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Environment East Gippsland Forest Update

Hello – in this update we’re asking you to help out by doing any or all of the five things listed in sections 1, 2, 4, 6 & 7 below. All are quick and easy. We generally just provide you with information in each of our updates, but please, this time we really need some help. If a large percentage of our (now formidable and still growing) email list got involved it could make a lot of difference. If you all put 5 minutes aside to ‘email for the forests’ – or even a wee 3 minutes, the planet will be grateful!

  1. Urgent – send an email to ministers.
  2. Send a mini-rocket to those who approved the wood pellet plant.
  3. VicForests caught exporting whole logs to China – and give multiple choice excuses.
  4. Tassie deal signed.
  5. Triabunna mill sold to logging interests.
  6. Planet Ark helps the Planet Rapers.
  7. Amazon set for a mega plunder
  8. Last minute reminder

1 HELP - URGENT - Crunch time for govt policy on climate and forests

The next 48 hours is crunch time for Australia’s climate policy and may be our last chance to stop plans to burn native forest wood for electricity.

The logging industry is set to transition from woodchipping to burning forests for energy (as it suffers shrinking markets and prices), but to do this it needs support from the Federal government with its policies and regulations.

The issue is urgent. Decisions are being made this week. Last week the Eden chipmill was granted permission to start the process of building a wood pellet plant (pellets for burning). This could be a spring board for the rest of the industry. If this plant is built it will lock in the ongoing destruction of SE NSW and East Gippsland’s forests for decades more.

PLEASE HELP - by emailing these influential MPs and Senators now.

Points to make in your message:
  1. Please remove all forms of native forest wood from eligibility for Renewable Energy Certificates and ban the production of biofuels from native forest wood.
  2. The Australian Government should also ban the export of native forest woodchips and logs for burning or processing into biofuels elsewhere.
  3. Woodchip power emits more than 5 times the greenhouse gas emissions of coal fired power and undercuts genuine renewable energy such as wind and solar.
  4. The public no longer believes that the wood to be used is simply ‘waste’.
  5. Forests are the fastest and most reliable way to sequester and store CO2 from the atmosphere. There are no trails, expensive research, or time delays. Yet their destruction accounts for almost 18% of the country's entire greenhouse emissions.
  6. Australia is making efforts to stop native forest destruction in neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. At the same time, Australian Governments are subsidising the destruction of Australia’s own forests for woodchips and, increasingly, to burn to generate electricity.
Australia needs some breathing space to develop a proper plan on climate using forests as part of equation. Please – you must ensure forests are protected and not allow the burning of forests to be considered ‘renewable energy’

Groups such as the South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA) have been lobbying face to face on this issue. We need to show the government there are more than just a few enviro groups who are watching this.

Emails of influential politicians and the Commonwealth's Multi-Party Climate Change Committee are below. They will be negotiating a package of climate measures this week. The sooner they receive a flood of emails the better. Please help. And please send to friends who might also like to do something to help our forests.


2 Falling forests for paper... to falling forests for power

The NSW Eden woodchip mill exports over a million tonnes of woodchips every year. East Gippsland’s forests account for almost half of this. The declining export woodchip industry is now transitioning - from rendering our forests into tiny chips to make pulp and paper products, to now making tiny fuel pellets to power furnaces.

In mid June, the Nippon owned export woodchip plant at Eden (South East Fibre Exports) was given the OK by the Bega Valley Council to build and operate a plant to make wood pellets from native forest logs. These pellets can be burnt locally (which is SEFE’s next plan on the drawing board) or/and export them to countries which burn wood pellets to generate electricity.

The Nippon plant is leading the charge to introduce this new shift in forest exploitation. And the Bega Shire voted 7 to 2 in favour of this. It is expected that this will only succeed with massive subsidies – as the woodchip industry has weaselled out of governments for the past 40 years.

The argument that burning wood is renewable and saves burning coal is spurious. It has been estimated that there can be four times more carbon pollution produced per unit of electricity than a coal fired plant produced.

This is definitely the next great threat to our forests across Australia.

EEG has emailed the seven Councillors to let them know the impact that their decision will have into the future on our forests, biodiversity, water, climate and so on. They have been so inundated that their IT department has blocked all emails with the headings ‘pellets’ or ‘decision’ or ‘forests’. So please use one like ‘democracy in action’ (would they dare block that?!) or another subject line to ensure it gets through.

Dear Councillor

Although we are not Bega valley ratepayers, your decision on the pellet plant has just condemned not only the SE coast of NSW, but thousands of hectares of forests across the entire country. This decision is a very, very dangerous precedent that could be the spring-board for a wood-fired power industry across the country. We believe this has been a very hasty and ill-considered decision.

As a councillor, you have enormous responsibilities and your decision will see further destruction of East Gippsland’s as well as your own shire’s natural assets. This includes wildlife habitat, forests as water storages and filters, and as valuable carbon storage. You should have considered their value as carbon stores instead of carbon pollution.

