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End Native Forest Logging, Deliver on Brand Tasmania promise

The tourism and outdoor adventure sector have turned the tables on native forest logging. A few weeks ago, an Open Letter to the Premier was signed by more than 180 businesses ranging from Patagonia, Paddy Pallin, The Tasmanian Walking Company, and Maydena Mountain Bike Park calling for an end to native forest logging in Tasmania.The businesses are calling for the government to live up to it’s Brand Tasmania promise as a truly clean, green and clever destination:

The vision being put forward by these nature based experience businesses reflects the goals set out in the Tasmanian Government Climate Action 21 agenda, which includes action on climate change which is ambitious and genuine in its goal for Tasmania tourism to live up to it’s Brand Tasmania promise as a truly clean, green and clever destination.

Brand Tasmania promises an island at the bottom of the world where ancient forests and wild rivers await to reconnect people to their wild side, through nature-based tourism experiences found nowhere else on earth, and we need to be authentic in delivering that experience.

The letter also calls the government to act on the goals set out in the Tasmanian Government Climate Action 21 agenda. This includes ambitious and genuine action on climate change.

There was a swift response to this letter by the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania which tore up its long-standing Tourism - Forestry Protocol Agreement with Sustainable Timbers Tasmania. This agreement has acted as a gagging mechanism for many tourism operators aligned to the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania over the years, and particularly where the council has entered into negotiations with Sustainable Timber Tasmania around logging of areas of High Tourism Value.

The ending of this formal agreement is a big step. It signals an end to the silencing in the tourism sector. Individual businesses now have the ability to act on their convictions, and live up to the Brand Tasmania promise.

The forests around the jewel in the crown of Tasmania’s mountain bike industry, Blue Derby, are the front line of this changing face of Tasmania. Two forest areas (CC105A and CC119A) around the Krushka’s mountain bike trail and the iconic Big Mama tree plan covering 85 hectares scheduled for logging and burning by the end of the year. A third coupe that holds the Atlas mountain bike trail, covering 40 hectares, is scheduled for logging and burning in 2022.

The Derby example is unique in that the mountain bike trails are owned by the pro native forest logging Dorset Council. The Council have been vociferous in their support of ongoing logging in the area, while taking aim at any businesses or individuals who are active in working to protect the native forests.

In response to the Open Letter signed by a number of Derby and north east Tasmania tourism businesses, including boutique tourism businesses The Blue Derby Pods Ride and The Keep, Mayor of Dorset Council, Greg Howard said “ as for those Derby tourism operators who signed the letter, they have contributed little to their own success. Their success was handed to them on a platter, courtesy of Dorset Council.”

The discussion as always boils down to jobs. It rarely mentions a sustainable vision for Tasmania and the role of native forest protection in tackling climate change and our escalating biodiversity loss.

To put the jobs discussion in balance, the 2016 census numbers show that in Tasmania, the tourism industry directly employs about 21,000 people, compared with about 2,500 in logging which includes all forms of logging including plantations and office workers. With the rapid growth of the tourism sector in Tasmania since 2016 the latest census results to be released next year look like painting a clearer picture of why native forest logging has a limited future.

The next steps are clear for the Tasmanian government as the writing is on the wall that native forest logging is neither ecologically, nor economically sustainable. The Sustainable Timber Tasmania Annual Report showed that the Government Business Enterprise failed to meet legislated minimum sawlog quota in 2020/2021 (by 15%), due to a lack of demand for controversial native forest products. Independent analysis shows that Sustainable Timber Tasmania reported a $3.9m profit turns out to be a $17m loss. The volume of native forest woodchips rose 20%, while total sales of native forest products fell by $51million.

The economic licence for native forest logging does not exist, nor does the social licence. Furthermore, he ecological impacts of native forest logging show that time is up for native forest logging. Our native forests are worth more for climate action, biodiversity and building long term viable nature based experience businesses that value our landscape, and add value to our communities.

Premier Gutwein has the opportunity to support the tourism industry and declare a moratorium on logging of High Conservation Value and High Tourism Value native forests across Tasmania, as part of a transition plan to end native forest logging in Tasmania.

This Oped was published in the Hobart Mercury newspaper on December 22, 2021.

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