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Sustainable Timber Tasmania - Illegal Logging

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 1 December 2022

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Forestry Tasmania

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Whiteley. It is the case, isn't it, minister, that the Forest Practices Code says that logging is not allowed on a slope greater than 20 degrees?

Mr ELLIS - In terms of the Forest Practices Code I am happy to defer to STT, but did you want to -

Ms O'CONNOR - We have been alerted to some potential illegal logging in coupes TN0031A and TN0031B, which we understand are on an internationally significant karst cave system. We understand from citizen science modelling it is a 27-degree slope but because we cannot see the FPP there is no way to check the management plan for this area and the legality of the logging. Through you, minister - because you won't know the answer to this because it is operational - is the logging in those two coupes legal?

Mr ELLIS - It is a highly detailed question. Regulation of forest practices is done through the FPA, the independent body with which STT complies when it harvests and manages these forests. In terms of making that information available to STT, if there are any concerns the Forest Practices Authority would welcome that. As I say, we want to be accountable and open. If people have information or modelling, we are happy for that to be provided. In terms of the operations in that specific coupe, I'll pass over to the STT team.

Mr WHITELEY - Again, I'm not specifically aware of that one, but in terms of the process, if people have information they're welcome to provide it, as we've indicated. It doesn't matter what the issue is. We use LiDAR to get the ground surface and clearly there are rules within the Forest Practices Code and we must comply with those.

Ms O'CONNOR - It's the first time I've asked this. Is it possible for me to put the question on notice in relation to those two coupes in writing?

Mr WHITELEY - Which ones were they?

Ms O'CONNOR - They are TNOO31A and TNOO31B.

Mr WHITELEY - In Roberts Road, Maydena?

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes.

Mr WHITELEY - We are certainly aware of those, and as far as I'm aware there's been extensive consultation. Any of those factors that have been identified would certainly be picked up. If areas were too steep, I'd expect they'd either be excluded from the harvest area altogether or there'd be a suitable treatment. The Forest Practices Code is very clear about what we can and can't do and we must comply with it.

Mr ELLIS - It is worth noting too, Ms O'Connor, that the FPP, the forest practices plan, is available on request as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - One last question if possible, Acting Chair, on this line of questioning?

Mr ELLIS - I think Suzette had something further to add.

Ms WEEDING - The information I have to hand is that the FPP was sent to the Tree Project yesterday for Tyenna 31B, and certainly we'd welcome their input in relation to it if they are identifying things we haven't picked up.

We undertake an assessment of slope as part of the preparation of the forest practices plan and are very conscious of complying with the requirements of the code. It is not across the whole coupe necessarily, so if there are sections they might be excluded from activities, as opposed to excluding the whole coupe because you've got one area that's got a significant slope. Also, as the minister identified, in the forest practices system there is an ability to put in place complaints or identify breaches and that process is open and available to stakeholders should they want to use it, and the Forest Practices Authority will undertake investigations of those activities.

Ms O'CONNOR - I have some questions, through you, minister, for Mr Whiteley, from his old friend and my very good friend, former Lyons Greens MP Tim Morris. In 2022, coupe SX047F was roaded by Norske Skog and firewood theft started almost immediately. I have been up there for a drive with Mr Morris and there is rampant wood hooking on forestry land.

Mr Morris raised this with you at a meeting in June 2020 and you asked him to take it up with the Derwent office staff, which he did. By 25 October 2022 nearly all the remaining wood on the ground was cut and quite a number of the trees near had been felled and taken as well. I'm sure you have seen the manner of the cutting. It is pretty rough.

We understand SX047F has not been cleared yet for a second season in a row. Why is such blatant commercial illegal firewood operation being allowed to continue after information about illegal logging was presented to FT?

Mr ELLIS - One of the things I might indicate broadly before passing over to STT and that particular coupe, is that wood hooking is a crime. I strongly encourage anyone who has evidence of criminal behaviour in our forests to report that. You can report it to Tasmania Police, that is important, or you can report anonymously to Crime Stoppers.

Ms O'CONNOR - You know it's rampant on FT land, rampant.

Mr ELLIS - It is a really important matter that you raised, Ms O'Connor.

Ms O'CONNOR - Nothing's been done.

Mr ELLIS - Ms O'Connor, it's a really important matter that you raise. I will encourage anyone who has evidence to provide that to police. As I note -

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Morris did, including photographs, just to be clear.

Mr ELLIS - I am glad for that clarification. Continual monitoring is required right across our community. Illegal criminal behaviour by people, wood hooking and doing the wrong thing, occurs sadly on permanent timber production zones. It also occurs on a range of different reserve types and even private land, farm country. I really encourage all members of the community, where they have evidence, to provide it to Tasmania Police. The strongest evidence is vehicle registration and individual identification, but even intelligence provided to the police about areas of particular concern are important too. Regarding that particular coupe, I will pass over to the STT team to add further.

Mr WHITELEY - As you indicated in your preface, it is a shared concern. At the time I had a good discussion with Tim and others who raised similar concerns. We are generally concerned with the increased level of rubbish dumping and cutting down green trees in reserves. You have given me an example here of illegal activity. We don't have the same powers as some of the parks officers, so we need to work with the police to conduct enforcement operations, which we do from time to time. You may have seen we organised with the police in the Huon recently to be visible and to prosecute people. The approach we have is to do what we can. We cannot physically police all areas all the time. It is a chronic problem, it's destructive, it's illegal.

Ms O'CONNOR - It's happening in an industrial scale. At the back of the Plenty Valley, we went to another logged coupe area. They had obviously been in there obviously all night at an industrial scale, wood hooking for profit on public land.

Mr WHITELEY - All I can say is I share your concern. Perhaps Suzette would like to add some things about things.

Ms WEEDING - We support your concern about the prevalence of this activity across the landscape. As the minister identified, it's not just on permanent production zoned land, it's parks, it's private property. We have regular correspondence and discussions with identities about how we can try to manage and litigate this activity.

Mr ELLIS - STT is the victim of this crime, and through them the Tasmanian taxpayer as well. That is all of our resource.

Ms WEEDING - We are conscious of it. We make reports to the police, we work collaboratively with the police. As Steve mentioned a moment ago, we've recently undertaken specific action around activity in the Huon. We do what we can to manage and mitigate that illegal activity. Forest roads are public roads. They're available for people to drive on. We have 800 000 hectares state-wide to try to manage. It is a challenge for us, among other landowners, how we record that activity and how we manage that activity.