article is an extract from the transcript of a
program on Channel Nine aired in February 2003.
It is reprinted with many thanks and
acknowledgements to Channel Nine, the reporter
Graham Davis and the producer Nick Rushworth.
A full transcript can be found at
Tasmanian Fire Sale
Producer: Nick Rushworth
new species of green activist has joined the
long-running battle to save Tasmania's majestic
native trees. Erika Ford’s favoured weapon
isn’t the sit-in but her stockbroker -- using
her shares in Australia’s biggest logging
company to press for better forestry practices.
Ford’s first corporate foray was against the
Jabiluka uranium mine in the Northern
Territory. Now her sights are turned on
Gunns, the hugely profitable Tasmanian monopoly
converting vast areas of native forests into
"They’re saying on the one hand, oh yes this is
something that we should be protecting that’s
very special, but in practical terms they’re
doing bugger all," she says.
Already Ford’s holding in Gunn’s has produced
more than just a handsome financial dividend
sparing a brace of trees as tall as
lighthouses. It is, she says, just the
start. "I love to make money, I really do,"
she says, "but not at any cost."
To many Tasmanians, what’s at issue in this
debate isn’t new the wisdom of the state staking
its future on a billion dollar industry
employing just eight thousand people.
what will startle many mainlanders is the scale
of it all, just how much of the state’s native
forests has been cleared for plantations, more
than 60,000 hectares in the past five years
alone, much of it old growth dating back long
before white settlement.
vast bulk - more than 90 percent - winds up as
woodchip. Thousands of tonnes an hour are
shredded into little pieces 24 hours a day,
seven days a week. Then it is shipped
offshore to make paper.
this is not a story about whether the forests
should be logged nor about the scale of the
Whether you’re for or against forestry in
Tasmania, all of the parties have signed on to
codes of practice to ensure that the state’s
trees remain a renewable resource. The
nation has entrusted this precious resource to a
state that allows that loggers to regulate
themselves. And what passes for regulation
is essentially no regulation at all.
What’s happened at Reedy Marsh in recent weeks
raises serious questions not just about the
conduct of Gunns but about the conduct of the
statutory body that’s meant to regulate forestry
in Tasmania, the state’s Forest Practices Board.
was a plan submitted by two Forest Practices
Officers employed by Gunns to send the
bulldozers in to fell native trees at Reedy
Marsh and establish a plantation. The
problem is they’re rare and endangered forest
communities. Gunns had been told so by the
Board’s botanist - but its two officers didn’t
mention them in the application to log.
local activist Andrew Ricketts puts it: "If you
had self regulation on the highways and you were
driving down the road at 120 kilometres per hour
would you pull yourself over and stop and write
yourself out a ticket?"
Final portion of interviews transcript (the full
transcript of this interview can be found at
goes as follows …………..
(Channel Nine reporter): The call by
environmentalists for a royal commission into
the whole forest industry in Tasmania is
long-standing. Their concerns are, not just
about the regulatory framework, but the impact
on such things as water quality and native
species. Many here accuse the movement of
exaggerating, but it's not just the Greens who
Regulation! What regulation? There isn't
Don Steers grew up in the bush and once used
to snare native wildlife for meat and skins.
When that was banned, he turned to
state-sanctioned killing, laying a poison called
1080 on forestry coupes.
I'm just from an old bush family and, fair
dinkum, no wonder conservationists and people
get upset in this state. They're fully
justified and I don't blame them.
When plantation seedlings are laid, the
forestry industry protects them from browsing
animals by poisoning them with carrots laced
with 1080. It was Don Steers' job to lay
those carrots and then return to retrieve the
dead animals. This amateur video obtained by
Sunday is not for the squeamish. The
industry insists the animals die quickly.
The evidence shows otherwise.
I can't look you honestly in the face and say
that it kills every animal outright, because it
Don wasn't allowed to carry a gun, but faced
with a dying animal, did what he could.
I'd have to bash it to death or I'd get me
pocket knife out and it might sound harsh, and I
had to cut its throat, and that's fair dinkum.
That's the God's honest truth. It was
just bloody disgusting as far as I was
And what about the extent of the kill. What
sort of figures did you see?
Hundreds in some cases. Hundreds. Hundreds
of dead animals.
Including some protected species, wombats and
I love ring-tailed possum and to see them,
like, there was one block I was on there would
have been half a dozen plus, a whole family
group obviously under this Blackwood. There
was a little grove of Blackwood trees, only
about three or four, they were all dead.
Again, for many people — and not just the
Greens — it's the scale of what's happening in
Tasmania that's at issue, not whether logging
should or shouldn't take place. Only the most
ardent conservationist would want to place 8000
jobs at risk. Yet, if there are rules, they
should be adhered to, even if there's no
consensus on forestry, more of a balance should
be struck. The chasm of perception here is
obvious when you go to see logging's Mr. Big
(John Gay). What's good for the forestry
business in Tasmania is always good for the
rest. How do you feel about protected species
dying for your business?
Well, there's too many of them and we need to
keep them at a reasonable level.
You're saying there's too many wombats and
Yes, most certainly.
Why are they protected then? Why are they
classed as endangered?
JOHN GAY: Well, because the numbers are
getting too great and the ring-tailed possum is
a very small proportion of this. It's usually
the brush possums that are poisoned, not
Well, how can you say that, though, when you
concede that this thing kills everything?
Well, that everything that goes there to eat,
but I believe it is an acceptable practice.
It is acceptable practice to knock off all the
wildlife in the surrounding areas, so that you
can put your tree seedlings in?