OPEN LETTER to Paul Lennon, Premier of Tasmania

Jeanette here. This evening I had this letter delivered to Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon at a parliamentary function. The Premier is here researching New Zealand climate change initiatives, and I felt there was one thing in particular he could learn from our experience in New Zealand:

22 May 2008

OPEN LETTER to Paul Lennon, Premier of Tasmania

Dear Premier Lennon,

Welcome to New Zealand on your climate change research trip.

You have stated that you want Tasmania to become a ‘leader on climate change action’.

The best way for Tasmania to cut its carbon emissions is to immediately protect its old growth forests from logging. Forestry and land-use change constitute Tasmania’s largest contribution to climate change.

The New Zealand Government protected this country’s publicly owned native forests eight years ago, with the help of the Green Party. When we ended native forest logging, the economy didn’t spiral into decline and unemployment rates didn’t go through the roof, scenarios some predicted here then and being echoed by your government and Tasmania’s logging companies. Quite the opposite – tourism has become our biggest export earner and the West Coast of the South Island, the last bastion of native forest logging, has had unemployment halve since the logging stopped. Not only that, but immense national pride in these forests’ protection has grown and endures.

We still haven’t got it right. Far from it. The New Zealand Government needs to take far bolder steps to tackle climate change, and the Green Party will continue to push them to do so. But we hope that if you take one thing away from this visit, it is a vision of what can be achieved by protecting forests with high conservation and carbon storage value, and the environmental and economic benefits that can flow from such a policy. While your government continues to engage in destructive logging practices that have been likened to those in developing countries, Tasmania will never achieve your aspiration to be a “leader on climate change action?.

New Zealanders are very concerned at the continued logging of your ancient carbon sinks and recently took part in the international campaign to urge the ANZ bank not to fund Gunns Ltd’s Tasmanian pulp mill with its massive emissions footprint. With growing public awareness of the fragility of both biodiversity and our climate, the destruction of Tasmania’s ancient forests is now a global issue. We urge you to take bold action to stop the logging and make Tasmania a climate change leader to the world.

Yours sincerely,

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP
Co-leader, Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

23 Comments Posted

  1. “Sweden announced in 2006 the phaseout of all fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) by 2020. In 1991 the Swedes enacted a carbon tax—now up to $150 a ton—and as a result thousands of entrepreneurs rushed to develop new ways of generating energy from wind, the sun, and the tides, and from woodchips, agricultural waste, and garbage. Growth rates climbed to upwards of three times those of the U.S.”

    I actually had no idea…

  2. Cindy also pointed out (the Key Investigate thread) that Sweden has had a carbon tax since 1991 (with some corporate welfare), cut emissions by 9% since 1990, and had economic growth of 44% in fixed prices.

  3. So would it be fair to say that New Zealanders do not believe that they should cripple themselves economically in the name of climate change?

  4. Big Bro- just a clarification, in formal communication a general plural such as “New Zealanders” is usually taken to mean “some”, rather than the way it’s construed in informal communication to mean “all”. So Jeanette may have just been using appropriate register.

    Wetagirl- Heh, yet another person with a good grasp on the climate to show me up 🙂

  5. Open Letter to John Key and Helen Clark

    Governments and Vandals Unite – Taggers? Yeah Right!

    Governments are increasingly being captured by the corporate vandals who have money, power, insatiable greed and no morals. Luckly in NZ it is more transparent, the Government are the Vandals, with MAF trying to prevent the cleanup of Manawatu’s water, Meridian wanting to flood old growth forests to build a dam, Solid energy wanting to mine happy valley, and Landcorp converting forestry into intensive milk production. This list could be expanded I’m sure, and will only be worse under National. Crap or worse? what a choice to offer voters, and what a way to inspire our youth.

    Nice work Russel and the Greens for exposing and stopping MAF:

    From Brazil:
    I give up, says Brazilian minister who fought to save the rainforest

    The departure of Marina Silva, who admitted she was losing the battle to get green voices heard amidst the rush for economic development, Since President Lula won a second term Ms Silva found herself a lone voice in a government acutely aware that its own political future depended on the vast agribusiness interests she was trying to rein in. The final breakdown in her relationship with the President came after he gave the green light to massive road and dam-building projects in the Amazon basin, and a plan she drafted for the sustainable management of the region was taken from her and handed to a business-friendly fellow minister. record levels of deforestation, violent land disputes and runaway forest fires have followed in quick succession. The worldwide boom in agricultural commodities has created an unparalleled thirst for land and energy in Brazil, and the result has been a potentially catastrophic land grab into the world’s largest remaining rainforest. The Amazon basin is home to one in 10 of the world’s mammals and 15 per cent of its land-based plant species. It holds more than half of the world’s fresh water and its vast forests act as the largest carbon sink on the planet, providing a vital check on the greenhouse effect.

    From the UK:

    Nothing Left to Fight For
    Posted May 20, 2008

    By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 20th May 2008.
    New Labour’s apologists keep reminding us of the redistributive policies it has introduced: But the catalogue of failures, backsliding and outright destruction is much longer and more consequential.

    It provides military aid to the government of Colombia, whose troops are involved in a campaign of terror against the civilian population. It granted an open licence for weapons exports to the government of Uzbekistan, and sacked the British ambassador when he tried to draw attention to the regime’s human rights abuses. It has collaborated with the US programme of extrajudicial kidnapping and imprisonment, left our citizens to languish in Guantanamo Bay, and made use of Pakistani torture chambers in seeking to extract testimony from British suspects(9). Until 2005 it tied its foreign aid programme to the privatisation of public utilities in some of the world’s poorest countries(10,11). Last year it held out against reform of the International Monetary Fund’s unfair allocation of votes(12).

