Tiwi Islands – Northern Territory

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.


5 Responses to “Great Southern Ordered to pay $2Million for Breaches on Melville Island”

  1. Anonymous said

    Forest firm told to pay $2m for damaging islands
    Marian Wilkinson, Environment Editor
    October 16, 2008

    ONE of Australia’s largest forest plantation companies has been ordered to pay $2 million after a Federal Government investigation of its operations on the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory found it had failed to protect vital rainforests and wetlands.

    The federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, has ordered Great Southern Plantations to carry out $2 million in damage repairs after the company breached crucial buffer zones that are supposed to protect the rainforests and wetlands on the Tiwi Islands from the areas bulldozed for plantations.

    The Tiwi Islands have been described as the “jewel in the crown” of the northern forests. The company undertook to clear native forests on the islands to set up a 26,000-hectare hardwood plantation. In 2006 its Tiwi operation was the largest native-forest clearing project in northern Australia.

    The federal action against the company is one of the most dramatic imposed on a forestry company. Last night Mr Garrett said he took the breaches “very seriously”. He said he was also imposing new conditions on Great Southern’s Tiwi plantation including demanding a $1 million bond on the company to ensure the buffer zones were repaired and ordering it to pay another $1.35 million to the Tiwi Land Council for an Aboriginal ranger program.

    “I have imposed new conditions requiring measures to remedy the damage done and for additional and ongoing environmental benefits to the area,” he said.

    But conservationists argue the Tiwi Islands plantation has been a mistake from the beginning. The plantation was originally approved by the Howard government in 2001, which allowed the company to bulldoze native forests in the sensitive tropical environment.

    “The breaches are just symptoms of a project that should never have been approved,” said Charles Roche, of the Northern Territory Environment Centre.

    “Most of the damage is from the project itself. We shouldn’t be approving the clearing of native vegetation on the Tiwi Islands. It’s bloody stupid.”

    Great Southern Plantations is one of the biggest plantation businesses in Australia, heavily driven by tax incentives and with around $1.5 billion invested. But its Tiwi Islands plantation has been dogged by controversy since its inception.

    Last year the Greens senator Christine Milne and other leading conservationists called for a halt to any further expansion of the project.

    . A spokesman for the company, David Ikin, said yesterday the company admitted it had made “some inadvertent mistakes in the past”.

    But he said improvements in “managerial techniques” and mapping had improved operations.

  2. tiwiccbb said


    * * * MEDIA RELEASE * * *


    Thursday 16th of October 2008

    The Wilderness Society today welcomed the decision by Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, to impose tough new conditions on logging giant, Great Southern Plantations, for a range of serious breaches of environmental conditions related to its controversial clearing of 26 000 hectares of forests and woodlands on the Tiwi islands, north of Darwin.

    The environment group has also sought a commitment from the company and the Australian and Northern Territory Government’s that further landclearing on the islands, including the proposed stage 2 of the project which would involve the further clearing of between 30 000 and 50 000 hectares of forests, would not proceed.

    Lyndon Schneiders, Northern Australia Campaign Manager for The Wilderness Society said, “This is a strong statement by Minister Garrett that if companies break environmental laws, they will be punished. In total, the company will be required to pay hefty fines to undertake rehabilitation and to fund the employment of Indigenous Rangers.”

    For further information or comment, contact Lyndon Schneiders, Northern Australia Campaign Manager, The Wilderness Society, 0407 667 076

  3. Anonymous said

    Future Forestry Plans Will Be Scrutinised
    Posted Fri Oct 17, 2008 4:14pm AEDT

    The Government says any expansion of plantation timber would be scrutinised. (ABC: Wendy Carlisle)

    The Northern Territory Government says any expansion of plantation timber on the Tiwi Islands will go through a public process.

    Great Southern will pay out over $4 million after a Commonwealth investigation found it breached environmental guidelines to develop its existing 26,000 hectares.

    Local member and Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour is pleased the investigation is over.

    “You can only work with the company to try to redress the breaches,” she said.

    The company has previously cited the potential for a further 40,000 hectares and Ms Scrymgour says any plans will be thoroughly scrutinised.

    Great Southern’s David Ikin says further expansions would be driven by the locals.

    “At this stage no decision has been made as to a possible expansion of the project,” he said.

    The existing plantations will be harvested from 2012.

