Tiwi Islands – Northern Territory

Archive for October, 2008

Great Southern Ordered to pay $2Million for Breaches on Melville Island

Posted by tiwiccbb on October 16, 2008

Australian Coat of Arms logo
Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts logo

The Hon Peter Garrett MP

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Federal Member for Lingiari logo
The Hon Warren Snowdon MP
Federal Member for Lingiari
PG /153

16 October 2008


Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, today announced a raft of tough measures, including up
to $2 million for remediation works, to be imposed on forestry operations at the Tiwi Islands,
Northern Territory, following a breach of approval conditions.
Mr Garrett said clearing carried out at the plantations between 2004 and 2006 had
encroached on required buffer zones which protected important rainforests and wetlands.
“Any action which impacts on a matter of national environmental significance as defined
under the national environment legislation is something which I take very seriously and the
new conditions I am announcing today reflect that. In particular, the forestry operator will be
required to undertake and pay for comprehensive remedial action.
“My department has undertaken investigations into these breaches, and following an
admission by the company involved regarding the detail of the breaches, I have imposed
new conditions requiring measures to remedy the damage done, and for additional and
ongoing environmental benefits to the area.”
Mr Garrett said that as well as adding new conditions to the operator’s existing federal
approval, a $1million bond must be posted by the company to ensure the necessary
remediation works were completed.
“The new conditions require the operator to fix all incursions into the rainforest and wetland
buffers and I have also required the operator to pay a financial contribution of $1.35 million,
over three years, to the Tiwi Land Council for use in the Indigenous Rangers Program. This
funding will support the rangers to carry out environmental works and projects, including the
control of feral pigs and exotic grasses.
Federal member for Lingiari, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, said it was a positive outcome
for the people of the Tiwi Islands.
“This extra commitment of funds will help the Tiwi Land Council to manage the environment,
and will ensure that jobs will stay,” said Mr Snowdon.
The Tiwi Islands plantation project involves clearing native forests to establish up to
26,000ha of hardwood Acacia mangiumplantations on western Melville Island in the Tiwi
Islands group.
The project’s approval stipulated that clearing was not to occur within set buffer zones
designed to protect important rainforest and wetland habitats used by threatened species
protected under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The joint initiative of Sylvatech and the Tiwi Land Council was approved in August 2001.


Posted in Christine Milne, environment, Global initiative on Forests and Climate, Great Southern, Indigenous, Landclearing, Northern Territory, Tiwi Islands, Tiwi Red | 5 Comments »

Taracumbie Falls – “All but destroyed” Marion Scrymgour calls on fed Govt to act

Posted by tiwiccbb on October 10, 2008


> A much-loved waterfall close to a major forestry plantation on the Tiwi
> Islands north of Darwin has been all but destroyed. Footage has been obtained
> showing the devastation and it’s prompted the Northern Territory’s Deputy
> Leader to call on the Federal Government to act.

> REPTR: This is what the Taracumbie Falls on the Tiwi Islands
> north of Darwin used to look like. The swimming spot
> is about 2km by road from a major forestry plantation
> and closer to (INAUDIBLE) for years it’s been a
> favorite with Melville Island children as well as the
> odd visiting football team. But this is what has
> happened to Taracumbie the ABC’s obtained footage
> shot at the cite earlier this year. It’s left some
> people very unhappy, including the local MLA who’s
> also the deputy Leader of the Northern Territory.
> SCRYMGOUR: It is quite a sad inditement that we do want
> development, we do want economic development to
> happen in these remote communities, but it shouldn’t
> come as a cost to the environment or the surroundings
> of a beautiful spot.
> REPTR: The Tiwi Land Council has worked along side the
> forestry company Great Southern Plantations. The
> Federal Government has spent nearly 2 years
> investigating allegations Great Southern breeched
> it’s environmental commitments, including buffer
> zones. The Council isn’t sure if the waterfall is in
> one of those zones but says the waterfalls banks had
> been unstable for many years. In a statement Great
> Southern plantation says it’s forrestly operations
> didn’t cause the damage and that it conducts it’s
> operations in a compliant and sustainable way. But
> the Territory’s Deputy Leader wants the Federal
> Government to act on what it does know about earlier
> environmental breeches.
> SCRYMGOUR: They’ve been sitting on their hands for well over 12,
> nearly 2 years with this report. It was with the
> previous Government, it is now with this Government
> and sadly I know that on the Tiwi Islands people want
> some answers.
> REPTR: She says she’ll meet with the Federal Environment
> Minister to push the point home over the next few
> days.