    In April 2002 it helped the Bush administration to sack Jose Bustani, the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, in order to prevent him from settling the dispute over Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction(1,2). In two separate offers before the invasion began, Saddam Hussein agreed to meet the terms the US and Britain were demanding. But they slapped him down and concealed his offers from their electorates(3).

    Cluster bombs can be legally used because the British government helped to block an international ban in 2006(4): it is still holding out against an outright ban at the current talks in Dublin(5). The government has undermined another international peace agreement – the nuclear non-proliferation treaty – by deciding to renew the Trident missile programme. It was the first administration to announce a policy of pre-emptive nuclear attack(6): even the great nuclear enthusiast Harold Macmillan never went this far. In 2007, the defence secretary, without parliamentary debate, revealed that the US would be allowed to use the listening station at Menwith Hill for its missile defence system(7).

  6. @ eredwen, Missing ya – welcome back.

    @ BB, time to polish up on your comprehension maybe ?

    And regardless of the carbon storage merits or otherwise of old growth vs new growth, there IS something majestic about old trees in their natural setting.

  7. Yeah, I agree eredwen. “Some New Zealanders” is implicit – i.e. of course “all NZers” didn’t take “part in the international campaign to urge the ANZ bank not to fund Gunns Ltd’s Tasmanian pulp mill”, but many did, and many are also concerned about the logging, as this thread’s comments indicate.

    On the ANZ point, this campaign may have been successful!:

  8. I guess someone should state the obvious …

    Jeanette wrote “New Zealanders”, with no numbers attached .
    big bro, in his haste to find something to criticize, added the “all”.

    There is a big difference between saying “New Zealanders follow Rugby” (which would be correct) and saying “All New Zealanders follow Rugby” … which is not correct!

    Bad call big bro !

  9. Is there a question of younger trees growing faster, and therefore storing more carbon quicker, and then slowing once they’re older? I have heard that as a case for chopping down forests earlier (not for woodchips, also don’t know if this was old growth or not)

  10. Quite right wetagirl. Even if it is turned into timber products, they don’t last all that long in climate terms. Also, I’m pretty sure that the carbon stored in native rainforest with all its biodiversity is much more than a monocultural plantation forest, so there is a significant net loss in conversion. If the conversion is to pasture, the loss is massive. MAF has this table of relative climax carbon storage and sequestration rates in NZ forest types:

  11. I don’t care what the trees are made into, it is wrong to log thousand year old trees full stop. These are as tall as three storeyed buildings. Felled to make woodchips. Depriving all future generations to marvel at their beauty. Cut them down and replace them ey? What flawed logic.

  12. Yes StephenR, if trees are turned into high value products such as timber for housing, or boats, or furniture, then the carbon from the logged trees is kept out of the atmosphere for longer.

    But the sad reality is that the vast majority, around 90%, of Tasmania’s logged trees are woodchipped and exported to Japan or China, where it is pulped and turned into paper products including toilet paper and packaging, items that have short life and lose their stored carbon quickly.

    I think the environmental movement in Tasmania is happy to retain and grow a high value wood turning industry, with timber sourced from low conservation-value forests. But that is only a very small part of the equation.

    Also, more carbon is stored in the soil below ground that the trees above, and this carbon is released no matter what the end product of the timber is…

  13. And yes, I think we can and often should make it our business to persuade countries to take other courses of action.

    Though wetagirl, if the trees are logged and made into say, furniture, the carbon is still stored, yes? Then more trees could be planted, storing more carbon (I’m speaking from a pure climate change perspective here of course, not a conservation one…)

  14. I am a New Zealander, just returned after living in Tasmania for the last two and a half years. Personally I was thrilled to see Premier Paul Lennon shown up by Jeanette for his state’s abysmal record on deforestation and climate change inaction.

    BB says ‘it is none of our business what another govt decides to do with it assets’.

    Well, in a world rapidly approaching dangerous climate change, another government logging its old forests IS our business. Old forests store more carbon in their trees and soil than plantation forests, it’s as simple as that. They are precious carbon sinks and should be protected for that reason.

    Paul Lennon came to NZ to learn from our initiatives on climate change, and I think Jeanette is an excellent position to make the point that NZ has benefitted, not suffered, from the decision to end native forest logging, and that Tasmania can learn from that experience.

  15. Great stuff Jeanette. I have spent some time in Tasmania and it was such a contrast to NZ to be on top of a mountain in a National Park and be looking down on clearfell logging taking place all around.

    Also, a friend told me that the ANZ may have decided not to finance the pulp mill – if so that would be a major win for the environmental movement who have put lots of consumer pressure on ANZ, including here in NZ. See:,25197,23741151-12377,00.html

  16. Well ok, she should have said “many NZers”. But it is most certainly our concern when another govt uses its assets in a way that effects NZ adversely. We all live on the same planet. Fortunately, the Australian govt now agrees and is joining Kyoto.

  17. Jeanette

    I admire your passion and dedication to the cause, indeed I share some of your concerns.

    However it annoys me intensely when I see politicians (of any persuasion) intimating that they speak for ALL new Zealanders.

    On this issue you most certainly do not speak for me, it is none of our business what another govt decides to do with it assets and we would be better served getting our own house in order first.

    Having said that I would not want you to see this as an attempt by me to stop you sending letters to whom ever you see fit, just please ensure than next time you do not use the phrase “New Zealanders” unless you know that you have the support of all four million of us, clearly in this case you do not.

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