Tiwi Islands – Northern Territory

About

The Tiwi Islands (2007)

An important story is unfolding in Australia’s remote north – one that questions how far this country has come since colonisation.

The common thread that runs through this story is the enormous influence of one white man, John Hicks, who has used his 20 year tenure as Executive Secretary/CEO of the Tiwi Land Council, to benefit  big business.

This is a story of federally condoned environmental vandalism by one of Australia’s top 200 companies, Great Southern (GSL). The great wilderness forests of the Tiwi Islands are being rapidly clear-felled to make way for plantations of fast growing Acacias, to be exported as woodchip. Described as a partnership between Great Southern and Tiwi people, this is an investor driven tax scheme that returns little to the Tiwi community, whilst destroying traditional hunting grounds and possible sacred sites. It is alleged that rare and unique patches of rainforest have been cleared despite agreements for 400m buffer zones. The old growth hardwood logs are marketed and shipped from a purpose built, ABA funded port, to China. Tiwi have been told these hardwood trees are worthless, whilst Great Southern’s marketing and shipping company, Pentarch boasts of the shipments being worth $100million US over 5 years. Tiwi people received absolutely nothing from the first 6 shipments.

The project is targeting the best quality, most productive eucalypt forest ecosystems on Melville Island – thereby putting at risk many native species, as described by a recent scientific research paper. It has been suggested the plantation is only an excuse to get hold of the beautiful forest timbers, mainly Darwin Stringybark, Melville Island Bloodwood,Darwin Woollybutt. Worth more than the acacia plantations will ever be, Pentarch markets these species as Red Tiwi “plantation” timbers.

The proponents are seeking Commonwealth approval for up to an ADDITIONAL 50,000 ha (500 square kilometers) of native forest clearing – which if approved would wipe out a large proportion of the high quality eucalypt forest habitat on the Tiwi Islands. Recent DEH-approved clear felling of 10,000 hectares of Tiwi native forest makes this project comparable to the total native forest clear felling currently occurring in the whole of Tasmania: ~12,000 ha/yr.

This project has major  Commonwealth greenhouse gas policy implications given that clear felling and burning of mature native forests and their replacement with immature, short-rotation woodchip crops is a major greenhouse emitter – via carbon release from soils and vegetation.

The Tiwi Land Council, has not ensured reasonable numbers of Tiwi are employed by GSP/Pentarch as promised since the advent of the clear-felling. GSPregularly employsup to 150 backpackers from Darwin rather than Tiwi workers. Evidence from these backpackers suggests that they are poorly treated. There is evidence that environmental practices are poor and that OHS concerns are disregarded.

Tiwi Islander concern about the lack of transparency and accountability resulted in a community petition (September 06), signed by over 500 Island people over two days – including many Traditional Owners – calling for an inquiry into the Tiwi Land Council and for John Hicks’ resignation. This petition was presented to Federal Parliament in October 2006 but was dismissed with contempt by Minister Brough.

Hicks runs the Tiwi Land Council from offices in Darwin with only non Tiwi staff. Despite Hicks being called before a Senate Estimates committee November 2006, there remain many unanswered questions about financial dealings and management of the Tiwi Land Council.

6 Responses to “About”

  1. Anonymous said

    Wednesday, 21 May 2008, 09:56:59 AEST
    Scrymgour happy to investigate fresh complaints about Tiwi Land Council

    The debate over how the Tiwi Land Council is run may be entering a new chapter, with the Territory’s deputy leader saying she is willing to listen to fresh complaints.

    In 2006, a petition of 500 signatures from Tiwi Islanders was tabled in federal parliament and called for the resignation of the land council’s secretary John Hicks.

    The petition alleged Mr Hicks was exercising excessive influence over council elders and that local people were not being adequately consulted about major decisions.

    Marion Scrymgour, who at the time expressed publicly her disappointment that the federal government did not investigate the council, says she is happy to work with the current council, but has also encouraged people to come forward if they have a problem.

    “I’ve said very clearly to members and people who have approached me they can relook at those avenues.

    “My approach is to try and work and get the best outcome from the land council for the Tiwi people.”

  2. tiwiccbb said

    http://www. nt. alp. org. au/news/0808/cmmr07-01. php

    Protecting The Territory’s Environment
    Date: 07 August 2008

    A Labor Government will require any further land clearing applications on the Tiwi Islands to be subject to a full Environmental Impact Statement, Chief Minister Paul Henderson said.

    “Current land clearing for forestry on the Tiwi Islands was approved by the former CLP Government and Howard Government with no public scrutiny,” Mr Henderson said.

    “Under a Labor Government, any proposals for further land clearing on the Tiwi Islands will require a full Environmental Impact Statement – ensuring community input in the process – and will include considerations of the carbon emission impact of large scale land clearing.

    “My Government’s environmental policies are in stark contrast to those of Terry Mills and the CLP – they put the Territory’s environment at risk.

    “The CLP will immediately approve land clearing applications on the Daly River, destroying fishing in this iconic river – Terry Mills is just not up to it.

    Media contact: Rebecca Cass 0401 110 389——————————————————————————————————————————————————
    CHECK OUT:
    http://tiwiislands. wordpress. com/tiwi-islands-slide-show/
    http://tiwiislands. wordpress. com
    ———————————————————————————————————* * * MEDIA RELEASE * * *

    Thursday 7th of August 2008

    Green groups welcome NT Government scrutiny of Tiwi’s landclearing

    The Wilderness Society (TWS) and the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory (ECNT) have welcomed today’s announcement by the Northern Territory Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, that any further land clearing on the Tiwi Islands will be subject to a full and public environmental assessment process.

    Over the past several years, 30 000 hectares of forest on the Tiwi’s have been bulldozed for plantation establishment. It is proposed that a further 50 000 – 70 000 hectares be cleared as part of the second stage of the forestry project.

    The Tiwi’s are located approximately 80 kilometres north of Darwin.

    The clearing operations have been controversial and have generated considerable dispute within the Tiwi’s community.

    Lyndon Schneiders, Northern Australia Campaign Manager for TWS said, “We welcome Mr Henderson’s announcement as a sensible and practical measure to ensure that the environmental, economic and social dimensions of any further clearing on the Tiwi’s are fully understood and debated and that alternative options for development on the Island are fully explored. This new process stands in stark contrast to the shady and secretive approvals that were given to the project in past.

    Charles Roche, Coordinator of the ECNT said, “Land clearing is a major threat to the Territory’s environment, we are pleased that the Territory Government is acting to ensure adequate environmental assessment on the Tiwi Islands.

    For further information or comment, contact:

    Lyndon Schneiders 0407 667 076
    Charles Roche 044 888 7303

  3. Hi there
    I am wondering who wrotes this blog. I agree with what you are saying, just interested in contact. I work for the Tiwi Islands Shire Council as the IT Manager and manage the Shire website.
    Cheers

  4. silence is stupid said

    journalists, scientists, backpacker blogs and reports from Senate Inquiry mainly

  5. […] An important story is unfolding in Australia’s remote north – one that questions how far this country has come since colonisation. The common thread that runs through this story is the enormous influence of one white man, John Hicks, who has used his 20 year tenure as Executive Secretary/CEO of the Tiwi Land Council, to benefit big business. [Click here to view source] […]

  6. […] An important story is unfolding in Australia’s remote north – one that questions how far this country has come since colonisation. The common thread that runs through this story is the enormous influence of one white man, John Hicks, who has used his 20 year tenure as Executive Secretary/CEO of the Tiwi Land Council, to benefit big business. [Click here to view source] […]

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