Hansard of the Legislative Council
Tuesday 10 October

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - I am sympathetic to the intent of this motion by the member for Western Tiers, Madam President, however it worries me that while I recognise the need to manage native forests, if they are to be sustained, it does not mention Tasmania's big, privately held native forest resource. This will not be managed at all if it does not have value to land-holders and I hear what the member was saying about equipment and that is an interesting point. But privately owned native forest, much of which has been regularly harvested and sustained since European settlement, will not have value to land-holders unless it can produce saleable products. It is all too easy to forget the vast native forest resource that we have in private hands in Tasmania.

Mr Hall - We have talked about that many other times.

Mr FINCH - Did I miss that?

Mr Hall - You did.

Mr FINCH - I will watch the replay. I was otherwise engaged, as you can understand and I did not realise that we were going to be here as long as this and it is in fact good to be up here away from the rumbling stomachs over there.

But harvesting figures in recent years give a distorted picture partly because of the global financial crisis and very depressed world markets. However, in 2004-05, native forests on private land produced 1 726 001 tonnes of sawlogs, veneer and pulpwood. Figures produced by Private Forests Tasmania are hard to analyse because grand totals and percentages include plantation hardwood and softwood production. However, in 2007-08, 42.5 per cent of Tasmania's total forest production was from private forests. So looking to the future, Madam President, it is not hard to see that private forest production may well exceed that from publicly owned forests.

Madam President, we all know the debate about the Tasmanian forestry industry is confusing and sometimes deceptive -

Ms Rattray - Also emotive.

Mr FINCH - Yes, absolutely. But I just want to make an example, there is confusion over what is old-growth and what is not. The definition of native forest of high conservation value is a movable feast and I would suggest that the public is totally confused. But it is quite clear that much of the native forest on private land is commercial forest. It has been cut over and usually well-managed for generations. It produces sawlogs, veneer logs and pulpwood. It produces sufficient income, or certainly did until the latest industry downturn, to make it worthwhile for landowners to manage it sustainably and in many cases, aesthetically. Let us not forget that many land-holders live near their forests.

In media reporting of the current negotiations over the future of Tasmania's forest industry, there is often reference to a ban on native forest harvesting as if all native forests equated with the Styx and the Florentine valleys. Madam President, that sort of vague language without distinguishing the different types of native forests is enough to make farmers with native forest on their properties panic. If they are going to be forbidden to harvest their farm forests, what is the use of them, why manage them and why not let them go in the next bushfire or do something else with the land?

So, Madam President, I would like to respectfully suggest to the member for Western Tiers that his motion should include private as well as public forests and that is easily done just by deleting the word, 'public' so the motion would then read that 'this House supports the ongoing, active management of Tasmania's native forests to deliver triple bottom-line outcomes into the future.' I would wholeheartedly support that and I will half-heartedly support the motion that we have now but you have my support, member for Western Tiers.