Tiwi Islands – Northern Territory

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Great Southern on the Tiwi Islands – Timber, Fear, Intimidation and a great tax dodge

Posted by tiwiccbb on May 26, 2009

Great Southern on the Tiwi Islands – Timber, Fear, Intimidation and a great tax dodge
May 26, 2009 – 1:07 pm, by Bob Gosford
Further to last week’s look at the likely fallout in the NT following the collapse of MIS (Managed Investment Schemes) promoters Timbercorp and Great Southern Plantations I want today to have a closer look at the operations of Great Southern on the Tiwi Islands.

Marion Scrymgour has never been one to hold back from a firmly held conviction – she has been fairly quiet since she stepped down to the backbench from her position as the most powerful elected Aboriginal politician earlier this year but in the last week or so she has come out in strong defense of those she says have been left out of the benefits that may flow from resource developments on her homelands, the Tiwi Islands, just offshore of Darwin.

The ABC reported Scrymgour’s latest comments on 19 May:

The Member for Arafura, Marion Scrymgour, is calling on the Federal Government to investigate the Tiwi Land Council’s finances and its efforts to stimulate economic development on the islands. Marion Scrymgour says she is sick of seeing failed commercial projects on the islands, including the marine harvest fish farm and the Matilda Minerals project. Now the future of forestry projects on the Tiwi Islands, which are run by Great Southern, are in doubt after the company went into administration. Ms Scrymgour says the land council was unwise to set up the deal with Great Southern. “I know a lot of Tiwis don’t have confidence in their own land council,” she said. “They’ve never had that confidence and until the Federal Government steps in with a bit more commitment, they’re never ever going to move forward with any economic prosperity.”

And while Scrymgour might be less than happy with the conduct of the Tiwi Land Council, the ABC report of the same day from her Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, could only muddy the waters:

The Northern Territory Government has promised to help the Tiwi Islands deal with the collapse of Great Southern, which has plantations on the Tiwi Islands. The Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, says the Government is willing to pitch in. “We’ll offer any assistance we possibly can to make sure those jobs are maintained on the Tiwi Islands,” he said. He has spoken to the Tiwi Island Land Council and offered to send across a business analyst to look at options for the future of the plantation.

Don’t you just love it when the left hand and the right hand talk from the same page?

The following day the ABC reported that the Senate Committee currently investigating the Tiwi Islands resource industries was concerned that it had taken 3 days for it comprehend how payments related to the forestry program might be distributed and of a climate of ‘fear and intimidation’ on the islands:

The Senate committee inquiry, which is examining the impact of forestry operations on the islands, yesterday held an in camera session because a number of women did not want to put their names on record. The Member for Arafura, Marion Scrymgour, says the women are concerned about the environmental and social impacts of the operations. She says some women have been threatened with physical abuse if they speak out. “The fear and the intimidation is a real thing and that’s what I keep saying,” she said. “People deny that it happens.” Meanwhile, the committee has raised concerns that it has taken three days of hearings for senators to work out how payments from Great Southern’s forestry operations on the islands are distributed to islanders.

But Senator Trish Crossin says the land council has not adequately communicated the royalty payment process to confused islanders. “They certainly need to be getting their message out better on how that money is collected, how you can access that money and how that money is given.” Great Southern was expected to appear before the committee today but its appearance was postponed because of the company’s recent fall into voluntary receivership.

There is no shortage of shills, hucksters and flim-flam men in the NT – sometimes they sit on the Government benches, sometimes they operate businesses big or small and sometimes they walk into the offices of the largest landowners in the NT – the Aboriginal land councils that, between the four established under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NT), administer nearly half of the land mass in the NT.

The Tiwi Land Council is one of the smaller land councils and controls just about everything that goes on on Melville and Bathurst Islands to the north of Darwin. The Tiwi people have always regarded themselves, for good reasons, as linguistically, culturally and politically distinct from mainland blackfellas.

Those distinctions have been good for the Tiwi Land Council – they’ve been able to avoid some of the more egregious attention paid to the activities of their mainland counterparts by governments and the often rabid bites of the mainstream press and the Tiwis have been able to get political and commercial support because of their apparent readiness to do business – even it was business of dubious value.

