VicForests, which isn’t in the plantation business, made a modest profit of $4.7 million in the 2015 financial year, but this is not consistent across the state. In 2015 leaked documents revealed the East Gippsland logging operations lost up to $5.5 million a year. Meanwhile, Forestry Tasmania went from being tens of millions of dollars in the red at end of 2014 to a profit the following year. But this was mainly because it decided its forests had gained $37.9 million in value, then reported that as revenue. The profit also included $14.4 million in direct government subsidy. The Tasmanian Liberal government made an election promise to end $95 million in subsidies to the logging industry, but it’s struggling to follow through.
Let’s be clear – “forest waste” is not truly leftovers. It can sometimes be up to 80 per cent of the forest harvest. It gets worse. Thanks to changes to RET (Renewable Energy Target), burning native forests can now count as renewable energy, even though it takes 80 years of regrowth to replace the carbon store. The problem is especially politically vexed in that state because Tasmanians think the forestry industry is more important than it is. In fact, native forestry only generates about 1 per cent of the gross state product and provides 1000 jobs, less than 0.5 per cent of total employment for the state, according to a 2013 report for the Australia Institute.
Tasmania’s tourism sector and aquaculture are worth far more in the long term, and both rely on the state’s clean, green image. By the way, the report was authored by Andrew Macintosh, the person appointed by the Abbott government to oversee the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). The truth is – and Macintosh has written on this too – native forests are worth more unlogged. One way for state forestry organisations to convert that to actual money would be to accept carbon credits from the federal government for not logging forests. This is payment for sequestering carbon under the ERF. Last year’s ERF white paper explicitly states that local and state government entities can apply. There are already private landholders in Tasmania earning good money from the ERF for not logging their forests, but no state forestry corporations so far.
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