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Firewood Theft in State Forests


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Tags: Forests, Forestry Tasmania, Public Land

Firewood Theft in State Forests: Cassy O'Connor, 3 June, 2020

 

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, tonight I want to talk about the criminal activity that is taking place in state forests and future reserve forests that are administered by the Parks and Wildlife Service and that is illegal wood hooking.

As members of this House will know, on 8 May this year there were media reports of police laying charges against 19 people for $1 million in firewood theft, large-scale wood theft, after a surveillance operation undertaken by the Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania Police and in part, I gather, Sustainable Timber Tasmania. This was at Tin Pot Marsh Creek Reserve at Woodsdale.

The wood hooking was taking place on future reserve land, on land that this Government calls future potential production forest and it impacted on 1295 hectares, that is an industrial scale illegal action.

We are dealing with a much bigger problem than this one event and the arrests. Wood hooking in Tasmania is rampant and it is largely unchecked. On 6 March this year, Tim Morris, former member for Lyons took us to a Sustainable Timber Tasmania logged coup at Plenty and we have photographic evidence of industrial scale illegal wood theft on Sustainable Timber Tasmania land. Last year, we also went with Tim Morris up to the back of Maydena, at National Park, and again on permanent timber production zone land, we saw extensive illegal wood clearing. This is going on at an extraordinary rate and as far as we can tell the agency which should be responsible for administering and managing timber production lands, Sustainable Timber Tasmania, is largely turning the other cheek. Tim Morris has spoken to them about the industrial wood stealing at Plenty, also at National Park, no action. In fact, the STT office is just over the hill from where we went up near National Park late last year to see clear evidence of wood being stolen from that area on Cassons Road.

We have also been contacted by a person who lives in the Derwent Valley and has sent us pictures, again, in the Wentworth Creek Forest Reserve. These pictures were taken on 30 May this year - 300 live trees were felled. Three hundred live trees on future reserve land, public Crown land, there are people going in there now felling trees, stealing wood unlawfully and apparently there is no action and there is no sanction. The pictures that I have here which I am not using as a prop, I will share them with anyone, show utter devastation of the bush environment. Large living trees felled so that some group of people can make a profit illegally and at public expense.

We see though here on this future reserve land, truck tyre marks, four-wheel drive tyre marks and tree debris everywhere. That is one example, just north of Tarraleah. Over the road from the Wentworth Creek Forest Reserve, about 15 kilometres west of Derwent Bridge, we see clear photographic evidence of unlawful wood stealing on permanent timber production zone land. Parks and Wildlife Service has been alerted about the wood theft up near Wentworth Creek Forest Reserve. We hope there is an investigation underway and that there will be arrests because someone felled 300 living trees on public land but the illegal logging and wood taking near Derwent Bridge is on Forestry Tasmania land and nothing has happened.

This is an issue that we think Mr Barnett, particularly, needs to get on top of. It has been going on for decades, we believe, because of the lack of action by Sustainable Timber Tasmania. It is basically giving the green light to criminal activity in state forests and stealing wood from state forests without any sanction. This is a very serious matter. It is destroying habitat, it is theft, it is damaging natural values, tearing up the forest floor and these people are taking these trees and they are selling that wood which has no certification.

We hope is that when people buy firewood in Tasmania they ask some pointed questions about the source of that wood, whether it has been sustainably harvested, whether they have a permit, for example, because something is going wrong where you have an industrial theft operation that last month led to 19 people being arrested, having stolen an estimated $1 million worth of wood from public forest, where you have evidence of rampant wood hooking, both on future reserve land and production forest land and inaction from Sustainable Timber Tasmania so-called.

They had been alerted to the situation in Plenty and National Park a number of times and still the wood hooking continues. When we went up to the back of Plenty we saw large vehicle tracks and plastic bottles that had been dropped by people who were stealing wood from public land, with debris everywhere. They have come in in the night, knowing they are not being monitored and that Sustainable Timber Tasmania so-called pays very little attention to illegal wood hooking in Tasmania's forests. This is another of Mr Barnett's portfolio responsibilities, like deer and the logging of leatherwood, where he needs to get on top of his portfolio.