The deal that is currently under the Senate’s spotlight are the arrangements between the Tiwi Land Council and Great Southern, the promoter of broad-acre MIS forestry schemes on the islands, which have seen vast swathes of virgin tropical savanna transformed into a monocrop of the fast growing Acacia mangium.

Crikey readers will be familiar with the controversy that arose around the Tiwi Land Council’s conduct in relation to the contentious 99-year lease deal over the largest township on the Tiwi islands, Nguiu, from reports from reports in Crikey here and here.

Crikey has also reported on the Tiwi forestry concerns before here and here.

In 2007 the ABC’s Background Briefing broadcast the most thorough media report on the timber industry on the Tiwi Islands to date.

Wendy Carlisle noted that the proposal had some serious problems from the start:

…in the ’90s, former Territory Chief Minister, Paul Everingham’s company, Sylvatech, restarted the dream. It was a grand vision of riches for all. They sought and gained under new Federal environmental laws, permission to clear 28,000 hectares of native forest. But there was no independent environmental impact assessment and no public consultation process

The reports also claimed that there would be a nett greenhouse benefit from replacing the forests with the acacias. Yet there was no reckoning with 9-1/2-million tonnes of greenhouse gases that would be emitted by clearing the forest in the first place. Or that they would be replaced with the acacias that would then be harvested for their pulp.

And an important, some say vital, part of the Sylvatech deal was that it would get to sell off the existing Cypress Pine plantations and Eucalypt logs felled by the clearing of the plantation coupes.

Wendy Carlisle spoke to Professor Brendan Mackey Director, ANU Wild Country Research and Policy Hub about the forests of the Tiwi islands. Mackey gives a clear indication of the importance of the forest cleared on Melville Island.

Brendan Mackey: That’s right, Northern Australia, taken as a whole, is one of the most intact natural areas left in the tropical world. Certainly most of the areas that are what we call tropical woodland and the eucalypt forests on Tiwi Islands, fall in that category. They’re not closed rainforest like you find in the Amazon, they have been severely degraded just about everywhere else in the world, and really Northern Australia, and this is the main point we’re making in our report on Northern Australia, is it represents one of the last chances to do something sensible in a tropical woodland environment.
Wendy Carlisle: Your report looks at all the top of Australia, from Cape York right across to the Kimberley, so in terms of the importance of the Tiwi forest, how significant are they in that huge sweep?
Brendan Mackey: They are the most productive, biologically productive forests in Northern Australia. They have the best rainfall and the best soil, so they really are the jewel in the crown.

Background Briefing again:

Wendy Carlisle: In 2003 Sylvatech and the Tiwi Land Council began exporting timber from the old pines, and the best of the timber from the cleared forests to China. There were wild estimates of the value of the deal to the Tiwis.

ABC News report: It’s a deal that’s worth about $1.5-million a year for the Tiwis who will fill more than half of the expected 250 jobs. Canberra says everyone’s a winner.

Wendy Carlisle: Over the next four years, seven barges of Red Tiwi sailed for China. But it was a fiasco. Instead of being worth millions, the shipments made a loss of over $700,000.

In 2005 Sylvatech was bought out by Great Southern Plantations – which collapsed in spectacular fashion nine days ago.

Tiwi Land Council Secretary John Hicks and the Tiwi Land Council appear to be comfortable with timber and other resource companies that fail. As The Australian’s Paul Toohey reported, Hicks told him that:

…the Tiwis had seen their forestry projects fall apart eight times in the past 30 years. They believe they can ride out the collapse of Great Southern, which acquired the project from Sylvatech in 2005.

“The pattern of these receiverships is not something we’re unfamiliar with,” Mr Hicks said. “Great Southern has far more impact upon us (than previous failures); however, Great Southern don’t own the trees. They’re owned by 2700 mum-and-dad investors and Great Southern managed the forests on their behalf.”

In December 2008 the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts commissioned an “Inquiry into Forestry and Mining operations on the Tiwi Islands“, the major focus of which has been on the arrangements between the Tiwi Land Council, Sylvatech and, since 2005, Great Southern Plantations.

To date the Committee has received thirty-four submissions. Like all such inquiries the submissions range from the self-serving to the irrelevant, overly long, tedious or just wrong-headed.

