VicForests plans EG forests as industrial furnace fuel

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Big River East GippslandA leaked three-year business plan of VicForests reveals multi-million dollar taxpayer losses among other startling revelations. East Gippsland is mentioned as the most uneconomic region having made losses of $5.5 million p.a. for years. This region supports the most exquisite and wildlife rich forests in SE Australia - that have been clearfelled to sell as ‘waste’ – and we are paying them to carry out this destruction. But that’s not the worst of it.

ABC Radio National revealed the leaked 'commercial in confidence' documents also show VicForests is keen to cut and sell native forests to burn in electricity furnaces as ‘renewable energy’.  In fact, without this industrial fuel-wood market, logging in this region will cease. It’s worth noting the mindless repetition of VicForests’ only reason - if we don't burn it, it’ll just rot. But if they don't cut it down to start with, it will keep growing.

Page 3 of the leaked report clearly shows that without a market for the biomass there will be no industry in East Gippsland; the sawmill industry would also fold. Logging has always been  reliant on the need to create the waste and sell it in huge quantities – saw-logging has been the fig-leaf front. Now the woodchip market has collapsed, VicForests is looking to  incinerate public forests. This report was from 2012. The situation predicted in this business plan is now here and the industry remains as a massively subsidised and glorified work-for-the-dole scheme, not carrying out work for the public good, but destroying public property!

VicForests on SEFE

Source:ABC website

VicForests has been funded by a vast and creative number of assistance packages, seeding funds, bushfire salvage assistance and multiple cost exemptions to the tune of $270m each year over 10 years - the most outrageous being ‘Community Service Obligations’ funded by the Treasury to keep a shrinking number of logging operators in work.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt cleared the decks for the burning of native forest biomass in late May with the introduction of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill. This rather explosive exposé of VicForests’ plans to shovel East Gippsland’s beautiful forests into power generators, coupled with the Abbott government’s intention to financially assist forest biomass burning as ‘renewable’, and it’s a sinister match made in hell.

The definition of waste under the Renewable Energy Target is so lose as to allow an entire hillside of trees to be termed ‘waste’ if just one is cut as a sawlog. This echoes the same argument we heard in the early 1970s to justify the advent of woodchipping (and clearfelling). They expect the public to swallow this again.

To claim that it is renewable energy because trees grow again is ludicrously simplistic.  The purpose of the RET legislation is to reduce emissions - now;  logging and burning makes for immediate large increases in emissions, that will take up to 200 years to be drawn down again. For the amount of electricity generated, wood is a far dirtier fuel than coal. If this amendment to allow native forests to be burnt and termed renewable is voted in, it would give another financial blessing to forest destruction in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates. This would make it more economical to burn forest wood but it would also rob limited assistance from genuine renewables like solar and wind.

This whole scenario is lunacy beyond belief.

To help –

  • give Treasurer Tim Pallas’ office a call and ask that your taxes no longer be used to subsidise this atrocity. VicForests must go. Phone 03 9651 5201 email tim.pallas@parliament.vic.gov.au
  • Give Agriculture and logging  Minister Jaala Pulford’s office a call. Leave her a message that she needs to visit East Gippsland and see what “world’s best practice” looks like. Suggest she needs an advisor that is not an ex-logging industry lobbyist. Phone 03 9637 9940 email jaala.pulford@parliament.vic.gov.au
  • See the new th-ret to our forests on how to contact the Federal independents and ask they vote down the amendment to burn native forests as renewable. Ask if they realise the definition of ‘waste’ could see thousands of hectares of rich habitat cut specifically for furnace fuel.

Mainstream media on this story.

VicForests losing millions, keen to burn native forests under new RET deal - Omny

Leaked business and corporate plans from Victoria's state-owned forestry business, VicForests, reveal multi-million dollar taxpayer losses and logging ...

VicForests losing millions, but promises 'no massive forest furnaces' under new RET deal - ABC Radio National Online

Leaked business and corporate plans from Victoria's state-owned forestry business, VicForests, reveal multi-million dollar taxpayer losses and logging ...

Timber company to benefit as RET deal creates market for unsaleable timber - ABC News Online

Logging in East Gippsland losing up to $5.5 million a year - The Age

It also floats the idea of the government subsidising VicForests to continue East Gippsland logging. A separate internal VicForests corporate plan ...

Logging in East Gippsland losing up to $5.5 million a year - Sydney Morning Herald

Timber company to benefit as RET deal creates market for unsaleable timber, says VicForests ... - Radio Australia

Timber company to benefit as RET deal creates market for unsaleable timber, says VicForests ... - Australia Plus

The revised Renewable Energy Target (RET) currently before Parliament would provide a market for otherwise unsaleable timber...

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