This corner of Australia is a beautiful area and has magnificent natural diversity.

Can you please let me know what informed your decision? Or better still, please reopen this issue and then vote in favour of your shire and the majority. This overseas-owned profiteering company sees our public forests as a cheap raw material and the council it deals with as easily duped.

I look forward to your response.


(name and contact details)

3 VicForests caught exporting whole logs to China

VicForests has either colluded with their log customer’s illicit trade in whole log exports or is hopelessly dysfunctional as forest managers, or both. In mid July, The Wilderness Society exposed VicForests for cutting and selling good quality sawlogs to China against government policy and log licence conditions.

On the one hand VicForests demands more public land (and even conservation reserves) to log, supposedly to meet the demands of the logging industry. On the other hand, VicForests has allowed thousands of cubic metres of high quality saw logs to be exported to China without any more processing than having the ends squared off to fit into the containers. This can only be seen as logging far beyond what they can sell to local industry – because they can.

The conflicting spin from VicForests has been staggering. Take your pick of responses;
  • denial - it wasn’t happening,
  • there was only one export license approved,
  • they are investigating the claims (conflict of interest there maybe?),
  • they were only leftover logs that no one else wanted to buy,
  • there’s no law against it (other than licence agreements),
  • the logs were part processed.

The Timber Industry Strategy states that logs need to be processed before leaving our shores for the sake of local jobs. Now we have VicForests trying to claim that cutting the ends off a log is the ‘processing’ that provides employment.

TWS has asked the Ombudsman to investigate.

4 Tassie deal signed

The historic Tasmanian forest peace talks were finally signed off this week. The agreement between logging and conservation interests hinges on the response of both state and federal governments and Gunns.

The agreement includes:
  • 430,000 hectares of ancient high conservation value forests to be added to the reserve system.
  • Maintenance of all existing contracts
  • Exit/adjustment packages
  • Support for a transition of Tasmania's regional economies
  • Value adding of the forest industry
  • A transition out of public native forests into plantations
  • Make logging truly sustainable with an agreed minimum quantity and quality of logs.

Download a PDF of the agreement here

ABC Lateline Business coverage 23 June 2011

Greens Media Release 23 June 2011

Please send your message to certain targeted Commonwealth Senators by clicking here, if you’ve not already done so, to ask them to support the Tassie agreement.

5 Gunns woodchip mill sold to logging interests

The Gunns woodchip mill at Triabunna has been sold to a Tasmanian consortium, headed by a local transport operator. Aprin Pty Ltd wants to keep the mill open because ‘it's vital for the forest industry’.
Read the ABC News article (11.06.11) here

6 Planet Arks does greenwashing for logging industry.

Everyone needs to call or email Planet Ark and demand they cut ties with the logging industry. They are pushing the industry’s dodgy certification of wood that comes from old growth and rare wildlife habitat. It’s a clear industry plug and we have to wonder how much they’ve been paid to do this.

Chris Philpott is Planet Ark's new campaigns manager. He comes across as fanatical and angry that Planet Ark is under challenge on this. He repeats the worn out 'spin' of VicForests and the logging lobby groups. He claims logging is good because it stores carbon in wood furniture for centuries!!! He refuses to acknowledge that clearfelling releases vast amounts of carbon, especially in the most carbon dense forests on the planet in eastern Victoria.

Joint enviro groups are willing to have a public stoush over this if direct contact and discussion doesn’t work.
Please call or email them after visiting their website (above). They give details under ‘contact us’. Keep the pressure on them. It’s outrageous! EEG has written and requested they contact us to consider and review their support for the logging industry.

This has all the signs of an industry front group or a weak light-green group that’s been seriously manipulated.

7 The Amazon is in serious danger

The lower house of the Brazilian congress has approved a gutting of Brazil’s forest protection laws. Vast tracts of our planet’s lungs could be opened up to clear-cutting devastation.

In the last few weeks several prominent environmental advocates have been murdered, purportedly by armed thugs hired by illegal loggers. They’re trying to silence criticism just as the law is discussed in the Senate. But President Dilma can veto the changes, if she can be persuaded to stand up to the thugs and show leadership on the world stage.

There are 79% of Brazilians who support Dilma's veto of the forest law changes. A giant call to stop the murders and illegal logging is needed to save the Amazon. Sign the online petition below -- it’ll be delivered to Dilma when 500,000 signatures have been collected.

8 Tax donations

Just a quick reminder - the end of this financial year is almost upon us. Please help out by donating to EEG.
You can:
  • go online and send via PayPal here
  • email us for our bank details for a direct deposit here
  • send a cheque made out to Environment East Gippsland Forest Fund and post to EEG‚ Locked Bag 3‚ ORBOST 3888.
All donations over $2 are tax deductible and receipts will be issued within the week.

Jill Redwood Coordinator
and the team
Environment East Gippsland Inc

FORESTS - our breathing space!