Environmental fears could cripple $53m Gympie industry
MISGUIDED environmental concerns threaten to cripple one of the Gympie region's most important and sustainable industries, it was claimed yesterday.
Forestry and logging generated more than $39.4 million in the 2017-18 financial year in this region. Another $13.6 million came from agriculture, forestry and fishing support services.
But Private Forestry Service Queensland executive officer Sean Ryan said even tree farmers and landowners preserving hardwood forests on their properties were now being denied a right to harvest.
He warned that one result of this would be pressure on landowners to cease preserving their forests and clear their land before they are prevented from using it at all.
This meant major mills in the Gympie region and nearby were constantly concerned about the availability of supplies.
He said the State Government seemed to prefer the clearing of forests in the Solomons, PNG and Indonesia, where Australia now gets much of its timber and where there are few environmental protections.
Mr Ryan said the constant threat of more and tighter restrictions recalled the timber clearing crisis of 1999, when the lead-up to the Vegetation Management Act saw more land cleared in Queensland in one year than had occurred across Queensland in the previous decade.
"If people can't harvest, they won't plant these forests," he said.
The timber oriented environmental group Planet Ark has also repeatedly pointed out the value of harvested timber as a permanent storage for carbon dioxide, extracted from the air by sustainable forests.
Mr Ryan said even private foresters, who had committed to growing native hardwoods, were finding the rules changed around them, with little regard for the good faith they showed in planting renewable timber forests in the beginning.
He said the effect of this so far was massive environmental destruction overseas, as the nation found itself importing 100,000cu m of milled timber a year from Papua New Guinea and the Solomons.
Mr Ryan said three major Gympie region mills potentially affected by changing regulations included Robertson Brothers, Mary Valley Sawmill and Gympie Timber Company.
"It's not just the jobs at those sawmills, but all the people who maintain equipment, drive trucks and run businesses where they spend their pay," he said.
Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien accused the Queensland Government of dragging its feet on forestry agreements and Opposition Agriculture spokesman Tony Perrett said access to timber on state owned land would be limited from 2024, a deadline which was now fast approaching.