gain FSC Certification
POLITICS & THE PULP MILL
In January 2004, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) granted Hancock
Victorian Plantations FSC certification for their 250,000 hectare plantation/native
forest lands throughout Victoria. The certification is the world's
highest quality forest certification standard and took three years to
work through. Friends of the Earth (FoE) Australia are members
of the FSC and have supported FSC since its beginnings over 10 years
ago as a long term strategy of getting logging companies out of old
growth forests. Hancock become the first company to gain this
certification in Australia.
FoE Forest Network has been embroiled in the Hancock saga for the past
5 years. We have worked on this issue when most other forest groups
couldn't have cared less what happened in plantations - even those groups
that were recommending plantations as a final solution for logging in
native forests. We have also supported the work of Friends of
Gippsland Bush (FOGB) who are living inside the middle of the supposed
'plantation dream/nightmare' in the Strzeleckis.. Not only have
FOGB exposed the industry & conservation movement PR rhetoric that
plantations are sustainable, they have also undermined industry initiatives
such as the Timber Towns Accreditation Scheme (TTAS), which was based
on the appalling model of the Tasmanian Forest Practices Board.
TTAS was designed to take power from local community interests on private
land, further entrenching it into the hands of selected industry/government
groups in Victoria. Apart from FoGB and FoE no other forest group in
the State has consistently bothered to catalogue and expose private
forestry plantation issues. Eg Hancock Watch: www.hancock.forests.org.au
This gives FoE a unique perspective on the plantation debate.
On one hand it is very disappointing that Hancock should be
certified at all. Many of the plantations now
certified were established many years ago under extremely lax
(often non-existent) environmental guidelines. Many of the plantations
were established by the destruction of old growth forests and associated
aerial application of 245-T (mixed with diesel) into domestic drinking
water supplies. The damage on the Victorian landscape was (and
still is) enormous. Waterways are often trashed
and thousands of tonnes of sediment can be displaced during the logging
operations, with the health of soils and waterways suffering significantly.
Aerial spraying of plantations still occurs in domestic water supply
catchments. The fact that 'green groups' have endorsed such poor
land management without qualification is a disgrace.
World Rainforest Movement has recently written an excellent critique
of FSC in its role of certifying tree plantations. Entitled 'Certifying
the Uncertifiable' (www.wrm.org.uy).
The book argues that it is totally inappropriate
to certify plantations which by their very nature are unsustainable.
This argument is also represented in Victoria
by a minority of forest campaign groups who do not support industrial
plantations or industrial forestry models. They argue that plantations
in their region, need to be replanted as native forests in order to
bring back natural processes. This view also occurs within FoE
Melbourne, however the reality of Hancock certification includes long
term supply licenses to supply radiata pine to various industries located
throughout regional Victoria - eg Dominance Industries in Wangaratta,
Carter Holt Harvey in Myrtleford, Australian Newsprint Mills in Albury,
AKD in Colac, Boral in Tumbarumba (NSW) etc and perhaps most importantly
PaperlinX in Gippsland who Hancock supply with plantation pine
and 'hardwood'. Replanting of all of these plantations with native
species is just not going to happen.
FSC assessors, Smartwood, observed first hand the problems that groups
such as FoE and Friends of Gippsland Bush have been reporting and monitoring
in plantations since 1996. The approach used by Smartwood in their
assessment of Hancock was one that aimed to get the best management
regimes in place in already existing plantations. Both FoE and
FoGB were happy with Smartwood and their Assessment team.
If Hancock failed to attain certification, the same old problems of
environmental degradation would remain - potentially forever.
With the FSC carrot however, there is now constant pressure on the company
to improve its operations. If the company doesn't comply then
it can lose its certification - which in turn would be a major
embarrassment to the company and perhaps more importantly its
There are diverging views within the forest 'movement' about FSC.
The biggest disagreement between forest campaigners is over the continued
logging of native forests. Increasingly, voices calling for no
native forest logging (NNFL) are attempting to exert pressure on all
parties to 'tow the line'. NNFL arguments have long been articulated
academically by the economist Judy Clark. Clarks' arguments have
received unbridled support by the NNFL clique, including the Wilderness
Society, Victorian Greens, Environment East Gippsland and Australian
Conservation Foundation. Groups supporting initiatives such
as Small Scale Regional Ecoforestry or groups working on Community Based
Forestry are mostly dismissed, undermined or ignored by (NNFL) supporters.
In turn NNFL groups remain silent about plantation issues such as spraying
pesticides in domestic water catchments, use of fertilisers contaminated
with heavy metals, impact of treated timber on human health, impacts
on waterways etc.
As a way to find a solution about plantation management issues, FoE
and some other forest groups have supported the independent certification
of plantations by the FSC. Where FoE differs from NNFL advocates,
is that FoE Melbourne argues that FSC should also look at the certification
of native forests. Our argument here is that ENGO's have no other
mechanism at their disposal that could effectively put a brake on all
forest logging throughout Victoria*. The State Government has
no plans to stop logging in native forests. Victoria's biggest
native forest logger PaperlinX has its own Act of Parliament which allows
it to continue logging native forests until the year 2030. Blockades,
whilst effective, can only stop logging in small selected areas and
require high turnovers of personnel and can polarise local communities
(eg Goolengook blockade lasted 5 years, arguably
diverting resources and thousands of people from other old growth
areas). Over 400 coupes were logged in Victoria in 2003.
