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News Archive '04 to '02

Sept 04

World's largest forest destroyer takes on environmentalists

Amsterdam/ Sydney, 16 September 2004- Greenpeace has received a letter from the lawyers of one of the world's largest and richest retailers in forest destruction, Rimbunan Hijau (RH). The Malaysian multinational logging firm with operations in eight countries has threatened to sue Greenpeace International over a report that highlights the company's destructive record.

The letter demands an apology for the publication of the report "The Untouchables - Rimbunan Hijau's World of Forest Crime and Political Patronage". RH has also demanded that Greenpeace withdraw the report from the public domain, and to supply them with a list of the recipients. Greenpeace International has declined to comply with this demand.

"RH is hoping that the threat of litigation will silence its critics. But Greenpeace won't back down, nor will we retract any allegations we have made. We're confident our report will hold up in court," said Jasper Teulings, Greenpeace International's Senior Legal Counsel.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, RH's local subsidiary, The LumberBank has taken the Timber Importers Association (NZTIA) to court over an unprecedented expulsion. RH is claiming damages and reinstatement after it was ousted from the NZTIA in May on the basis that its logging operations did not meet the NZTIA's code of practice.

"By threatening Greenpeace International in the Netherlands and the TIA in New Zealand, RH thinks it can bury the damming evidence that has been stacked against it," said Danny Kennedy, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Campaigns Manager. "Until RH seriously changes the way it operates in countries such as PNG, Greenpeace will continue to expose the logging giant for the forest crimes they commit."

In February of this year, Greenpeace published "The Untouchables." a report that highlights the corrupt and destructive activities of the Malaysian firm. RH dominates the logging industry in Papua New Guinea and has interests in Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Malaysia, Vanuatu, Indonesia, New Zealand and Russia, making it one of the world's largest forest destroyers. Many of these operations are characterised by documented illegalities and environmental destruction. It is alleged that RH uses tactics such as political corruption and abuses of human rights within its operations.

To view "The Untouchables" report go to www.greenpeace.org/RHreport

For more information, please contact: Jessa Latona, Media Officer in Sydney, + 61 2 9263 0314

Danny Kennedy, Greenpeace Campaigns Manager in Sydney, +61 408 754 910

Gina Sanchez, Greenpeace Media Officer in the Netherlands, +31 6 2700 0064

Jasper Teulings, Greenpeace International Senior Legal Counsel in the Netherlands, +31 6 2000 5229



AUGUST 23, 2004

Conservation groups, Friends of Gippsland Bush (FoGB) and Friends of the Earth (FoE) today announced that it was an urgent necessity for the Victorian State Government and Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP) to resolve the Strzelecki forest controversy.

Hancock, trading in Gippsland as Grand Ridge Plantations Pty Ltd (GRP), announced last month that a 2 year moratorium on logging of areas identified in the Strzelecki Ranges Biodiversity Study (Biosis Research November 2001), as the Cores and Links had been lifted. "The company recently announced its intention to log almost 80 hectares of the cores and links in 2004/5. This could mean the opening of the logging floodgates in these and other high conservation value forest areas" said FoE spokesperson Anthony Amis.

Spokesperson for FoGB Susie Zent said "The local community and supporters have been battling conservation/biodiversity issues for many years. We urge Hancock and the State Government to work out a strategy in which the Cores and Links proposal is upheld and native vegetation in the Strzelecki and Gippsland regions is granted permanent protection".

Hancock currently control the rights to log about 32,550 hectares of natural forest and about 88,000 hectares of plantations throughout the Strzelecki ranges and Gippsland region. HVP has agreed not to harvest in most areas containing natural forests, however conservationists fear that changes in management and future sale of its land base may mean a termination of this current arrangement “These areas need permanent long term protection” said Ms Zent. "The company should also be looking at the option of covenants on its private and leasehold land. This would provide the protection for the land that is required. We need an immediate resolution of this issue prior to GRP logging in these vital conservation areas" Ms Zent added.

