OVERLOGGING - NOW UNDERPRICING
For the past two years, CROEG has been working to get figures released under FOI to show what prices our forests are going for. After many refusals, delays and denials of the existance of documents, the papers were finally released in late February. As we expected - the Department of Natural Resources and Environment have been underpricing trees by selling woodchip logs for 10c a tonne royalty. This comes right on top of their admission that they have been overlogging forests.
With the assistance of Peter Seidel, a lawyer who was willing to help us with our request, we launched a VCAT appeal listed for hearing in mid March. In a surprise move, the NRE released the information two weeks before the legal battle was to begin.
Documents leaked a few years back showed us that in 1997 the price for chip logs was 9c a tonne. The government assured us that prices had risen since then but refused to give us the information. No wonder. Even with this huge 1c rise, it means a truck load of our magnificent forests goes to the chipper for the price of a loaf of bread. Some of the more absurd parts of the papers we were finally handed contained reference to the GST the mill would have to pay - of another 1c. That put the total price up to 11c a tonne. So a beautifully functional, healthy tree is allowed to be knocked down and shredded, for the price of a postage stamp.
Such insultingly cheap prices only encourage overlogging by the woodchip industry. An NRE log pricing review is underway but has been stalled since September. A fair rise would be about 300% to bring public forests in line with private growers. We won't hold our breath.
Thanks Liz for the work helping to prepare the case.
(A royalty is a portion of proceeds paid to the owner of a right, as a patent for the use of it. It is a payment made for the right to use a resource, granted by a sovereign to a person or company. Note the final price for a chip log can include a roading charge, a license fee and a Timber Promotion Council fee the industry tries to confuse the sum of these with the royalty of 10c, which is what the public receive for the publicly owned resource).