How can ENGO's blockade every coupe? Do we even want to?
Under FSC at least we can state the absolute no go areas (eg old growth
forests) and be fairly confident that loggers will not go into those
places. The current status quo often means that huge tracts of
Old Growth are clearfelled - (*although OREN was successful in stopping
logging in the Otways by 2008, the logging volumes were smaller in scale
compared to the politics of confronting a pulp mill as is the case in
Central Gippsland. The social and economic realities of the Otways
are also substantially different to Gippsland).
Constant monitoring by FoE and FoGB of Hancock has paid off in that
Smartwood has prepared a 6 page list of 30 conditions and pre-conditions
that Hancock must meet in order to keep the FSC certificate (see:
Many of these conditions relate to positive initiatives beyond the existing
Code of Forest Practice, such as the replanting of buffers in critical
stream catchments, not using Simazine unless a Pesticide Advisory Group
is established, publicly announcing herbicide regimes, looking at impacts
of truck haulage routes, revegetation of steep slopes, protection
of sensitive waterways etc. It was disappointing however
that the certification seemed to ignore issues of rainforest definition
and buffer zones, however it is FoE's assertion that Hancock will have
to significantly 'lift its game' in order to keep the certification.
complicating factors also emerge. It became evident that the push
for FSC was not coming from Hancock in Melbourne. The push was
coming from the US, where Hancock investors (largely teachers pension
funds) wanted to invest only in plantation operations that achieve FSC.
The company in Melbourne was also under pressure from the Australian
timber industry who want nothing more than to stop FSC gaining a foothold
forest companies have come up with their own certification standard
the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS). With FSC, stakeholders
such as conservationists have input into the process. This does
not occur via the AFS and FoE argues that AFS was established directly
to undermine and negate the work of FSC. If Hancock failed to
gain FSC accreditation, that would leave the doors wide open for AFS,
which is nothing more for a continuation of clearfelling of old growth
forests. ENGO criticism of FSC will also play into the hands of
the timber industry interests pushing for the AFS.
Complicating things again is the fact that in regards to Hancock there
is also the argument that many of the supposed hardwood plantations
in the Strzeleckis should actually be set aside as a National Park -
because the indigenous plantations were not planted but were the result
of natural regeneration. This position has been articulated by
campaigners from South Gippsland since 1998 who have a list of 7000
signatures supporting their proposal. Other Gippsland forest groups,
do not necessarily support the National Park proposal, meaning that
even within localised forest groups there are disagreements over long
term future for the Strzelecki forests. On one level the National Park
sounds good, but the political reality is very much different.
The State Government has no interest in 'buying back' the same forests
and plantations that it 'sold off' in 1998.
The problem with the FSC certification now is that NNFL groups who 10
years ago were supporting Judy Clarks' models, saying that hardwood
plantations in the Strzeleckis could provide
almost all of the Maryvale Pulp Mills hardwood requirements, are now
supporting the 30,000 Strzelecki National Park argument saying that
many of these areas should not be logged at all! Under the conservation
agenda of 1995 - as determined by the economist Judy Clark, the Strzelecki
eucalypt plantations were by 1999 supposed to be supplying 242,820 m3
of eucalypt woodchips per annum. Clark also stated that projected
wood volumes of 369,816 m3 per annum of eucalypt woodchips would be
available by 2000-2004, increasing to 401,718 m3 by 2005-2009.
By 2010-14 this would increase again to 516,864m3 " it is estimated
that Amcor could immediately shift to sourcing 80% of its Maryvale wood
resource from plantations". Australia's Plantations July 1995 Judy
Under the FSC Smartwood assessment Jan 2004, it states p11 that "Hancock
supply 255,000m3 of Mt Ash, with 15,000m3 of bluegum per year".
This wood is sourced from the Strzeleckis - meaning that a current shortfall
from Strzelecki hardwood plantations of almost 100,000 m3 (27+%
of total) on the expected volumes predicted by Clark 00-04 and close
to 130,000 m3 (32+% of total) short of what Clark predicted for
05-09. So much for the hypothesis that Strzelecki hardwood plantations
would be the panacea for native forest logging!
The fact that Clark and most forest ENGO's supported concentrating the
entire Victorian fine paper industry into the highly
erodible Cretaceous Sediments that cover many steep slopes of
the Strzeleckis and associated heavy reliance of chemicals and fertilisers
does not leave one with much enthusiasm. To now almost completely
reverse that position 10 years later leaves massive credibility gaps
in those groups that supported Clark and now support the National Park
proposal. The timber industry must think this is hilarious and
many people in the forest 'movement' will be equally upset by this overt
Meanwhile PaperlinX continue to log native forests to the tune of 500,000
m3 per year and could increase this to 1.2 million m3 per annum in the
near future with the building of a new pulp mill at Maryvale.
