Industry won't be logging in sensitive environments

THE opening up of 1.2 million hectares of native Queensland forests for the timber industry would not lead to a mass logging operations, Timber Queensland chief executive Rod McInnes said on Wednesday.

Mr McInnes said the industry was more than comfortable with the release of the native forests for sustainable timber harvesting, after the forests were removed from the industry's reach in 1999.

The plan was revealed after leaked departmental documents showed Agriculture Minister John McVeigh had in January signed off on the release of the native forests for logging.

But Mr McInnes said the forestry industry would not be logging in sensitive environments, or those in central and north Queensland protecting by World heritage status.

He said the industry was bound by independent third-party auditing of which specific areas they could log, and even given access, there would be no clear-felling of timber, which has long been a hallmark of the industry in southern Australia.

"In Queensland, we simply don't clear fell forests - we do everything according to how sensitive the local environment is and of the total 1.2 million hectares, the most we would be sustainably harvesting would be about 30,000ha a year," he said.

"Even then, our sustainable practices mean harvesting in those native forests is the equivalent of removing a few selected trees in an area the size of Suncorp Stadium."

Mr McVeigh had also offered new, 25-year contracts to 14 licensed timber companies to log cypress forests across state forests in southern and central Queensland.

Mr McInnes said the renewal of the sales permits was essentially guaranteeing a longer contract for companies which already have an allocated licence to log such areas.

"Anyone who's already got a Crown Wood Allocation now simply has a 25-year sale guarantee for their allocation," he said.

"That doesn't actually change how much timber is logged in the cypress forests each year, just how long the contracts are.

"What I'd be expecting in the next few years, are that rather than each of the 14 companies keeping their contracts, they might sell them now they are long-term, and four or five bigger commercial operators will take those allocations on, through amalgamations."


Move opens up 1.2m hectares of native forest to logging

THE Newman Government has opened up 1.2 million hectares of state forests previously banned from the timber industry under the Bligh Government, government documents reveal.

Originally touted as part of a 30-year draft timber industry plan released in December, Agriculture Minister John McVeigh's move has opened up 1.2 million hectares of native forests for commercial log production.

A departmental letter obtained by APN Newsdesk, dated January 16, revealed Mr McVeigh had approved the changes - reversing the Bligh Government's locking up of the native forests.

"This includes the state forest areas within the 1.2 million hectares previously identified in the western hardwoods and cypress regions for proposed inclusion in the protected area estate and the remaining state forest areas in central Queensland, the Mackay-Proserpine area and the north Queensland ecotone forests," DAFF Director-General Jack Noye wrote.

"The reinstatement of these state forest areas has provided a much needed boost of confidence to the native forest timber industry through the provision of greater certainty of supply."

Mr McVeigh's decision also resulted in the department offering "long awaited sales permits" to 14 eligible cypress saw millers for 24-year long contracts to harvest timber from Queensland's cypress plantations around the state.

The move to re-open native forestry logging comes after the previous Labor Government sold off most of the state's hardwood plantations in 2010, to help bolster its budget.

The fire sale of the then-Forestry Plantation Queensland owned forests saw the state assets sold to Canadian interest Hancock Plantations for $600 million, which local timber companies decried at the time.

Mr McVeigh's decision was not welcomed by environmentalists, including Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters, who said the move would trash invaluable habitat for native wildlife.

She said the news confirmed "nowhere is safe from the Newman Government's program of environmental destruction".

"Premier Newman is determined to repeal every last environmental protection that Queensland has," she said.

"Already protections for our native vegetation, wild rivers, coastal areas, and land subject to development have been slashed or are about to be."

Minister McVeigh's office was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Topics:  campbell newman john mcveigh logging state forest

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