So what are woodchips?

Woodchips are the result of sending tree trunks up a conveyor belt into a gigantic shredder (that takes only 7 seconds to devour an entire log). Trees are quickly transformed into chips half the size of a matchbox, and are what is used to make paper for products like throw away drink cups in Japan or Reflex paper here in Oz. 

Woodchips, pulp and sawdust accounts for at least 91% of all products to come from our native forests. Yet we are told by VicForests that classic porkie that logging is all for the sawn timber for nice tables and chairs and the woodchips are just the waste. Sure. They say what a shame it is to leave it all laying on the ground. Well, if they hadn’t cut all those trees down to start with there’d have been no waste to have to ‘clean up’.

To add to this crime, the government have sold these logs for between 9c and $5 a tonne. If you or I wanted to go cut a trailer load of firewood for ourselves, they’d charge us $20! It seems that the Japanese buyers have an especially cosy deal. Nippon owns both the Reflex paper factory in the Latrobe Valley and the Eden export woodchip mill. Both have been responsible for systematically annihilating the Central Highland’s Mountain Ash forests and East Gippsland’s mixed forests for years.

FOI victory in NSW

Thursday, September 6, 2007

For years, NSW conservationists have been fighting to find out the price Forests NSW gets for the logs that are woodchipped and shipped to Japan. After a long battle to obtain these figures under Freedom of Information, Gerry Watt, a Tilba conservationist, scored a victory in early September.

VicForests - cutting forests, costs and corners

Thursday, August 2, 2007

It'll save money to get rid of 20 foresters... and hire another 5 spin doctorsAfter three years as the new semi-corporate arm of the government logging agency, VicForests was going down the economic gurgler.

For the first two years after its creation, VicForests was given an easy run with DSE picking up the tab for many costs, but year three was to see it 'off the dole' and making a profit. To balance their books we saw Vic-Forests planning to cut corners and costs. Unfortunately, this also meant cutting their obligations to look after public lands.

VicForests oversees the logging of public forests and is meant to make a profit. In the past, forest agencies (of various names) have relied on hand-outs to operate. Now VicForests' plans to reduce overheads to stay in business could cost the environment dearly.

Auctioning sawlogs brings in some revenue, especially now it asks for a half-decent price for them. But sawmills aren't needing as many logs these days as there is decreasing demand for hardwood timber. However, thousands of tonnes of smoke-damaged ash forests were being knocked down as 'salvage' at ten times the normal rate. Solid logs were split to sell as woodchip fodder at a reduced price. Despite this 'fire sale', the bills were still mounting.

Strzeleckis still on the woodchippers' map

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Before the election the Bracks government made a quiet little offering to get rid of the niggling pressure they were under regarding their long time promise to protect the Gippsland Strzelecki forests. Their offer was a compromise to protect the important central sites and its connecting links (called 'cores and links') but if you read the fine print, you'll see that it allows for some links to be logged, and other areas of native forest to be logged in exchange for this protection!

34,000 woodchip trucks for 2006

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Japanese export woodchip mill at Eden in NSW held a celebration for all past and present staff and families in early December to mark the first time in the mill's 36-year history that it has produced one million tonnes of woodchips for export in one year.

Most of this was thanks to three main factors: the rampant and unchecked 'salvage logging' that was still going on in the 2003 fire affected areas, the generous concessions offered to the company to transport the wood, and officials turning a blind eye to good sawlogs going off to the chipmill.

Loggers for forests

Monday, October 16, 2006

In October last year, a group of timber workers started a lobby group called Loggers for Forests. The group wants to stop woodchipping in old growth forests and to use trees taken from forests more efficiently.

Mick Harris is a timber contractor from Fernbank in East Gippsland and he says most loggers think woodchipping is wrong.

Chipmill still runs on old trees

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

A December 2005 truck-check vigil at the Eden woodchip mill showed that over 2/3rds of logs that entered the Nippon woodchip mill at Eden were large, meaning they are from mature and old growth forests.

Of the 158 trucks that arrived between 4am and 7pm on just one day, 75% came from the south (the direction of East Gippsland). Many of the old trees were split in the coupe so no one could then argue they would have made a sawlog. The chipmill boasts it no longer has trunk splitters on site - but it seems the splitters are all out in the logging coupes now.

Cheque book democracy rules - OK!

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

There could be even darker hidey-holes for political donations if John Howard's gang gets its proposed electoral changes through. It will allow anonymous donations of up to $10,000. This means that each state, territory and federal branch of a political party could receive $10,000 each, totalling $90,000 all up - and all in total secrecy.

Only quality woodchips thankyou

Monday, December 12, 2005

The agriculture and economics bureau that crunches numbers and writes reports on Australian industries (ABARE) says that exports of woodchips rose in the last financial year. However they don’t differentiate between native forests and plantation woodchips.

They didn’t say that more than 1.5 million tonnes, of the nearly 9 million tonnes of hardwood woodchip exported, was from plantations. Next year it’s predicted to be closer to 2.5 million tonnes.