This logging nightmare may well most likely extend to into East Gippsland.
Where do NNFL advocates propose that PaperlinX source their eucalypt
fibre from given that there is a 100,000+m3 shortfall in their plantation
estimations? Where do NNFL groups supporting the 30,000
ha National Park propose that PaperlinX source their logs from given
that most of the Strzeleckis would be 'taken out' of the equation?
The answer of course will be the more intensive management of native
forests in the Central Highlands, Central Gippsland and East Gippsland.
The Strzelecki National Park will mean 30-40 year old Mountain Ash will
be set aside from logging, only to allow for more intensive forestry
in 60-90+ year forests elsewhere.
FoE has not supported the calls for the National Park, but we have supported
the calls for an 8000 ha Cores and Linkages Proposal which will see
2000 ha of supposed plantation set aside from logging in the core rainforest
catchments of the Strzeleckis. This proposal is based on a study
conducted by Biosis in November 2001 and has major support of
local government, local community and ENGO's - including National Park
supporters. Arguably, FSC has helped
put the brakes on the logging of these core areas in the Strzeleckis,
although some of the linkage areas are not as yet, safe from logging.
A large portion of the linkage areas were planted and for Hancock to
support the Cores and Linkages Proposal they will have to 'hand over'
several thousand hectares of 'forest/plantation. This is a more
politically sensible option than calling for the whole region to be
classified as a National Park, but it is a highly difficult exercise,
especially with existing pressures on Hancock to meet supply contracts
for the PaperlinX pulp mill.
Problems emerge in the Strzeleckis when attempting to define areas that
were planted with Mountain Ash by the State Government and APM between
the 1950's and 1980's. To formally request all of these areas
be locked up in a National Park is unrealistic. FoE has maps outlining
the planted areas within the Hancock estate. FoE and FoGB have
worked very hard to keep Hancock within these planted boundaries, which
has been the basis of our coupe monitoring work for 7 years (No other
groups, including National Park lobbyists have conducted this on the
ground work as extensively as FoE and FoGB). 5 years ago Hancock
were logging non-planted hardwood when they logged their plantations.
This practice has mostly stopped but it is full time job to keep an
eye on all current logging operations. This also means that FSC will
not work successfully unless community groups monitor what is happening.
Hancock has a current policy that it does not log native forests.
The Biosis study did not include all the Strzeleckis - missing out on
the eastern side and the northern slopes due to lack of funding.
FoE would argue that much of the Strzeleckis, particularly the eastern
Strzeleckis would never be logged by Hancock as these areas are clearly
native forests. Old growth and rainforest would also not be logged by
Hancock. These areas could be included into a park system, but
the political will of the State Government just isn't there at the present
time to support a Park.
It appears that forest groups willing to shoot down the
FSC certification at any cost may well help fuel the destruction
of forests in the Strzeleckis, East Gippsland and the Central Highlands.
FoE & FoGB would now argue that without FSC even the cores and links
proposal will be at risk. FoE also argues that what State Government
in their right mind would create a National Park out of the main 'resource'
that was earmarked for the pulp mill based at Maryvale? Talk about
stirring up the biggest logging hornets nest in Victoria - possibly
FSC won't save everything, but it is a reasonable outcome considering
what was stacked against it. By arguing for
a 30,000 ha National Park, ENGO's will simply be opening the logging
floodgates elsewhere. For people arguing that a closure of the
Maryvale pulp mill is the only remaining option, consider that this
would mean a 700,000 m3 increase in paper sourced from PaperlinX's biggest
and cheapest competitor, sourced primarily from
the tropical rainforests of Sumatra! Other hardwood plantation
options are highly unlikely and may include young bluegum from Western
Australia or Shining Gum from Tasmania. Bluegum
plantations in Brazil may also be a dim possibility, however
what are the ethics of importing pulp from Brazil and from plantations
which have come under protest by local indigenous people and landholders?
Is this practice sustainable?
FoE will continue to argue for a fine paper industry based on recycled
and sustainably produced pulp. We will also call for overall reduced
consumption of forest products as a necessary element of reducing our
impacts on natural systems. We will work with other ENGO's to
ensure protection of high conservation forests around the state and
seek solutions that don't just push forest destruction into other
places like Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. FSC will allow for continued
logging in the Strzeleckis in 2004 at volumes 30% less than what the
conservation movement was recommending less than 10 years ago.
It may also hold the key to keeping the woodchippers out of key Strzelecki
rainforest catchments. In terms of the Central Highlands, it may
now be worth pulling the bull by the horns and look seriously at FSC
certification in of native forests in the Central Highlands and Gippsland.
At least this way ENGO's can have a say in areas they want set aside,
which is in complete opposition to the situation we have now. NNFL groups
should understand that native forest logging will be here to stay and
rather than ignore it and hope that it goes away, work positively to
reduce the impacts of both the native forest and plantation industries.
Anthony Amis 6/4/04..