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Sustainable Timber Tasmania - Forest Stewardship Council certification

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 1 December 2022

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Forest Stewardship Council

Ms O'CONNOR - That was two questions, Acting Chair; could I perhaps have one more? Thank you.

I was interested before, minister, in the statement that FT's management of its forests is world class, so world class that twice now the GBE has failed to secure Forest Stewardship Council certification. Is it still your Government's policy that FT will be FSC certified?

Mr ELLIS - Yes. Certification is really important and it's interesting to note that STT maintains certification through PEFC and the Australian Standard, which is world recognised.

Ms O'CONNOR - Written by the industry.

Mr ELLIS - It speaks to the sustainability of the practice. It remains government policy around FSC as well. The standards do have differences. The work of PEFC is consistent and recognised internationally now. It would be fair to say that STT would receive certification under FSC in other jurisdictions -

Ms O'CONNOR - Which ones, like China?

Mr ELLIS - It is interesting, the orangutan habitat that is included in some of that, but I digress.

Here in Australia, we're committed to maintaining that STT has certification, which it does and they're working towards FSC certification, but I'll throw over to the STT team to provide an operational update in terms of the work around FSC certification broadly.

Ms O'CONNOR - And anything that's changed about forest practices in response to that bid.

Ms WEEDING - FSC certification still remains a priority for STT in conjunction with our existing certification, which isn't written by industry; it is recognised under the international Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification scheme, which is the world's largest certification scheme, just as an aside.

In terms of the FSC process, we received the non conformances as part of that order, as you correctly identified, and we've been working through options to close out those non conformances. As has been previously mentioned at scrutiny in the past, those non conformances relate largely to three complex areas - the management of swift parrot habitat, the retention of large trees or habitat trees within harvested areas, and reviewing the impact of fire or other disturbances on old growth, so looking at the level of retention or the representation of old growth in the reserve areas which have been burnt, and therefore what are the implications for permanent timber production and the management of old growth on permanent timber production zoned land.

We have been working through a range of operational trials, particularly focused on the area of retention of habitat trees within harvested areas. We have a strong recognition of habitat trees that we exclude from our harvest areas, as mentioned earlier, in terms of specific coupes where we exclude them from the harvest area. FSC has a particular focus on how you retain more habitat trees within the operational area itself, and this is particularly in the situation for our clear fell, burn and sow coupes.

We've been running through a range of operational trials, which take time, looking at whether we can retain those trees and specifically looking at whether we can do it safely, because we don't compromise on safety. Is it safe to have contractors operating in and around those trees, can we keep them safe and can we regenerate those coupes? That is the time delay, essentially. In terms of the wood we can take off those coupes, that's pretty straightforward. We can look at the commerciality side of things, what it's costing us to manage it from that side of things, and what the wood production losses are, essentially, from having to retain those trees.

The key component for us is whether we can regenerate those coupes adequately. Part of our sustainable forest management practices, as the minister spoke about earlier, is a priority on regenerating and returning those forests, so part of our trial at work has been focused on can we burn those coupes, can we undertake the regeneration burn, can we retain those trees, will they survive? The survivability is looking reasonable but we've still got some more work to do in that respect, and then consequently, given we've got to change our fire management regime in these coupes in order to protect those trees, what is the consequences for regeneration within those areas, and we're still working through that process.

Once we complete those trials, we'll be able to understand whether we can apply that same management regime on a broader scale across the landscape and what the consequences of doing that will be, and that will enable us to undertake assessment around further audits.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. What's the time scale on the trials?

Ms WEEDING - We have undertaken a number of burns over the last couple of years. We're undertaking assessments at the moment and we're progressing with some more this year. So the next few years is what we're looking at.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you.