The expanding area of plantations intended to feed the proposed pulp mill, is already having a major impact on the state.
Plantations lock in water shortages. Over 40 of Tasmania’s 48 water catchments are affected by thirsty plantation trees drawing water out of the ground and lowering the water table. Consumption of water by expanding plantations in the headwaters affects everyone downstream. When plantations exceed 8% of the catchment area, river flow audits show declining water levels particularly during dry summer months as evaporation rates increase (D. Leaman).
Plantations compete for water with irrigators, farmers, domestic consumers and the environmental flows needed to sustain river health. Changes in land use to plantations lock in patterns of water consumption for decades, at a time of declining rainfall from climate disruption. Tax subsidised plantations are taking water that could be used to make Tasmania the food bowl of Australia.
Tasmanians and tourists are able to experience some of the best fine foods in the world including fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts, wine and dairy produce.
However, the conversion of farms to plantations is reducing food production and downstream processing worth around $300 million per annum. Plantations provide far fewer jobs and leave rural communities suffering a severe cash flow shortage as farmers are forced to sell and unproductive trees take over. The rapid devastation of family farms is leading to a collapse of rural communities and the decline of viability of whole regions.
The losses to the rural sector include loss of jobs, income, future earning potential and opportunity costs to rural areas as many farms disappear.
Health and safety
Huge monoculture plantations require huge spray regimes to counter insect attack. Medical research on the impacts of sprays continually uncovers serious health effects including from low level residues.
Air, water and food supplies are contaminated with a carcinogenic cocktail of plantation herbicides and insecticides.
Log truck numbers, instability of log trucks and deteriorating road surfaces are increasing problems.
As farms disappear imported produce increases, often from countries without the same controls as Australia.
Plantations are much more susceptible to fire as the study of the devastating Victorian bushfires in 2009 shows.
Tasmania’s lucrative tourism business, worth around $1 billion per year, is adversely affected by plantations. Large areas of Tasmania’s scenic beauty have already been lost; tourists who visit this state do not come to see monotonous rows of trees devoid of wildlife. They come to see the natural beauty of our native forests and the diversity of our unique wildlife. Increased log truck traffic and forest residue burns are likely to have further impacts. Moreover, Tasmania’s “clean green” image will be a thing of the past when tourists understand the damage to health from chemical spraying.
Politics of land use
Instead of helping our farmers, our governments are using our money to convert our forests and our dwindling supply of food-producing land into tree plantations to hand more public money to their political donors!
The government has benefited one industry above all others by offering massive subsidies, introducing legislation to advantage one industry, exempting one industry from laws that the rest of the community have to abide by, used the police force to prevent the community entering publicly-owned forests and roads and allowing carbon-dense forests, likely to be important to future climate change, to be destroyed.
The government is steering Tasmania towards a global bulk commodity supplier of pulp that is subject to the booms and busts of global markets, rather than promoting a more stable economy with niche markets and industries based on the State’s unique qualities.