But there are a few real gems, including that of Professor Stephen Garnett of the School for Environmental Research at the Charles Darwin University. Garnett points to a recent research paper that indicates the Tiwi may have been dudded big-time and would have been better off leaving their precious tropical savanna untouched rather than signing up to a tax rort:

The paper estimated that the Tiwi Islands forests that were logged by Great Southern Plantations in 2008 could have been worth up to $110 million under a REDD scheme under the Gold Standard of the voluntary carbon market.
…we recommend the inquiry determine why Tiwi Islanders appear to have been denied the opportunity to benefit from REDD opportunities…We think this is because of the way in which Great Southern finance their operations – that the tax savings available under a Managed Investment Scheme could only be attained if the forests were felled.

Dr Ken Eldridge has degrees in botany and forestry and, with more than 50 years experience of research and development in forest genetics and tree breeding, is well qualified to comment on the Tiwi forestry issues.

His submission expressed his personal opinions, and not those of the IFA or of CSIRO:

My impression of the Tiwi plantations, having seen industrial plantations of many species in several countries, was that ‘GSL have achieved good survival and weed control, and the trees were healthy with little damage from insects or fungi. However, stem and branch form was not good, many trees having forks, crooked stems or coarse branches. Such poor form is common when genetically unimproved ‘wild’ seed is used in Acacia mangium plantations elsewhere.’ Such form deficiencies reduce the return at harvest due to reduced yield and the extra cost of delimbing and debarking, prior to chipping for export at age 8 to 10 years.

In other words – they are planting and growing low grade seed-stock that will give poor returns.

Another of the very interesting submissions to the Committee is that of Peter Robertson, who for several years while living in Darwin and working for an environment NGO undertook investigations into the operation of the Tiwi (Melville Island) plantation project.

Robertson makes several important points about the administrative and corporate arrangements, sales and returns to the Tiwi, including that in addition to the MIS proponent Great Southern Ltd, and project ‘partner’ the Tiwi Land Council:

…there are at least four other corporate entities involved in
the Tiwi Island woodchip plantation project:
– Pirntubula Ltd
– Pentarch Forest Products Ltd;
– PenSyl Ltd; and
– Stratus Shipping Ltd.
There is a fundamental lack of transparency about the legal commercial agreements and contracts
that exist between the companies involved in the exploitation of the Tiwi forests and plantations.

There is far too little readily available information about these companies or the project’s
financial structure showing how much income each is making out of clearing the Island’s forests
and subsequent shipping and sale of high quality logs, or how much each will make out of the
woodchip export part of the project when it commences.

‘Commercial confidentially’ cannot be used as an excuse to deprive the Island’s landowners and
communities of clear and understandable information about the commercial involvement of these
companies in the exploitation of the Island’s natural resources, and the risks involved.

In relation to the valuation of the land used by Great Southern Robertson notes that:

There are two crucial issues here:
(a) how was the leasehold value of the Tiwi ‘Aboriginal Freehold’ land for plantation
establishment arrived at;
(b) how does it compare with leasehold land valuations for plantations elsewhere?
The Tiwi Islanders are being paid “~$17/hectare per annum (+ 2% of net harvest proceeds) for
plantation ready land and ~$1/ha pa for land that is not plantation ready”

There is ample evidence that this amount is a fraction of the amount landowners are paid by
plantation companies in southern Australia. An ANU research paper summarised lease payments
across Australia and found that they ranged from $75/ha/pa up to $300/ha/pa. The average is around $150/ha/pa – or nearly 10 times the amount Tiwi TO’s are being paid. These are already old figures and the current rates are likely to be much higher still.

Concerning the shipment and sale of logs clear-felled from the forestry site Roberston says:

According to GSL and the Tiwi Land Council, under the existing commercial arrangement the
Tiwi Traditional Owners will receive “2% of net harvest proceeds” from the eventual sale of
acacia mangium woodchips from Melville Island.
This means that only after all the other corporate parties involved – GSL and its tax minimisation
investors, Pentarch, Stratus Shipping, etc – have taken their cut of the income and profits will the
Traditional Owners receive a potentially miniscule residual income.
In fact, based on the log sale fiasco, it is quite plausible that they will end up receiving nothing at all, especially if there is a fall in the overseas commodity price for woodchips, which is entirely foreseeable.

