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Woodchips are not evil

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Protesting the renewal o f Australia’s export woodchip licences is an annual ritual for the environmentalists and their media and political sympathisers. They demand the immediate cancellation o f export licences and the cessation o f native forest logging.

What is wrong with woodchips? From the industries viewpoint, woodchips are the feedstock for most reconstituted wood products (i.e., pulp, paper and some wood boards). They’re also a good way to sell residues that might overwise be wasted, and a convenient way to transport

woodfibre long distances.

When protesting woodchip exports, the environment lobby usually raises a host o f associated issues. But all o f these are already addressed and managed properly under other rules and regulations.

First, many people are concerned about the protection o f “ high conservation value” forests. This is a land-use decision: how much forest do we want in national parks and conservation reserves, etc. This issue is currently being readdressed on a regional basis through the National Forest Policy Statement and the National Protected Areas Strategy.

Second, some people object to the way timber harvesting is carried out, especially the use o f clearcutting. All timber harvesting in Australia is regulated by government agencies and is based on scientific research. Clear felling is not pretty, but it is a necessary logging practice in some circumstances to ensure that the forest is properly renewed.

Third, it is often said that the woodchips are a low value product and are mostly exported. In fact, about half o f Australia’s woodchip production is consumed domestically and the remainder is exported. Australia earns about $450 million a year from woodchip exports, which are surplus to domestic requirements.

In creating sawn timber, wood residues are an unavoidable by-product, both in the forests and at the mills. Woodchips are a way o f using these residues. The only alternative is to leave them to waste.

The final report o f the Resource Assessment Commission’s Forest and Timber inquiry (1992) noted that woodchips create an important commercial outlet for the residual wood in many forests, i.e. “ the trees that are unsuitable for sawlogs and that would be left standing in the forest, so leading to poor stand structure or be cut and left to rot or burn”.

The forest products sector has about 1620 sawmills, 30 board plants and 20 paper mills. All these industries, as well as private and public owners o f commercial forests, are dependent, one way or another, on a viable market for woodchips.

It is a myth to claim that the Australian forest sector is driven by the desire to export woodchips. The analogy is to suggest that the cattle industry would rather produce blood and bone meal than prime steaks! ( C B )

Further information: Forest InrtnstripsJ O Box E89, Queen Victoria Terrace, ACT 2600 Phone: 06 2853833 Fax: 06 2853855



Australia Prime Minister of the Commonweall Paul Keating

Premier of the State of New South Wales John Fahey

Premier of the State of Victoria Jeff Kennett

Prem iercythe State of Queensland Wayne Goss

Dr Carmen Lawrence Premier of the State of Western Australia

Rosemary Follett Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory

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* Environment Groups meeting at National Forest Summit

’ Australian Conservation Foundation Australian National Parks Council Conservation Council of South Australia Conservation Council of the South-East Region and Canberra

Earth Repair Foundation Environment Victoria Friends of the Earth Goongerah Environment Centre National Parks Association of NSW Native Forest Network

Nature Conservation Council of NSW North Coast Environment Council North East Forest Alliance South East Forest Alliance South East Forests Conservation Council Western Australian Forest Alliance The Wilderness Society