away more timber than existed.

‘The exorbitant payouts resulting from the gifting of public forest resources to private companies needs to be subject to public scrutiny. We support calls for an open public inquiry looking into the Forestry Corporation’s inflated yield assessments and the Government’s dodgy Wood Supply Agreements,’ Mr Pugh said.

 


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1 COMMENT

  1. Check out why the government gave Boral 22m to build a mill at Herons ck Which employs few people and gets rediculously low recovery. while closing a good mill at Bostobrick. Also the people in government doing the deals haven’t figured out that the private mills can pay more for the logs Guess they haven’t got share holders and a ceo chasing a big bonus Alan Jones said it on tv last night. The brightest people aren’t in government big business steals them

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