And local MLA Marion Scrymgour, never one to suffer a fool gladly, has been concerned about the operations of the Tiwi Land Council for some time. As she said in a letter to yesterdays NT News:

There are many other things I have to say about the Tiwi Land Council and its governance but I will leave that for my submission to the Senate Committee.

Watch this space

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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 | 1 Comment »

GSL Ponzi Scheme – Who will pay for repair of 300 sq kms of weeds?

Posted by tiwiccbb on May 24, 2009

http://business.theage.com.au/business/once-upon-a-time-in-the-woods-20090523-bigl.html?page=1

Once upon a time in the woods
Ruth Williams and Philip Hopkins
May 23, 2009
THIS week, the phrase “Ponzi scheme” was attached to collapsed managed investment spruiker Great Southern. It was merely the latest, but clearly the worst, label attached to the company in its 20-year history.
In its time, Great Southern was accused of destroying rural communities, of driving up the cost of prime agricultural land, of flogging tax write-offs and spruiking dud investments.
But, along with its peers in the plantation forestry business, it was also praised – by the one-time federal forestry minister, no less – as “vital” to a plan to treble Australia’s timber plantations, of having a “legitimate and important role to play” in the timber industry, and of yielding significant economic, environmental and social benefits.
By the time the company collapsed a week ago, 47,000 investors had ploughed money into tax-effective managed investment scheme (MIS) products – derived from timber and horticultural plantations – 300 accountants and financial planners had signed on to sell the products, 240,000 hectares of trees had been planted, and hundreds of farmers had sold land to Great Southern.
When Great Southern entered administration last Sunday, it was following the fate suffered just weeks before by its agribusiness rival Timbercorp. Great Southern has an estimated $600 million in debt; its main bankers, ANZ, Commonwealth, BankWest and the Japanese bank Mizuho, are owed $376 million. They called in receivers on Tuesday.
It is an ignominious fate for a company that once boasted a $5 share price, market capitalisation of more than $700 million and that was one of the top-performing stocks on the S&P/ASX 200 in the early 2000s. Its shares are now frozen at 12, its market cap at $77 million.
Great Southern’s expansion capitalised on the Howard government’s Plantation 2020 policy, released in 1997, that aimed to treble plantations in Australia by 2020.
Great Southern Limited derived its name from WA’s Great Southern region – it was here that Great Southern’s first blue gums were planted in 1994 and where, when the company listed in 1999, the vast majority of its plantations were located.
Virtually all the Great Southern region falls within the federal electorate of O’Connor – a seat held by maverick Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey since 1980.
Tuckey, as minister for forestry for three years from 1998, was a prominent advocate of the industry and of Plantations 2020 – to the point that a letter from Tuckey denying a MIS-negative newspaper article was reprinted in Great Southern’s 2000 annual report. The letter underscored the government’s commitment to forestry tax breaks – a 100 per cent deduction for investors in the year they bought the products.
This was important because although Great Southern grew trees, this was not how it made most of its money. Its main business was agribusiness-based, tax-effective managed investment schemes – a business that was about to boom on the back of favourable tax treatment.
From 2003 to 2008, Great Southern raised $1.8 billion from investors, almost two-thirds of which was in sales of blue gum MIS. Each year, Great Southern packaged and released new schemes – initially in forestry, but expanding to olives, vineyards, cattle and more. Its MIS sales grew from $56 million in 1999 to $314 million in 2008.
What exactly was it selling? Great Southern’s prospectus for its 2002 and 2003 blue gum MIS showed investors paid $3300 to Great Southern, or $3000 before GST, to lease one or more woodlots of a third of a hectare.
If ready money was a problem for a potential “grower”, Great Southern could arrange finance (with loans that would later be securitised and sold).
Great Southern selected, bought and prepared the land, planted the trees, monitored them and harvested them in “approximately” 10 years. In return, the grower got a handy tax deduction of $2900 in the year the grower bought the investment.
The tax write-off was the main inducement, but there was also the promise of a return when the trees were harvested in 10 or so years – at which point Great Southern would take a portion of the yield in management fees.
How much of a return was coming? The prospectus makes clear that Great Southern could not make a “definitive” statement on the size of the return growers could expect. But it was happy to give a “reasonable” estimate of net returns of between $1923 and $4569 per woodlot for its 2002 project – after an investor’s initial outlay of $3000 was recouped. The company was banking on yields of 250 tonnes per hectare.
The trees planted for the 2002 scheme are not yet mature, so investors will not receive their returns for some years. What is certain is that their returns will not be subsidised by company money, as earlier distributions were.
Great Southern Plantations 1996 was one of the company’s earliest projects. Based on company documents, the 783 investors in GSP 1996 paid $3000 each for the almost 4000 woodlots they collectively owned.
After investors paid their upfront fees, GSP 1996 sat dormant as the trees grew. There was little to be done until the harvest began in 2007, at which time Great Southern would again earn money from the project, and investors could anticipate a return on that decade-old outlay.
In 2008 – 12 years after the scheme was launched – the project generated $16 million for investors to share, meaning each woodlot returned about $4100. This gave investors a net return of $1100 per woodlot, after recouping the $3000 paid in 1996.
But what was not immediately apparent was that a Great Southern subsidiary, Great Southern Export, bought all the timber from the 1996 project – and paid up to $10 million of the company’s money to improve returns.
In its 2007 half-year accounts for the scheme, the company explains in the account notes that GSE would set its price after taking into account factors like the “actual yields” and the “prevailing woodchip price”. While no “final decision” had been made by the Great Southern board, it was expected that GSE would pay investors a premium “over and above the return they would otherwise have achieved”.
