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Giant Trees


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 24 November 2022

Tags: Forests

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - This is a matter of public importance, Dr Broad, because giant trees are important to our wellbeing, they are important to ecosystems and we want to take every opportunity in this place to talk to you, Dr Broad and to you, Mr Ellis, about things that you lack a sensibility for. That is ecosystems, the natural world, the intricacy of the web of life.

The contribution you just made told me that you do not want to see giant trees protected because you sneered at the work of the Tree Project because they are going around the island doing the work that Forestry Tasmania is not doing, identifying giant trees, and you resent the fact that they might identify some that lead to buffer zones that might reduce wood supply.

There is a such a white colonial perspective here. We do not live in a more enlightened world. We live on a planet that is teetering on the edge of ecosystem collapse because of exactly that sort of attitude, Dr Broad, and the attitude that we just got from Mr Ellis. We do not live in a well-balanced, modern society. We live in a society that has plundered earth, is damaging ecosystems and driving species to extinction.

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, it takes a certain lack of sensibility to sneer at a matter of public importance debate like this and ask what the point is when we are in the middle of a climate and biodiversity emergency.

The minister, Mr Ellis, who very insincerely called Dr Woodruff his 'honourable friend' at the beginning of his contribution then spent the next six minutes and 50 seconds sledging and misrepresenting the Greens, says Forestry Tasmania has well-established policies around giant trees. Those policies are very narrow in their definition and very different from giant tree policies on the mainland. I will not let the House forget that it was Forestry Tasmania that clearfelled and burnt a forest giant called El Grande, a 79 metre-tall tree with a 19 metre girth, in the Florentine Valley.

I will now go to correspondence members have received from Dr Jennifer Sanger of The Tree Projects. I believe she has presented every member of this House with a poster of the beautiful Eucalyptus globulus, Lathamus Keep, which is the biggest blue gum on Earth.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, no props, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - I was simply referring to it, Mr Deputy Speaker. I hope members have a look at that incredible tree. Dr Sanger says in her correspondence to members:

My husband Steve Pearce and I run an environmental organisation called The Tree Projects. We would like to gift you this poster of the world's largest Tasmanian blue gum. This tree was only discovered in 2021 and sits in the middle of logging coupe DN007B, which is due to be logged in the next few years.

You may have already heard about this tree. The ABC published a news story on this topic that went viral on 4 November. The article illustrated how the tree was found by volunteers and that subsequent visits to the site revealed the logging coupe, which we renamed the Grove of Giants, contains over 150 trees over four metres in diameter.

We were overwhelmed by the response from this article, which was the ABC's best-performing story of the week. People were genuinely shocked and outraged that significant old trees like this are still being logged in Tasmania. We even had a businessman from Queensland who was so distressed by the idea of this forest being logged that he offered to fundraise to try and purchase the land in order to protect it.

What this ABC article has shown to the world is that old growth logging is still happening here in Tasmania despite many people believing it is a thing of the past. It is directly at odds with Brand Tasmania and the clean green image the state is portraying. The Grove of Giants is not unique. There are many old growth and mature forests that are being logged around the state. Many people erroneously believe that the forest peace deal protected old growth and high-conservation-value forests, but this is not the case. Large areas of the old growth forest around Wayatinah and Butlers Gorge are being logged, along with remnant patches of giant trees around the state. The Huon Valley alone has lost 25 per cent of its old growth forests in the last 20 years.

Currently, Sustainable Timber Tasmania only protects trees over 85 metres in height or 280 cubic metres in volume. In comparison, Victoria protects any tree over 2.5 metres wide while New South Wales protects trees over 1.4 metres wide. We have seen many examples here in Tasmania over the last few years where trees 4-5 metres wide are being logged. Our protections for big trees are inadequate and our standards are far below those of other states.

We need to protect our old growth and mature forests. Not only are they important habitat for threatened wildlife but these forests store the most carbon. Old growth forests cannot simply be regrown after harvesting. It would take centuries for them to return to mature-age forests. These are forests which are highly valued and culturally significant. People want these forests protected.

We are an organisation that advocates for the protection of all native forests. However, we feel that the highest priority is to protect Tasmania's old growth and mature forests. The reaction to the news about the future logging of the Grove of Giants shows this is also a priority for everyday Tasmanians and Australians.

Currently, there is not enough timber to meet the legislated logging quota and this is resulting in the logging of these high-conservation-value forests. In 2016 the board of Sustainable Timber Tasmania formally requested a 30 per cent reduction in the logging quota in order to improve its financial liability. The request was rejected.

We would like to see a rapid transition out of native forest logging to a 100 per cent plantation-based industry. However, we believe that an immediate reduction of the logging quota would allow important old growth and mature forests to be protected. Not only would this make Sustainable Timber Tasmania less reliant on taxpayer funds but it would provide future tourism opportunities and an improved visitor experience.

Tasmania can make a significant conservation gain by protecting our old growth and mature forests. The easiest way to do that is to legislate a reduction in the logging quota.

As we know, because the Greens moved a bill to reduce the logging quota, our colleagues in this place did not see the economic, social and environmental sense of that. We will be back and we will continue to fight for trees every day of the week and, yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, we worship trees.