Tasmanian woodland sale ‘could encourage sustainable forestry’

Around 29,000 hectares of hardwood plantations have been sold in Tasmania, according to the Australian government, and could allow for more sustainable forestry in the future.

Australian Resources Minister Guy Barnett has revealed that the plantations have been sold for AU$60.7 million to Reliance Forest Fibre as a means of allowing Sustainable Timber Tasmania to reduce their debt and become commercially viable.

In fact, Mr Barnett announced in parliament that the announcement would work towards the government’s future plans to secure a “sustainable future” for the residents of Tasmania that would allow “confidence and growth and opportunity” for the region’s forestry sector.

“The transaction will result in diversification of ownership in the forestry sector, bringing global expertise in capital to Tasmania creating more jobs,” he added.

According to the government, the Reliance Forest Fibre organisation is owned by investment fund that have been advised by Global Forest Partners (GFP) Ltd, an international organisation that owns around 700,000 hectares of timberland worth around $3.7 billion.

However, in spite of the Australian government’s positivity, the Greens and other environmentally focused groups have stated that Reliance Forest Fibre was only registered in July of this year, with documents suggesting holding firm GFP could have offshore links in the Cayman Islands.

Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor has further revealed that previous estimates of the worth of the Tasmanian hardwood plantations suggested they were worth at least $101 million, and added that the Tasmanian people could have lost out.

The Wilderness Society has also suggested that taxpayers could have lost out. Vica Bayley of the Wilderness Society said: “Flogging off publicly owned plantations at a massive loss to subsidise unviable native forest logging operations is a desperate last-ditch effort to hide the ongoing failures of Premier (Will) Hodgman’s chaotic approach to forestry.”

Despite these concerns, Health Minister Michael Ferguson reportedly believes there should not be any doubt over the legitimacy of the “robust” deal, adding that the investment to the state will be beneficial to workers and taxpayers in the long term. “This has been an appropriately arms-length negotiation and process,” he said.

According to Mr Ferguson, the funds secured from the sale will also allow for the contribution of $15 million to the health system.

He continued: “We’ll continue to do our work to employ more staff and to open more resources including beds, so we can meet demand and give Tasmanians the health system we know they deserve.”

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