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Timber industry: whats next?


At the end of December, Victoria’s native forest timber industry was shut down by the Victorian government despite promises that they would allow it to continue until 2030. The industry is naturally devastated.

The clear winner was the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, which has been the focus of the successful environmental push to close the industry.

The possum was and certainly is worth saving and the environmentalists who fought this long fight should be delighted with the result.

But that decision will cause more environmental issues than it solved.

If we could do without ever needing a native timber log again, then the decision – from an environmental aspect – is a sound decision. The reality is that we are still bringing hardwood to be logged in mills across Gippsland because there is a real need which didn’t end on December 31.

We do need hardwood and now we are bringing logs in from Tasmania, countries to our north and the US. At what environmental cost? At what monetary cost?

Let’s look at the environmental cost of transporting a log from Tasmania to a mill in Orbost, compared to bringing a log from within Orbost to a mill in Orbost.

A log truck will emit between 2.5kg and 3.5kg of greenhouse gases per kilometre travelled and of course it depends on the condition of the truck, size, weight, and many other factors. For this exercise we will use the lower figure.

Local: Omeo to Omeo. Let’s say 50k one-way trip. Greenhouse gasses emitted = 125kg.
Tasmania: Logging coupe to Devonport Ferry Terminal is 100k = 250kg. Geelong Ferry Terminal to Orbost is 452k = 1,130kg greenhouse gas emissions. It is very difficult to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions of the overnight ferry trip but it would add significantly to the total greenhouse gas emissions because a ferry uses tonnes of fuel per hour.

Summary: On a simple one-way trip analysis, the local log delivery releases less than a tenth of the CO2 emissions as a log from Tasmania. Of course the trucks run both ways so these figures could be nearly doubled.

Then there is the monetary consideration. TDN believes that the ferry fee for a log truck is around $9,000 and this is being picked up by the Victorian taxpayer.

Logs are also coming from the US, Borneo and Indonesia so the environmental impacts of that would be huge.

Consider for a minute the endangered OrangUtan and the Sumatran Tiger which are both under serious threat from logging and now Victoria is contributing to that threat by purchasing logs from Asia instead of sensibly managing and harvesting our own.

Asian logging and environmental practices are far less stringent than in Victoria so are we simply solving one environmental problem and transferring it elsewhere?

The answer is, of course we are. Are we thinking locally when we could be thinking globally? We appear to be.

Last year I met a young forestry bloke who was harvesting a coupe in Gippsland his grandfather als0 planted fifty years earlier. That is the solution. We are not suggesting in this article that old-growth forest should be harvested but sustainable management can be achieved and this also keeps the forests in better shape and less prone to bushfires.

What has looked like a victory for the environment by shutting down logging, may be a shallow and hollow victory in truth.

Then there is the huge financial cost of this closure to Gippsland and Traf District News will cover that in the March issue.

We will look at the impact on jobs, businesses, and the taxpayer.

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