"The State Government has consistently refused to honour its 1999 election promise to fully protect all conservation areas in the Strzeleckis. Where is Steve Bracks and JohnThwaites?" Mr Amis asked. "The Victorian Government, far from delivering protection, chose to "offload" the Strzelecki Ranges State Forests to foreign interests in 1998. Former public land is now treated as private land and all logging is controlled through the Code of Forest Practice for Timber Production. Local Government is responsible for environmental compliance" Ms Zent added.

The company rightfully defends its political position to harvest some of these areas in accordance with government provision through the 1993 Victorian Plantations Corporation Act. However, at that time, the government divested much of its Strzelecki public forests, before that forest had been assessed for its range of biodiversity assets. The State Forest portion of the company's estate was acquired by the Victorian Plantation Corporation prior to government commitment to the Gippsland Regional Forest Agreement. This means that biodiversity values for the Strzelecki Ranges are excluded from protection under the (CAR*) reserve system. (As a general criterion, the CAR system requires that 15% of the pre-1750 distribution of each ecosystem should be protected. Where forest ecosystems are recognised as vulnerable, then at least 60% of their remaining extent should be reserved).

Presently, only 2% of the Strzelecki Ranges are protected within reserves. The Strzelecki Bioregion is unique to Victoria. Among other valuable biodiversity assets, it provides habitat for Victoria’s only known colony of endemic koalas.

"Hancock and its subsidiary GRP, is the first company in Australia to receive the prestigious Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) conditional certification. There have been a lot of critics on both sides of the debate who have wanted to shoot this process down" said Anthony Amis. "We are at a critical point, where not only could we see vital forest areas logged, but we could see the success or failure of FSC in Australia. If FSC fails to deliver sustainable ecological, social and economic outcomes for harvesting activities in Victoria, then its critics will broadcast its failings far and wide. Conversely if the process works in the Gippsland region, it could well be adopted throughout Australia as a way to move the forest debate forward in a responsible and mature manner" said Ms Zent.

"The ball is in Hancock's court" said Ms Zent. "They will receive very positive publicity if they move in the direction of long term protection of their native forest areas, including areas of high conservation value".

"If the protection isn't granted, international publicity for HVP's parent company US based John Hancock Financial Services will be negative" said Mr Amis. He added, "A decision to log the cores and links will have wide scale implications for the company, and it will demonstrate that this company is not willing to deliver sustainable management of its estate, which is the underlying principle of the Forest Stewardship Council Certification Process".

For further information call;

Anthony Amis on (03) 9419 8700

Susie Zent (0351) 691 588

*CAR means Comprehensive Adequate & Representative Reserve System

June '04

Church takes axe to forest industry June 28, 2004 - THE AGE

Church slams forest policies - Herald Sun

The story doesn't mention old growth logging in Victoria though - When are you going to stop that obscenity Mr Bracks?

Hancock and FSC - the implications - expert analysis

April '04

In a surprising move Tricia Caswell, a former head at ACF will take on the top job at the Victorian Association of Forest Industries.

Predictably, the Chicken Littles at opposing ends of the forest issue have been squawking long and loud at this brave and audacious move on the part of the industry.

Despite the fact that many forest activists and industry types alike are pragmatic and willing to negotiate and compromise it looks like being a tough gig for the new kid on the block due to the abundance of recalcitrants on the fringes and extremes of the debate.

We wish her all the best in this demanding new role and commend the timber industry for thinking progressively. Let's hope both forests and industry people benefit from a new dialogue.




Jan 04

MEDIA RELEASE Monday 19 January 2004 2 - 5pm

"Protesters prompt Paperlinx to rethink their 'Reflex' source"

Friends to the Earth (FoE) action group Australian Paper Watch will converge at the head office of Paperlinx today to protest the destruction of native old growth and rainforest to make products like 'Reflex' copy paper. Paperlinx have a current license to log and woodchip 500,000 cubic meters of native forest P/A from Victoria's Central Highlands yet are in talks with the Victorian Government to increase this to a staggering 1.2 million cubic meters P/A.

