Government’s claim that new-look Forestry Tasmania is subsidy-free challenged


July 28, 2017 17:39:20

The State Government is confident it has stemmed the bleeding of the new-look Forestry Tasmania but environmentalists say it is clever financial juggling at the taxpayers’ expense.

Forestry Tasmania became Sustainable Timber Tasmania this month in an effort to make the state-owned company leaner and profitable.

As part of the restructure, it will focus on native forest management and is in the final stages of selling off its hardwood plantations.

Resources Minister Guy Barnett said the company would no longer receive public subsidies and was on track to save $30 million over four years.

“Increased income for forest products, savings in terms of expenditure and the move from the head office to a new premises is a very significant benefit to the budget bottom line,” Mr Barnett said.

“It vindicates the tough decisions we’ve had to make.

“There’s still a lot more work to do. We’ve come off a very, very tough and unfortunate situation where government funds have had to be injected into Forestry Tasmania in the past.”

Since 2013, jobs at Forestry Tasmania have fallen from 270 to about 140.

STT’s finances will be revealed later this year when its annual report is released, and Mr Barnett made no guarantees it would return a profit.

Last year it made a $67 million loss.

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said STT was receiving a subsidy by stealth because it would be profiting from the sale of state-owned assets.

“This is a subsidy in anyone’s language,” Mr Bayley said.

“It demonstrates there are systemic problems still in the forest industry and within Forestry Tasmania.

“The Government is delusional if it thinks it can plug the gap by privatising publicly owned plantations.”

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