Phantom Timber Costs Taxpayers Millions

MEDIA RELEASE   3/3/2015
Recently released data proves that the $8.55 million spent buying back timber commitments from Boral last year was for timber that never existed and so will do nothing to relieve the severe over-logging of north-east NSW’s public forests.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said that the evidence is that the supply crisis is worsening and sawmill owners will again demand that taxpayers pay many more millions for phantom timber that never existed and was given to the millers for free.

“This is on top of a loss of $11.8 million last financial year on the Forestry Corporation’s native forest logging operations. The year before last they lost $15 million.

“Last June when the Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, announced the $8.55 million buyback of 50,000 cubic metres of annual sawlog commitments from Boral she claimed it was “to reduce the harvest of high-quality saw logs on the North Coast to ensure the long-term sustainable supply of timber from the region’s forests”.

“It is now evident that even though this phantom timber was given to Boral for free in 2004 the Forestry Corporation has never been able to supply it.

“In 2003-4 Wood Supply Agreements for 221,700 cubic metres per annum of large hardwood sawlogs from public forests were given to north coast sawmillers for free until 2023. Despite trashing our forests the Forestry Corporation has never been able to supply these volumes because the commitments were based on grossly inflated yield assessments. Taxpayers have so far had to pay tens of millions to buy back timber that never existed, to purchase timber from private land for the millers, and pay them compensation.

“In 2006 and 2007 taxpayers paid $2.8 million to buy back 12,200 cubic metres per annum of non-existent timber, as well as millions more to buy timber from private land to help meet commitments. Even then the shortfall averaged over 30,000 cubic metres per annum for the 5 years 2004-9, and we had to pay unknown millions in compensation to sawmillers.

“This most recent data shows that despite the buybacks, from 2009-2014 the Forestry Corporation’s shortfall of large sawlogs doubled to 60,000 cubic metres per annum. The Minster’s announcement to buy back 50,000 cubic metres from Boral (starting this financial year) does not even cover this shortfall, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

“How many more millions are we going to have to pay to sawmill owners for phantom timber before our public forests are totally degraded? This is not sustainable. There needs to be an independent and open inquiry into this shameful situation.” Mr. Pugh said.


For background (see The Battle for Sustainable Yields is Lost).

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