Standards and stakes in a damaged system

The Australian Forestry Standard have recently changed their constitution and will be setting up their stakeholder membership in much the same way as the Forest Stewardship Council does.

Probably easier than producing a revised standard in the short-term, the changes take effect in the new year, so it will be interesting to see who draws the short straw for the conservation movement and/or whether the AFS will merge in with the FSC.

The World Wildlife Fund supports the FSC, although their policy on certification  also provides for others like the AFS.  WWF are part of an alliance called the Global Forest Trade Network, of which and among many others, Bunnings warehouses are a member.

Along with floor joists and bearers, one of the AFS certified forest products Boral’s Batemans Bay sawmill used to produce was hardwood tomato stakes. On the north coast hardwood tomato stakes can be bought, from uncertain sources and in bulk (400), for as low as 40 cents each. Bunnings sell the same product (25x25x1800mm) for just over $2 each in packs of six.

From a theoretical 2 cubic metre block of hardwood and assuming 40-50% waste, it is possible to produce about 1,500 tomato stakes that at 40 cents each totals $600 and at $2 each $3,000. Naturally Bunnings have large overheads and have to freight the tomato stakes from somewhere but the additional cost doesn’t really guarantee that Bunnings stakes come from ‘sustainable sources’. Similarly timber for the north coast stakes could have been passed on from certified sources, as with Bermagui where all the local loggers were given handouts, helped by the oversupply.

There’s nothing new about loggers taking this approach though, prior to certification in the mid 1990’s, a logging crew set up their own sawmill on the Bermagui-Cobargo Rd where they took, under cover of darkness (FNSW claimed they didn’t know), red timbers (Woollybutt, Ironbark etc) that they milled to produce survey pegs, until they were closed.

The questions are , if these products aren’t from plantations, how many people use them at a shire scale, bamboo and (not preferred) plastic also being available but more expensive and the degree to which this local market  could be supplied within a management framework aimed at improving soils and without cutting down big trees.

As Russell Reichelt from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority suggested on AM ” . . . We actually need to think about restoration of an already damaged system.” and forests need the same approach.



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