The premium would be “up to” $9.6 million. This means that, of the $16 million returned to investors, as little as $6 million to $7 million may have been recouped from the sale of timber. If investors had only this money to share, they would have taken home between $1500 and $1750 per woodlot – nowhere near their original outlay. This document starkly illustrates two problems with Great Southern. Firstly, the lengthy gap in earnings from the sale of the MIS products to the harvest, forcing the company to survive in the meantime on sales of new MIS products.
The other problem was that the yields were much lower than expected.
TASMANIAN accountant John Lawrence, who lives near Burnie, has kept an eye on the MIS industry since the MIS forestry companies came searching for properties in his region and his clients approached him for advice.
Lawrence claims Great Southern’s yields were kept hidden for a long time. “The first crop was 1994, which they would have harvested in 2005,” he says. “The yield there was about 123 tonnes per hectare, whereas they were projecting 250 tonnes, and the next year was similarly bad, about 160 tonnes.”
Lawrence, and others, noticed a telling change in Great Southern’s accounting practices in the months before it folded.
Great Southern’s long-standing accounting policy was not to recognise the plantation management and property rental fees it would reap at harvest – “until the value of the project’s net harvest proceeds can be measured reliably”, as it stated in its 2007 accounts.
But four months later, a supplementary explanatory document showed a change in policy – a change repeated in its annual accounts.
Great Southern had now decided to “update” its valuation model on the basis that “reliable measurement” of the proceeds of a plantation harvest could be made after four years of timber growth.
This meant it was recognising $17 million in fees for management services performed on trees planted from 1998 to 2003 in its current accounts – even though it would not physically get this money until the trees were harvested in up to three or four years.
Lawrence argues that this proves the company knew it had been overstating projected yields for years. “That was such a damning admission,” he says. “It means that Great Southern have known all along how poor the yields have been because they can assess them at four years – and they never ever told the market.”
It was Great Southern’s continued reliance on drawing in money from new investors, coupled with its practice of beefing up investor returns, that has sparked the “Ponzi” accusations. A classic Ponzi scheme involves investors being paid “returns” out of funds drawn in from new investors. It relies on new money constantly coming in.
Lawrence, for one, is convinced that Great Southern was a Ponzi scheme. On his advice, Greens senator Christine Milne wrote to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission late last year.
Her letter points to what “appears” to be a pattern of misrepresentation, deceptive behaviour and misreporting by Great Southern Plantations, on the basis that its product disclosure statements consistently overstated the yields investors could expect.
ASIC responded that there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude that Great Southern was a Ponzi scheme. “A general indicator of such a scheme is a lack of assets,” ASIC said, pointing to Great Southern’s reported net assets of $329 million at September 30, and its audited accounts.
Although ASIC noted that yields had fallen short of projected outcomes, it was not “necessarily” misleading or deceptive if the company had disclosed potential risks to investors, ASIC said.
If the fundamental purpose of the company – to grow trees – was not going so well, lots of other problems were also creeping up on the company.
Its growing debt, for a start. Great Southern’s policy was to own the land on which the plantations grew, meaning that if it wanted to launch more MIS products, it had to buy more land. And along the way, it bought or established new businesses – rural funds management, cattle stations – in an attempt to diversify from blue gum-based products.
The acquisitions were funded by equity raisings and bank loans. Its debt facilities were extended in 2007, to $350 million from $245 million, at which point the company admitted it had “fully drawn down on the facility to its limit”.
Meanwhile, it was battling high costs – especially the cost of its distribution model. Great Southern spent almost $137 million on commissions, marketing and promotion in two years to 2008. To help convince accountants and planners to sell its MIS products, Great Southern paid commissions of up to 10 per cent.
Late last year, the company unveiled a radical restructure, dubbed “Project Transform”. It involved selling assets to reduce debt, reducing costs and, crucially, buying out tens of thousands of MIS investors – giving them Great Southern shares instead of the harvest proceeds. Continued…
The offer was between 3500 and 6000 Great Southern shares per woodlot – working out at a return of $700 to $1200, based on the 20 that Great Southern shares were wallowing at by the end of the year.
Investors who bought on the basis of that 2002 and 2003 prospectus – who were tempted with possible returns of up to $4569 per lot – were among those approached to convert their holdings into shares. To help them decide, they were given an independent expert report prepared by KPMG. That report included projected yields for the 2003 scheme, calculated by forestry assessor GHD.
In that 2002 and 2003 prospectus, Great Southern said it could “reasonably expect” its trees to yield 250 tonnes, or cubic metres, per hectare. But the GHD projections show that, although a small number of trees were expected to over-deliver at 311 cubic metres, most were falling drastically short, with yields of just 107 to 167 cubic metres.
Why? The trees were growing in a period of drought, for one thing. And Great Southern had, in the past, acknowledged problems with earlier plantings, such as lower-quality seeds and poor choice of sites.
Whatever the reason, the plantation investors overwhelmingly rejected Great Southern’s proposal to swap their trees for shares.
The company released an update to the market in April. The tone was upbeat, but the content was telling. Great Southern could not borrow more money. It was slashing costs, but “cash flows (remained) dependent on the sale of assets and continued reliance on MIS sales”.
Great Southern’s shares were frozen on May 7, and the board appointed administrators on May 16. Receivers are now picking over the company.
Meanwhile, thousands of hectares of blue gums keep growing, awaiting harvest. Just who will maintain the trees and harvest the timber is unclear.

