The RIC Good Wood Guide

Plantation vs. Old Growth Timber

Make the right choice in timber - our forests are in your hands!

Fenella Barry - The Wilderness Society 2

  • Housing construction consumes a significant amount of Australian native timber (hardwood). This is mainly sourced from our beautiful, untouched tall eucalypt forests in Queensland and north-east NSW to East Gippsland, Tasmania and the south-west of Western Australia.
  • Nowhere in Australia are public land native forests logged at an ecologically-sustainable level. In New South Wales and Tasmania, the vast percentage of native trees that are logged end up in the chipper to be exported to Japan and 'sold for a song' to make disposable paper products.
  • Each and every day, the equivalent of over 3000 3 football fields-worth of our native forest are clearfelled in Australia. This rate of destruction has resulted in a significant loss of forest habitats, placing further pressure on threatened species of plants and animals, increasing soil erosion and reducing water flows in streams and rivers.
  • Plantations are the only sector of the timber industry that are not heavily subsidised by taxpayers.

  • Multinational woodchipping companies are keeping the native forest timber industry in business. The export-woodchipping industry is likely to exploit native forests to maximise profits during the next few years, instead of the industry as a whole moving to more sustainable, longer term options such as paper recycling and plantation-based timber.
  • Since the early 1970's, despite an ever-increasing volume of wood being extracted from our native forests, overall employment in the logging industry has decreased substantially. A recent study found that 98 percent of job losses in the industry during 1971-1989 were due to increased mechanisation, competition from plantation timber and the industry running out of forest due to over-cutting. Only 2 percent of job losses were caused by forest being reserved (ie, as National Parks, World Heritage listings, etc).

  • 1. See also the article The Case for Plantations, by Sean Cadman of the Native Forest Network.

    2. The Wilderness Society is just one of many conservation groups which wants to see an immediate end to all old growth forest logging. (See Forest Activist Groups in the Alternative Directory).

    3. This seemingly outlandish figure of 3000 football fields per day being cleared was the 1990 estimate. It may be close to double that amount now, as the end of the millenium approaches. The Biodiversity Unit of the Commonwealth Dept of Environment, Sport & Territories stated that, for 1994, permits for the clearing of 1,079,297 hectares of land were granted in Queensland alone. (Refer to the book, The National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity - see Books, Miscellaneous in the Alternative Directory.)

    4. While it is widely accepted that the timber industry needs to shift out of native forest logging with all haste, it is by no means a consensus viewpoint that there is presently in place sufficient plantation resource "for our current and expanding needs". If the end-use of some plantation softwood entails, for example, it's being treated with toxic chemical preservatives, then there remains a cloud over its eligibility for being deemed a responsibly used resource. Quantities of durable softwoods and hardwoods are not yet available, so preservative-dependent timber will be an unfortunate fact of life for some time to come.

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