Australian Paper Watch spokesperson Sean Marler believes such an increase would devastate forests throughout the Central Highlands and could be the reason why the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) were caught logging inside a National Rainforest Site of Significance just last week. "It seems a little suspect that Paperlinx's plans to expand their license to make more 'Reflex' has coincided with the destruction of a National Rainforest Site of Significance (RSOS) near Warburton", said Mr Marler. "It is the responsibility of the DSE to manage and protect our precious rainforests instead of allowing private companies to convert our forests to copy paper", added Mr Marler.

Also of concern was Paperlinx's involvement with the importation of Asian rainforest timbers. "The rate of deforestation is alarmingly high through Asian forests with illegal logging rife in both National Parks and Nature Reserves. Paperlinx import about 200,000 tones of timber from Asia and South America P/A and it is possible this is being logged from protected forest reserves", said Mr Marler.

Since coming to power to1999, the Victorian Government has increased logging across the state while woodchip levels have grown by around 40%. Mr Marler believes Premier Steve Bracks should secure the long term future of both forests and jobs by shifting the DSE out of native forests and into mixed species plantations. "Australia today supports more than 1.5 million hectares of established plantations and the DSE and Paperlinx should invest in planting mixed species hardwood as a sustainable source of timber, concluded Mr Marler.

WHAT: protest to protect native forest

WHERE: Paperlinx head office, 307 Fern Tree Gully Rd, Mt Waverley

WHY: to protect a National Rainforest Site of Significance (RSOS) from being logged.

WHEN: Monday 19 January 2004, 2 - 5pm More information Sean Marler 0417 825 972 Friends of the Earth 9419 8700



June '03

Copper Chrome Arsenate (CAA)

Wood treatment based on Copper Chrome Arsenate (CAA) is now widely known to be harmful and is banned in many developed countries. Given the body of evidence, it seems criminal for the Victorian Government and EPA to ignore this serious health risk to the environment and humans in general and children in particular. The report below should help to motivate Premier Bracks and Ministers Thwaites and Pyke.




Other links Ban CCA or No CCA

Commonly used wood treatment preservative declared a health hazard

The World Today - Friday, 20 June , 2003 12:22:55

Reporter: Sarah Clarke

PETER CAVE: Now to an environmental hazard lurking in many Aussie backyards and children's playgrounds. Copper Chrome Arsenate is one of the most commonly used preservatives for treating wood. It's found in much of the pine used in residential decking and even some children's play equipment. But the New South Wales Environment Protection Agency has now declared it a health hazard, and a risk to children. As the ABC's Environment Reporter Sarah Clarke reports.

SARAH CLARKE: It can be found in children's playgrounds, homes and backyards a specific type of outdoor wood that's been treated using copper chromium and arsenic, also known as CCA. It's an effective way of preserving timber from the harsh Australian outdoors. But an audit has declared the chemicals used in this treatment should not be in direct human contact. Joe Woodward is with the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority.

JOE WOODWARD: Certainly the research is saying that people shouldn't be necessarily pulling out the playground equipment, for example, but they do need to take precautions however, like washing hands, and making sure food doesn't come near it, and very importantly, not to burn any of this treated wood.

SARAH CLARKE: Europe, the United States and Canada are already phasing out this treated wood. That's not the case in Australia, where the method is still commonly used. In NSW alone, there are at least 12 treatment plants in operation. But the audit compiled by the EPA suggests the process being used in most cases is simply not effectively containing the chemicals.

JOE WOODWARD: We've known for a while that these chemicals, particularly the arsenic for example, is a toxic material, it is a carcinogen. Now, it's been tied up in the process but some of the more recent research shows that it can actually leach out slowly over time, and I think that's why these overseas countries are taking more of a precautionary approach at the moment.