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 | 2 Comments »

Hearings Dates & Locations in NT Announced

Posted by tiwiccbb on May 8, 2009

Posted in Abetz, Blogroll, buffer, Christine Milne, environment, Global initiative on Forests and Climate, Great Southern, Indigenous, Landclearing, Northern Territory, Rudd, Tiwi Islands, Tiwi Red, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Logging Tiwi forests a $110 million mistake: professor

Posted by tiwiccbb on March 30, 2009

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/26/2526654.htm?site=darwin
ABC DARWIN
Posted March 26, 2009 10:45:00
Tiwi Islanders have missed out on potentially millions of dollars from carbon trading, an expert from Charles Darwin University says.

The director of the university’s School for Environmental Research, Professor Stephen Garnett, has written a paper on carbon trading opportunities on the Tiwis.

Professor Garnett says the Tiwi forests that have been logged by Great Southern Plantations may have earned up to $110 million if they had been bought by a company wanting to offset their carbon emissions.

“They had just over 4,000 hectares of forest land for which they had permits to clear,” he said.

“And they could have kept those uncleared if they had sold the carbon in those forests on the carbon market.

“But instead they did go ahead and clear the land and turned it into plantations.”

A Senate committee is currently holding an inquiry into forestry operations on the Tiwi Islands.

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 | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by tiwiccbb on October 10, 2008

TRANSCRIPT – 30 SEPT 2008
NT – ABC NEWS

> 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.

KATRINA BOLTON REPORTS.
> MARION SCRYMGOUR INTERVIEWED.
> 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.
>
>
> ENDS.

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