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Environment, Carbon and Forests

Without This Place: A Glimpse of the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 22:53

"Without This Place" highlights the importance of long-term research and the research findings of the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest and Long-Term Ecological Research site. The HJ Andrews Experimental Forest and LTER is a partnership between Oregon State University, National Science Foundation,... (more)

Additional Information: YouTube videoHJ Andrews Experimental Forest

The Global Landscapes Forum: The Investment Case 2016

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 22:16
Venue:  The Royal Society in London

The Global Landscapes Forum: The Investment Case 2016 will take place on June 6th at the Royal Society in London. The event will connect key experts from the financial services industry with leaders from the corporate sector, senior government officials, project developers and leading thinkers, to take investments in sustainable landscapes to the next level. The 2016 gathering offers a unique platform for exploring the potential of private finance in enhancing livelihood, environment and food security benefits across the landscape.

The Global Landscapes Forum: The Investment Case 2016 will take place on June 6th at the Royal Society in London. The event will connect key experts from the financial services industry with leaders from the corporate sector, senior government officials, project developers and leading thinkers, to take investments in sustainable landscapes to the next level. The 2016 gathering offers a unique platform for exploring the potential of private finance in enhancing livelihood, environment and food security benefits across the landscape.

Featured:  Featured

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First World Wildlife Crime Report Launched, UN Campaign Targets Illegal Wildlife Trade

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 17:43
Launched by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the first World Wildlife Crime Report highlights how the poaching and illegal trade of wildlife not only present real environmental dangers, but ultimately undermine the rule of law. An unprecedented campaign against illegal wildlife trade was launched during the second session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2), backed by several celebrities in their role as UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassadors.

An NRV Strategy Scorecard: Tracking the Evolution of Forest Land Management in the Canadian Boreal

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 17:41

The fRI Research Healthy Landscapes (HL) Program has been promoting Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) principles through the research, integration, demonstration, and education of NRV concepts. Over the last few years, we have noted that one of the critical limitations of the translation of HL knowledge into practice has been its acceptance as a potential legitimate management option.

This report offers a unique take on this phenomenon. It suggests that we all have different, and equally legitimate interpretations of what a natural pattern strategy is.  The challenge is not which one is “right”, but rather understanding what each of us means when we use the term. This paper offers a first insight into the complexity of this topic.

EC, GSBI Launch Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 17:26
The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) and the European Commission (EC) Joint Research Centre (JRC) launched the 'Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas' during a side event at the second session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi, Kenya. The Atlas maps global soil biodiversity and discusses threats to it, including from inappropriate land management practices, land conversion from forest to grassland to cropped land and poor water management.

Indigenous leaders in the Amazon face death threats as community files lawsuit against Peruvian government for violation of their land rights

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 16:22
26 May, 2016

26th May, Pucallpa, Peru. Leaders of the Shipibo indigenous village of Santa Clara de Uchunya, accompanied by their representative organization FECONAU, filed a constitutional law suit challenging Peru’s regional government authorities for failing to secure legal protection of their traditional lands and enabling its acquisition and clearance by an international agribusiness company.1 

Plantaciones de Pucallpa SAC, an agribusiness company affiliated to the Melka commercial group appears to have begun acquiring the lands since 2012. Since that point, satellite images show that more than 5,000 ha of forest have been cleared to pave the way for an oil palm plantation.2  

The lawsuit argues that these actions violate indigenous peoples’ collective property rights over their traditional and customary lands. These rights, which exist and are legitimate irrespective of whether or not their lands are titled, are protected by Peru’s constitution and under international human rights law, which is obligatory for the Peruvian government.3 

The lawsuit4  describes a process over many years through which the Peruvian government failed to legally secure the lands of Santa Clara de Uchunya, but then also enabled acquisition by individuals claiming occupation rights who it appears then subsequently sold their plots to Plantaciones de Pucallpa. Unfortunately, this sort of irregular accumulation of land is widespread practice throughout the Peruvian Amazon. A 2014 report by national indigenous organisation AIDESEP has identified more than 1,200 communities vulnerable to land grabs whose legal land titles remain outstanding. This lack of legally-secure land rights is facilitating widespread conflict over lands, forests and resources.5  

The community has been denouncing and campaigning actively against the operations of Plantaciones de Pucallpa and has engaged energetically with local and national authorities with mixed success. In September 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture ordered the suspension of the operations on the grounds that Plantaciones de Pucallpa had none of the authorisations and environmental certificates and assessments required by the Peruvian government before clearing forest.6  Since then, however, the operations appear to have continued as verified by a recent field visit to the plantation site by Ministry of Agriculture officials, which was captured on video.7 

Meanwhile, community members have been promised by local officials that the titling of their traditional lands is being processed. However, at the same time, communities point out that the illegal practice in which their lands are issued by local authorities to third parties without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent continues. In December 2015 the community found out that a further 17 plots of land in their traditional lands extending to more than 200ha had been allocated to individual farmers by regional authorities. In this case they managed to file an immediate appeal and an administrative process remains pending. Prosecutors visiting the area on 5th and 6th May confirmed that there was no evidence that would support the farmers’ claims.8 

Leaders of the community and representatives of the organization FECONAU describe a growing sense of fear as their denunciations and campaigning are triggering a growing backlash, apparently stemming from Plantaciones de Pucallpa and their supporters. This has manifested itself in a campaign of defamation in local media relying on unsubstantiated accusations that community members have burnt down houses of local farmers as well as anonymous death threats for individual leaders.9 

Joel Nunta Valera, President of the community, said “There are outsiders coming here who are threatening and intimidating members of the community and sowing fear and disquiet. This is in revenge for the various denouncements and other actions taken by the community in defence of its territory”.

