VicForests compares apples with Jerusalem artichokes.

VicForest foresters and PR men always like to present their ‘facts’ as unquestionable science and anyone who dares question them are blasphemers.
Well – get a load of their latest ‘home brand’ fact sheet on logging. VicForests are proudly peddling this small two page glossy on their homepage and it’s a truly amazing mishmash of statistics and a skewed analysis of logging in East Gippsland.

Three sizes to try on

For starters, VicForests is utterly befuddled about what area they are ‘factising’ about. VicForests has used three different area definitions of “East Gippsland” in this brochure, which seem to help them sell their ‘fact’ that logging is beaut. The map they provide matches the East Gippsland Statistical Division boundary of 3.17 million ha. Some of their employment figures also use these same boundaries – allowing them to find lots of workers.
Then VicForests defines “East Gippsland” using the Shire of East Gippsland area – 2.18 million ha or about 70% smaller than the area shown in the brochure, and about twice the size of DSE’s logging management (FMA) area of 1.2 million ha.

Amount of Old Growth

OK – confused enough to watch a cricket match instead? That’s what they want.
Next they tell us there are 224,000 ha of Old Growth in “East Gippsland and 83% of this area is protected in reserves” (depends on whose definition of old growth we use but that’s another story). This comes from an old growth study done back in 1994. In the 17 years since, almost all their logging has focused on mature and old growth forest. And all this refers to only the 1.2 million ha that DSE calls East Gippsland, not the 3.17 million ha it shows on its map and includes forests the other side of Nowa Nowa and around Bairnsdale. These have been eagerly scalped of almost all old growth over the years.
VicForests then misquotes from a DSE glossy “Protecting East Gippsland’s old growth and iconic forests”. Quoting this source VicForests reckons 582,000 ha of forest is protected. As a map in the DSE publication makes clear, their brochure is only dealing with Old Growth forest in the East Gippsland FMA and the report only claims that 400,000 ha is protected.

Employment

From their brochure …
“Percentage of timber industry businesses in East Gippsland which rely on the native timber industry: more than 80%”

This is like saying that 99% of the cigarette industry relies on tobacco. But at a quick read you’d think all of East Gippsland’s businesses rely on logging, not just the industry that logs!
We’re also given numbers for “Employment in the Native Timber Industry in East Gippsland” of 1,300. They use data from a report that includes the entire state’s figures for employment in the entire wood and paper industry. It includes plantation workers, union officials, logging lobby group officials, DSE workers, and those in related jobs like carpenters and paper making.

But even those figures are provided by the logging industry itself! For instance, VicForests claims it has 35 mills and ‘customers’ it sells to which averages about 37 people per mill! There’s no way an average sawmill would employ more than about 5-8. However, if you add in the big Nippon-owned Reflex paper factory in Latrobe Valley, it could up the jobs per ‘customer’.

But anyway – compare this with 2010 figures used by VicForests on the impact of the recent fires in Victoria. It tells us that in the entire Victorian native forest logging industry’s contractors and mill workers account for 1,650 people.

Then a few months later new figures are concocted showing that around 1,300 of these workers are just in East Gippsland.

East Gippsland National Park invented

The “fact” sheet also refers to the “East Gippsland National Park”, of which there is no such thing. In their delusional state, they believe it’s a 45,000 ha National Park. The recently declared 45,000 ha of additions to reserves are mostly unwanted odds and ends and existing protection zones. This seems to be known by everyone but VicForests.

VicForests has terrible problems adhering to simple regulations when they are logging forests and we all know they are incapable of counting trees or money, but they should be able to competently put a few figures together for a two-page brochure. It’s a project not beyond any grade 6 kid, so the only fact that comes from this which is reliable and unarguable, is that VicForests is inept.

UPDATE: since we wrote to VicForests pointing out a few of these major errors, they pulled the ‘fact sheet’ off their web page.

 

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