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.
Stephen Montgomery of The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal handed down a 33-page decision rejecting all the arguments of Forestry NSW, handing Gerry Watt a decisive victory. In a conclusion that stunned everyone who follows freedom of information issues, Montgomery said: “the public benefits from truth and transparency, in regard to the management of public assets an uninformed public cannot usefully participate in that debate. The price at which a publicly owned asset is being sold to private interests is a significant factor in that debate. It is my view that the correct and preferable decision is that the royalty rates should be disclosed”. That means, even though jobs might be lost, mills might close and Forests NSW could lose money (?) by releasing its price for publicly owned trees, the need for transparency and public debate was more important than jobs!
Montgomery also said: “In my view, the factors favouring disclosure are sufficiently strong to justify disclosure.” Forests NSW has 28 days to hand over the information. It will be interesting to see which state is the biggest economic fool.