Community leaders and representatives report that there have been strangers arriving in the village at night who are armed and masked and asking for the whereabouts of their leaders.10  Meanwhile, these threats have escalated since an official delegation of Peruvian environmental prosecutors conducted a field visit in the area on the 5 and 6 May 2016 and confiscated chainsaws and detained individuals found to be felling trees without permission.

Robert Guimaraes, president of FECONAU, reports that he is in fear of his own life and for the lives of the leaders of Uchunya: “The threat of death is very strong and smouldering. Residents of the community have literally been told by people in the nearby town of Requena ‘Take care because we are going to kill your leaders and if we do not manage to do your leaders in, then we will kill anyone from Uchunya itself, we have a list’.

“We must have protection from the authorities; we plead for the intervention of international human rights agencies.”

Plantaciones de Pucallpa is one of many companies registered in Peru with links to a complex corporate network apparently controlled by US-Czech businessman Dennis Melka and known collectively in Peru as the ‘Melka group’. Mr Melka founded the Malaysian agribusiness company Asian Plantations. 

Melka group companies in Peru, including Cacao del Peru Norte SAC and Plantaciones de Ucayali SAC and their parent companies United Cacao Ltd and United Oils Ltd, have attracted similar accusations of illegal deforestation and land conflict. On 4 May 2016 a formal complaint was submitted to the Alternative Investment Market (AIM)11 on the London Stock Exchange highlighting the multiple violations of Peruvian law by United Cacao Ltd and requesting their delisting from the AIM.   On 24 May, Peru’s National Forest Authority (SERFOR) issued a statement clarifying unequivocally that Cacao del Peru Norte SAC have engaged in unauthorised deforestation and have urged the AIM to hold them to account. The statement is important because it establishes clearly that the arguments used by United Cacao del Norte and its sister companies, including Plantaciones de Pucallpa, that they have operated within the law are unfounded.12  



Conrad Feather, Conrad@forestpeoples.org. 0044 7792979187

Robert Guimaraes Vásquez, FECONAU, 0051 961598323, rgv_sh@yahoo.com


1. See press release of FECONAU and the community (Spanish only)

2. http://maaproject.org/2015/image-4-oil-palm-projects-cause-deforestation...  and http://bit.ly/25iol4U and http://bit.ly/25ipxoI

3. See key facts (Spanish only)

4. See summary of lawsuit (Spanish only) 

5. http://www.aidesep.org.pe/pueblos-indigenas-exigen-titulacion-de-20-mill...

6. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw-OMuvfs9a4ZHp5WFNmWW03Q0U/view

7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPU9nRilTe8&feature=youtu.be

8. http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/rights-land-natural-resources/news/2...

9. http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/agribusiness/news/2015/11/press-rele...

10. http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/rights-land-natural-resources/news/2...

11. http://eia-global.org/news-media/united-cacao-breaks-aim-rules
12. http://eia-global.org/news-media/peruvian-government-to-london-stock-exchange-support-our-actions-against-un 

RELATED CONTENT Peruvian environmental prosecutor documents Plantaciones de Pucallpa’s violation of government suspension order

Indian Ocean sharks at risk from deepwater gillnets

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 16:07
Wollongong, Australia, 26th May 2016—TRAFFIC is urging governments whose fisheries operate in the Southern Indian Ocean to consider a total ban on the use of deepwater set gillnets at their forthcoming meeting this July.

New UNODC report provides global overview of wildlife crime

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 14:28
Cambridge, UK, 26th May 2016—the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime this week published its inaugural World Wildlife Crime Report, the first global assessment of its kind.

The A to Z of soil biodiversity

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 12:09
The soil is the “living, breathing skin of our planet.” It is the basis of food production and essential for clean water, health, greenhouse gas capture and numerous other functions that support life on earth. Soil biodiversity is...