Posted in Abetz, Blogroll, buffer, Christine Milne, environment, Global initiative on Forests and Climate, Great Southern, Howard, Indigenous, Landclearing, Northern Territory, Rudd, Tiwi Islands, Tiwi Red, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Forestry Expert (CSIRO) Questions Viability of Tiwi Forestry Project

Posted by tiwiccbb on October 10, 2008

by Ken Eldridge

About 26 000 ha of savannah woodland on Melville Island has been cleared and planted with an Australian tropical acacia (Acacia mangium) for production of pulpwood for export. Is it right to clear native forest for industrial plantations? Not in Queensland any more or the southern states where this practice was prohibited by legislation more than 30 years ago.

On 25 August 2008 a group of 17 members of the Institute of Foresters of Australia (IFA) were guests of Great Southern Forestry N T Pty Ltd(GSL) to see the acacia plantation project on Melville Island.

We flew in planes chartered by GSL to Maxwell Creek, the GSL headquarters where there is accommodation for up to 230 workers and maintenance workshops for heavy equipment. It is like a mining camp where workers, mainly contractors, are on a fly-in-fly-out basis with 9 days work and 5 days off and a 12-hour working day. Very few of the current GSL workforce are Tiwi.

After harvesting large sound eucalypt logs for export, the remaining forest is cleared with a chain between two large bulldozers, heaped, burned and ploughed. Much of the plantation has been established with genetically unimproved ‘wild’ seed from native forests in Papua New Guinea.

My personal impression, as a tree breeder with 50 years experience of industrial plantations of many species in several countries, was that GSL had achieved good survival and weed control, and the trees were healthy with little damage from insects or fungi. However, the stem and branch form was not good, many trees having forks, crooked stems or coarse branches, even after ‘form pruning’ at age 1 to 2 years. Such form is common when genetically unimproved ‘wild’ seed is used in Acacia mangium plantations elsewhere. A higher pulpwood price will be needed to compensate for the reduced yield and the cost and difficulty of harvesting and debarking trees of such poor form, prior to chipping for export at age 8 to 10 years.

Apart from the possible risk of low returns due to tree form, there are obvious risks from cyclone and fire. Cyclone Ingrid in 2005 caused so much damage to plantations older than three years that they were replanted.

The first 26 000 ha are mainly where the old growth forest was tallest, the land well drained and not steeper than about 5 degrees. Mature height of the native forest is a good indicator of the growth rate of plantation. On sites of lower productivity there would be less prospect for profitable return on the plantation investment.

There are many questions to ask about the Tiwi forestry project. The main one is ‘who gains, and who loses’? Investors in GSL’s Managed Investment Scheme have immediate gain from 100% tax deductibility on the whole of their investment of several thousand dollars per ha. A net profit at harvest would be a bonus, but subject to capital gains tax. The Tiwi clan groups who have freehold of the land receive a very small amount for leasing their land to GSL compared with GSL’s lease payments to grow blue gum in southern Western Australia. The Tiwi investment company Pirntubula receives any royalties from exported eucalypt logs and later from wood chip exports.

Melville Island has a 50-year history of forestry development intended to benefit the Tiwi people. In the early years there were small sawmills sawing eucalypts and cypress. The first plantations in the 1960s were of cypress (Callitris intratropica), along with trials of many other tree species. By the 1970s the slow growth of the 1700 ha of cypress led to a change to Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis), 2200 ha, but there were marketing problems. There was considerable Commonwealth Government investment in forestry research and development between 1960 and 1978.

One of the losers from the Tiwi forestry project is the native forest ecosystem, irreversibly destroyed by clearing. There is a need to consider a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative System (CARS) as in other parts of Australia, as part of an overall forest policy for the Northern Territory. The IFA advocates that the policy should also include a Code of Practice addressing clearing of native forest and such social issues as availability of land and labour.

Acacia mangium in Central Vietnam grown from genetically improved seed, age 2 years, no form pruning (photo Khongsak Pinyopusarerk)

Acacia mangium in Central Vietnam grown from genetically improved seed, age 2 years, no form pruning (photo Khongsak Pinyopusarerk)  – please click on photo to view in full –

Acacia mangium on Melville Island, age 3 years, after form pruning (photo Ken Eldridge)
Acacia mangium on Melville Island, age 3 years, after form pruning (photo Ken Eldridge)

Tiwi Forestry Project

Posted in environment, Global initiative on Forests and Climate, Great Southern, Indigenous, Landclearing, Northern Territory, Tiwi Islands | 1 Comment »