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Upper Catchment Issues Vol 1 No 2 Section 4

Author: Tasmanian Community Resource Auditors Incorporated

Section Four

Forestry Tasmania's Management Performance


According to the FPC January 1993:

Assessment of the Area

MAEMG were advised by FT 15/3/01 (appendix 2) that assessment of vegetation type, hydration and soil type had occurred through consultation with relevant maps, although the planner had visited the coupe, and had "realised that there were patches of rainforests within the coupe" (presumably not identified on the map) estimated to be around 20 ha (appendix 2).Classification of class 1, 2 and 3 streams occurred by defining their catchment on the 1:25000 contour map. "The final classification for all streams including class 4 streams is made by the Forest Practices Officer, Planning in preparing the FPP." (appendix 2).

MAEMG were also advised that proper assessment of fauna including threatened species had occurred. (appendix 2).

Mismatches with MAEMG audit in relation to area assessment:

There is strong evidence of inadequate assessment of the coupe in the planning process, particularly in relation to threatened fauna and stream classification within the area defined by the variation to the FPP. Although the area defined by the variation was assessed as having "no new special values" (appendix 3), and was originally assessed as appropriate for plantation establishment, the revegetation plan has subsequently been changed to "reforest this section of the coupe by natural regeneration processes" (appendix 7). Although MAEMG welcomes this change to the plan, it sees it as proof that the area was inadequately assessed in the first place, being quite unsuitable for harvesting, and plantation establishment.

Definition of the Coupe

According to the FPC January 1993, section C. HARVESTING of TIMBER; Dispersed Harvesting Design for Large Areas of Native Forest in keeping with dispersement principles, the maximum coupe size for clear-felling native forest should not exceed 100 ha (p.23).

Mismatch with MAEMG audit in relation to coupe definition:

Application for variation to the FPP

On the morning of 27/2/01 Mr. S. Wearne (current member MAEMG) approached the contractor who was harvesting on the topside of Mt Arthur Road and asked to see the FPP. The contractor did not have it. FT was contacted, and FT officer Mr. T. Houghton was unable to locate the plan in the Bass District office. In the afternoon, Mr. Houghton approached the contractor also finding that he was operating without an FPP. Operations were then suspended in the area above Mt. Arthur Road until the plan was produced which took three days. When produced, the application for variation to the FPP, had not been signed by the contractor or the timber processor. The variation to the plan had no attached map and did not define or describe any features specific to the site, such as threatened fauna sites or potential habitat, or streams (appendix 3). Despite several approaches by MAEMG to FT for further documentation in regards to this variation to the FPP no additional paperwork was ever produced for MAEMG.

Mismatch with MAEMG audit in relation to variation of FPP:

Questions asked by MAEMG

Was the intended area defined by the variation to the FPP for coupe LI 126C listed in FT's 3 year plan, and the relevant authorities/local governments appropriately notified as per Forest Practices Act 1985 (No. 48 of 1985) Part III, Plans Division 2, 3 year Plans, section 27.6

Supervision of Operations

Implementation of the FPC and FPP
FT Personnel responsible for adherence to the Forest Practices Code and Forest Practices Plan

Forestry Tasmania is the agency charged with overseeing all forestry operations in our State Forests. The FPB's report states "...not all contractors carry and refer to an up to date copy of the FPP and map. Often this arises because forest workers may rely upon day to day directions from a supervising forest officer employed by Forestry Tasmania or a forest company. Nevertheless, although not legally required, good practice dictates that a sound working knowledge of the relevant sections of the plan and map should be held by all persons associated with the operation." (appendix 7) As the contractor was found operating without a plan while harvesting, it is concluded that he was "relying upon the day to day direction from a supervising forest officer employed by FT."

Mismatches with MAEMG Audit in relation to operations:

  1. If the contractor was relying on the day to day direction from a supervising forest officer, then why wasn't the contractor advised by officers of FT to withdraw from the area above the Mt Arthur Road, after harvesting operations had revealed significant springs and watercourses?
  2. Lack of working knowledge of the Code exhibited by FT personnel;

    Questioning of Forestry Tasmania Personnel throughout MAEMG audit revealed a lack of knowledge of both FPC 2000 and January 1993

    This was admitted to in separate interviews by
    • Paul Rosevear (Planning Officer) interview with MAEMG 6/3/01.
    • Kim Creak (State Operations Manager FT) in his submission to Launceston City Council 26/3/01 where he stated "I'm no expert in the FPC; my Forest Practices Officers and Forest Planning Officers are far more expert than I am on that."
  3. Lack of Training of Contractors

All contractors should be familiar with the Forest Practices Code if they can reasonably be expected to comply with it during operations. According to Forestry Tasmania's schedule (printed in The Examiner Tuesday 6/3/01) although there were 13 scheduled training courses (of 2 days duration) for the year covering Forest Practices Code: Introduction, Harvesting, Roading and Site Preparation for new entrants, there were no training days offered for existing contractors, even though the new code became operational as of 1/1/01. After MAEMG raised this issue with FT, the contractors on the coupe were offered a training session in mid March - nearly three months after implementation of new Code, and over three months after they had begun harvesting operations in the coupe area defined by the variation to the FPP.

MAEMG contends that neither the contractor, nor FT personnel had "a sound working knowledge of the relevant sections of the plan and map".

Community consultation

Community consultation has been variable throughout operations in the area. It is noted that Forestry Tasmania did provide group members with some information via correspondence and face to face interviews, in response to MAEMG requests. However, having expressed interest in the future of the area (in particular the area defined by the variation to the FPP) two members of MAEMG were (despite assurances to the contrary) not notified that harvesting had commenced.

The FPC Jan 1993 section F 3 states "Interested parties, particularly owners of adjoining properties should be kept fully informed of any proposed aerial spraying operations" (p.82)

Mismatches with MAEMG audit in relation to community consultation:

In direct contravention to this, the closest neighbour Mrs. F Withopf was not fully informed regarding the commencement of aerial spraying of herbicides. Mrs. Withopf contacted Mr. B. Farmer (FT Bass District Office) personally by telephone on the 18th April 2001, two days before spraying commenced (see appendix 16). She questioned whether aerial spraying was likely to commence on the coupe LI 126C. Mr. Farmer affirmed the likelihood of this happening. She asked when this would occur and was told that it could be in the next few days. She then specifically requested that she would be notified. Although Mr. Farmer agreed to this request, neither Mrs. Withopf, nor any other member of MAEMG was notified that helicopter spraying would commence on the 20th of April 2001 (see appendix 21). Mrs. Withopf, alerted by the presence of a helicopter, telephoned Mr. Farmer on the 20th April and was advised that Forestry Tasmania had made a conscious decision to aerial spray without consulting her because "after talking to my superior about the spraying of the coupe we decided that you should not be informed" (appendix 21). Mrs. Withopf was also advised that the chemical used in the spraying was "safer than drinking seawater", and "safe to shower with", by a senior Forestry supervisor (appendix 21).