  4. Anonymous said

    Tiwi Island elder says fined forest firm still a threat
    Posted Thu Oct 16, 2008 11:11pm AEDT
    Updated Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:27am AEDT

    An elder from the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, says sacred land will be threatened as long as a forestry company continues to operate on the islands.

    Great Southern Limited has been fined $4 million for clearing a protected area.

    After a two-year investigation, the Federal Government has found Great Southern Limited breached environmental conditions by clearing into a buffer zone that protects rainforests and wetlands.

    A spokesman for the company, David Ikin, says it was mistake caused by inadequate mapping.

    “There was no evidence from the Department’s investigation of harm to matters of environmental significance,” he said.

    But Marjorie Liddy, an elder from Melville Island, says the cleared land is sacred.

    “We had a beautiful waterfall and that just about got wrecked this year, and now they’re planning to knock more trees,” she said.

    The Australian Wilderness Society wants the details of the Government’s investigation made public.

  5. tiwiccbb said

    Official Hansard
    No. 1, 2008
    Tuesday, 3 February 2009

    page 187

    …Tiwi Islands
    (Question No. 830)
    Senator Siewert asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage
    and the Arts, upon notice, on 17 November 2008:
    (1) Why was there no reference in the Minister’s media statement on 16 October 2008, ‘Tough measures
    placed on Tiwi plantations’, to the name of the company that legally owns and operates the
    Tiwi plantation project and which is being penalised for serious environmental breaches on the
    Tiwi Islands.
    (2) Is the Minister aware that on the Great Southern Limited’s website it states that Great Southern
    Managers Australia Limited, a corporate entity of Great Southern Limited, is the ‘Responsible Entity
    and Plantation Manager’ on the Tiwi Islands.
    (3) In the Minister’s amended environmental conditions placed on the Tiwi plantation project, dated
    13 October 2008, the ‘Person to whom the approval is granted’ is named as Sylvatech Limited: is
    this the legal entity responsible for carrying out the project and abiding by its conditions.
    (4) In the course of the past 2 years of investigations into these environmental breaches, did the Minister
    or any departmental officials ever meet with any persons who presented themselves as representatives
    or employees of Sylvatech Limited; if so, whom and on what dates.
    (5) If Great Southern Limited is the responsible legal entity, and given that the Government has not
    named Great Southern Limited as the legally-responsible entity for the purposes of the Environ188
    SENATE Tuesday, 3 February 2009
    ment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 approval conditions: will the Minister order
    an immediate change to the relevant documents; if not, why not.
    (6) In regard to the remediation plan which is now required from Great Southern Limited to address
    the ecological damage it has caused on the Tiwi Islands: who will be preparing that plan and will it
    be released for public comment prior to the Minister’s approval.
    Senator Wong—The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has provided the
    following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
    (1) The media statement of 16 October 2008 states that the forestry project is a joint initiative of ‘Sylvatech
    and the Tiwi Land Council’.
    (2) The approval was issued to the Australian Plantation Group Pty Limited and Tiwi Land Council in
    2001 pursuant to section 133 of the Environment protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
    1999 (EPBC Act). The Australian Plantation Group Pty Limited was later acquired by Great Southern
    Limited. The Australian Plantation Group Pty Ltd underwent a name change to Sylvatech Limited
    (ABN unchanged) and, as such, the approval variation was issued to Sylvatech Limited.
    (3) Sylvatech Limited is the legal entity responsible for carrying out the project and abiding by the
    conditions of approval pursuant to the EPBC Act.
    (4) Meetings between Departmental officers and employees or representatives of Sylvatech Limited
    and Great Southern Limited occurred on 12 June 2007, 16 October 2007, 16 April 2008, 22 May
    2008 and 21 August 2008. Parties present variously included officers from the Department’s Compliance
    and Enforcement Branch, lawyers from the Australian Government Solicitor acting on behalf
    of the Department, the Executive Director of Great Southern Limited, Legal Counsel for Great
    Southern Limited, lawyers from Freehills acting on behalf of Great Southern Limited and Sylvatech
    Limited, and employees and consultants representing Sylvatech Limited.
    (5) As Sylvatech Limited is the responsible legal entity, there is no requirement for a change to the
    documents relating to the conditions of approval (see above).
    (6) CSIRO have been engaged by Sylvatech Limited to prepare the remediation plan required as part
    of the conditions of approval. There is no requirement under the conditions of approval for this
    plan to be released for public comment prior to the Minister’s consideration.

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