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Thursday, 23 June 1994
Page: 1950

Senator BELL —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Resources. I refer to that minister's recent media release announcing an increase in the 1994 woodchip export for Tasmania to 3.1 million tonnes and I ask: how has the minister suddenly discovered that an extra 200,000 tonnes of woodchip can now be exported from Tasmania without increasing the number or size of coupes approved for logging last December? Recognising that not all of the extra will come from sawmill waste, might we assume that the coupes agreed to last year could have been deliberately larger than required by the quota in order to approve subsequently through the backdoor an increase in the Tasmanian woodchip quota to the year 2000? Finally, I ask: what will the minister do to ensure that the Tasmanian Forestry Commission complies with Australia's international obligations under the convention on biological diversity, obligations the commission is now flagrantly violating in refusing to conduct a fauna survey in Reedy Marsh in northern Tasmania.

Senator COLLINS —The minister has not suddenly discovered this additional 200,000 tonnes. He did recently announce approval for a woodchip export licence for Gunns Ltd for 200,000 tonnes of timber. The effect of this was to increase the annual licensed maximum of hardwood chip exports to 3.1 million tonnes. The minister approved this licence on the basis that the wood to supply these woodchips would come from operations approved in December last year for operations in 1994. This will not involve the cutting of additional coupes or increases in the size of the coupes. The harvesting of coupes to provide sawlog material, despite the contentions of Senator Bell, does produce wood suitable for the production of woodchips to this amount. A surplus of this wood exists, which, if it were not used as woodchip, would otherwise be wasted.

  The contention of Senator Bell that the size of the coupes approved last year was deliberately larger than required is not correct. The size of the coupes is established by the Tasmanian Forestry Commission, taking into account a range of forest management and conservation requirements. In many cases, the size of the coupes is established several years before approval is sought for the export of woodchips from those coupes. In relation to logging in Reedy Marsh, or anywhere else in Tasmania, it is an absolute requirement of Tasmania's forest practices code that pre-logging surveys including fauna are conducted.