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Swift Parrots and Lathamus Keep

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Tags: Swift Parrot, Forests

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise tonight to talk about the incredible work of some passionate Tasmanians. Last year, the Big Tree Hunters found something truly globally special, the largest Tasmanian blue gum in the world.

That giant tree is over 300 cubic metres in volume. It lies right in the middle of a proposed logging area. It is 81 metres high. It is not the tallest blue gum in the world, but it is the biggest by volume in Tasmania. The tallest blue gum, which reaches 91 metres, grows less than 900 metres away from this enormous blue gum, and it makes this whole area truly unique and incredibly precious.

The Big Tree Hunters named this giant blue gum Lathamus Keep, after the scientific name for the swift parrot, Lathamus discolor. The Tasmanian blue gum is an important food source for swift parrots - the fastest little parrot on Earth, which migrates each year to Tasmania to feed and nest in our blue gums and across Tasmania's forests. We do not know where they go. Each year they choose where nature sends them; depending on which gums are flowering, that is where they will go.

What we do know is that the Huon Valley's Grove of Giants - in this area where Lathamus Keep has been discovered - is very precious. It is the last remaining stand of old-growth Tasmanian blue gum left in the world. Recent surveys of the area have shown their 100-hectare patch of forest contains 150 trees over four metres in diameter. It would take eight people joining hands to circle a tree that size. The grove is located in the Denison region of the Huon Valley, an area which I know as a local member, and the tree hunters provide the evidence that it is an area that has been decimated by logging. In 2019 the forest next to the Grove of Giants was logged and many giant trees as big as Lathamus Keep have been lost forever. The Grove of Giants contains mountain ash, stringy bark, alpine ash and Tasmanian blue gum, all of which are irreplaceable and this grove is due to be logged next year by Forestry Tasmania.

Madam Deputy Speaker, this cannot happen. It cannot possibly be happening, this continued destruction of habitat which is globally unique and essential for this particular critically-endangered bird, but for so many other species. This is the habitat they need for their survival, for their flourishing, and there is such a tiny fragment left in the world in Tasmania for them to migrate to, to forage, and to have their baby chicks in.

Those trees have incredible carbon stores and the work that was done by Dr Jen Sanger and the Big Tree Project last year, has never been disputed by Forestry Tasmania or the minister for Resources. Native forest logging in Tasmania produces the highest amounts of carbon emissions of any sector in Tasmania. Those large ancient trees in the Grove of Giants and across the rest of our native forest stores have hundreds of tonnes of carbon that are released back into the atmosphere whenever they are logged. What we know is that 94 per cent of native forests end up as woodchips and waste. Only 6 per cent is used for materials for building houses or furniture. The majority of the waste is left on the site. It is burned and it releases carbon back into the atmosphere. Woodchips are used to make temporary products like paper and cardboard that only store the carbon for a couple of years.

We have seen the Secretary-General of the United Nations giving us the gravest of warnings at COP27 last week. It is very clear that we cannot continue with business as usual and each jurisdiction on the planet has a responsibility to do everything we can to reduce the carbon emissions that we are able to. This is absolutely low-hanging fruit. It is something the Government has to prioritise. I fully support the work of Dr Jen Sanger, on behalf of the Greens, who makes it very clear that it is something that this Government can choose to do.

The Big Tree Hunters have written to all members of parliament, through Dr Jen Sanger, The Tree Project, encouraging members to support the conservation gain of protecting old-growth forests. The easiest way to do that, they say, is to legislate a reduction in the logging quota, because we know that the logging quota at the moment is causing the destruction of these carbon-rich, globally unique, enormous blue gums and the other big trees in these forests that are home to critically-endangered species.

Sustainable Timber Tasmania formally requested a 30 per cent reduction in the logging quota to improve its financial viability six years ago, and the minister rejected that request. The Greens do not think we should introduce a logging quota, we just think 'job done', we are in a climate emergency, but we support the work of the tree hunters and their calls to take action to end native forest logging.