SARAH CLARKE: The New South Wales EPA wants Australia to follow the overseas trend. It's now written to the Commonwealth recommending it be phased out. Despite all the warnings, it may take some time to convince Australians to change practice. Chris Winder is from the University of New South Wales School of Safety Science.

CHRIS WINDER: Well, I don't think it should be used at places where the public are likely to come into contact, especially children. So, I wouldn't like to see it be used for children's play areas and things like that. But uh, you know as I said, my own house has just recently been treated. We just had a decking put in and all of it was CCA-treated.

PETER CAVE: Chris Winder from the University of New South Wales ending that report from Environment Reporter Sarah Clarke.


April '03

Well, it had to happen! A DSE controlled burn got out of control today (7-4) in the Cobaw forest and people are upset. At this time no property or livestock had been lost and rain is expected overnight so hopefully things will be OK.

After the bad fires in Jan. people blamed lack of fuel reduction burns for the inferno and now people are saying that DSE chose the wrong time for the burn. Poor old DSE can't win (or take a trick)!

So far no harm has been done but if a fire had occured in the area on a 40 degree Celsius day with a forty knot northerly you'd have heard the squeals in Canberra.

If you have thoughts on how we can better manage bushfire risk you could consider making a submission to the Bushfire Inquiry.

In other news someone attacked about 50 trees with a chainsaw in the Triplet Falls reserve in the Otways Ranges. The only clue to this brainless effort was some drivel about "no parks". If this represents the calibre of the timber industries supporters then it is no wonder that the Otway timber industry is in terminal decline.

Have Your Say On The Greater Otways National Park


The VEAC process is broken up into three stages:

1) Discussions paper, September 2003

2) Draft proposals paper, April 2004

3) Final Report to Minister, September 2004.

Visit OREN for details, info. and ideas or go straight to http://www.veac.vic.gov.au/

March '03

Usually loggers and the Forest Network appear to forever disagree over what should be logged and how it should be logged. At present, for a change, we are in furious agreement with the timber workers that state forests should not become the personal fiefdoms of regional sawmill owners. The present arrangement encourages, and is open to, exploitation and corruption.

We support the workers struggle for safe working conditions and decent wages. The current forest and timber industry management model is a social and environmental disaster.

As forests are a community resource they should be managed by communities not commercial overlords. As things stand, communities, workers and the environment lose while a priviledged elite prosper.

We also believe that the best interests of the environment, workers and society in general are better served by pursuing a timber and fibre production policy based on ecologically sustainable production in natural systems like forest rather than artificial systems like plantations.

Unfortunately the workers campaign is being poorly served by bad political judgement on the part of their belligerent leadership. The Forestry division of the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union) have again managed to harm the case of the workers by alienating the general public. As in the past, the outcomes of their strategies have tended to suit the agenda of the "big end" of the timber industry.






JAN '03

Recent fires remind us that we live on a remarkable and sometimes dangerous continent. We must somehow learn to live in harmony with the complex natural systems that have shaped the land. Unfortunately, some elements of the timber industry have exploited this tragedy by trying to point score over the environment movement. Ironically, on the fire front you will find both conservationists and timber workers fighting side by side to defend the lives and property of their community. Let's keep it that way.

We extend commiserations to victims of fire and support to the legions trying to help out.

As usual the ensuing debate has been enlivened with myth and fallacy but soon many will slide back into complacency.

Here is selection of links to information about news articles, environmentalists perspectives and the debate in various forums.




http://www2b.abc.net.au/news/forum/newsonline8/ ( These discussions are in the ABConline forum, "Playing with fire" is current while "Fighting fire with fire" is in the archives - bottom of window on left).





NOV '02

Great news - Liberals lose election. In a landmark move Labor plan to expand the Otways National Park, reduce woodchipping in the Wombat forest and separate DNRE into two departments; one for primary industry and the other for conservation (see government). John Thwaites is the new minister for these portfolios. We congratulate the new minister and hope for a fruitful relationship and productive developments in this area.