Response from Lee Hales, Prestige Investment Group Limited: “Please remove the information you have posted about on your website”

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 12:06
A little over a month ago, REDD-Monitor wrote about a company called Prestige Investment Group Limited. The company director, Lee Hales had written to REDD-Monitor explaining that he wanted to speak to people who had been scammed into buying carbon credits as investments. Hales was offering to buy carbon credits … read more

Spring flowers in the ash's forgiving shade

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 06:30

Sandy, Bedfordshire Ash dieback threatens a tree that is unwittingly generous at both ends of the season

A line of trees on the green, their fresh bright leaves glazed with sunlight, take from the east and give nothing to the west. Oaks, sycamores and chestnuts bathe their crowns in the mid-morning rays and cast dark shadows on the ground, as wide as the trees are broad, as long as they are tall, with dappled haloes all around. The beeches are worst of all, offering the land beneath no chink in their green armour. No wonder so little grows under the canopy of a beech wood, a crowd of overlapping umbrellas giving shelter, blotting out the light.

Related: What can we do to save the ash tree in Britain?

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The chop has started in Poland

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 05:16
Authorities have started chopping down beetle-infested trees in parts of Poland’s oldest forest, a move that aims to eliminate dying trees and to ensure safety for tourists, a government official said. Source: Associated Press, ABC News The Environment Ministry’s plan to fell thousands of spruce trees affected by bark beetles in the Bialowieza Forest has drawn the ire of environmental groups, which argue it threatens the forest and that nature will take care of itself. The groups have filed a protest with the European Commission, which has also expressed concern over the tree culling plan. The forest includes Europe’s last primeval woodland, protected as a national park, and is on the UNESCO world heritage list. But Environment Minister Jan Szyszko insists his predecessors have neglected the woods and that beetle-affected, dying trees need to be removed to stop the infestation. Ministry spokesman Jacek Krzeminski said that in younger parts of the woods, foresters have begun felling sick trees along tourist routes to prevent any danger to visitors. This is the very start of a larger tree culling program planned for years. The forest covers around 60,000 hectares (148,260 acres) in eastern Poland and stretches into Belarus. It is home to hundreds of animal and plant species, including bison, lynx, moss and lichens. About 4000 hectares are deadwood now, because of the bark beetle, Krzeminski said.

Sumitomo Forestry adds more alternative power

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 05:15
Sumitomo Forestry plans to add wind and geothermal power to its renewable energy portfolio and expand its biomass business over the next three years, bringing around five new plants online in Japan and abroad. Source: Nikkei Asian Review The Tokyo-based forest manager and lumber producer plans to put around 20 billion yen (US$181 million) — more than 10% of planned investment — into growing renewables operations in that time. It will buy a nearly 10% stake in Renova, a Japanese environmental technology startup with a track record in biomass and solar power plant development, for 1 billion yen when new shares are issued. Sumitomo Forestry plans to collaborate with Renova on wind and geothermal power operations, fields both are taking steps to break into. Sumitomo Forestry already has one foot in the biomass power business, letting it put trees removed during forest thinning and waste from lumber and home Prefecture, is already in operation. Two plants in Hokkaido are to go online within the year, while one in Aomori Prefecture will launch in 2017. Over the next three years, Sumitomo Forestry plans to break ground on one or two wind power plants, and aims to bring a geothermal plant into commercial operation. Sites under consideration for these facilities include portions of the roughly 46,000 hectares of forestland the company owns across Japan. One new wind farm is expected to cost 10 billion yen or more and would be among the highest capacity of its kind in Japan at around 30,000kW to 60,000kW. The geothermal plant is seen with a capacity of around 2,000kW and a cost of several billion yen. Power will be sold under Japan’s feed-in tariff system, wherein utilities buy electricity produced by alternative means at government mandated prices. Sumitomo Forestry also aims to put another biomass plant or two into operation in Japan in the near future, and take this business overseas within two years. Indonesia will be the focus of those efforts, given its established renewable power purchase framework and the fact that the company owns forestland there. The company’s biomass plants, including those under construction, have a total production capacity on the order of 100,000kW. The planned projects are seen doubling Sumitomo Forestry’s total renewable energy capacity to 200,000kW in three years. Solar power has come to dominate Japan’s renewable energy sector. But a falling mandated purchase price for electricity from that source has led to a decline in applications to build such facilities, and a shift in focus to anticipated growth fields such as wind and geothermal power. National wind power capacity is seen rising to 10 million kilowatts, 3.7 times the fiscal 2013 level, by fiscal 2030, while geothermal capacity could as much as triple to 1.55 million kilowatts, according to Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. A number of major Japanese companies are breaking into alternative energy fields or bulking up their presence there. Mitsubishi Corp. aims to begin wind power production in Akita Prefecture by fiscal 2019. Marubeni and general contractor Obayashi are preparing to build wind farms off the coast there. Companies including Mitsubishi and Kyushu Electric Power are exploring potential geothermal operations in Kumamoto Prefecture.

In the world of log imports Australia gains momentum

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 05:14
Chinese log imports have trended upward in early 2016 with Australia increasing their market share the most. Source: Scoop Media Increased demand for wood products and declining log inventories in China has resulted in higher importation of logs to China in the 1Q/16, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly. Australia has increased its shipments almost three-fold in three years and currently, 10% of all softwood logs unloaded in Chinese ports are from Australia. Softwood log imports to China picked up in March to the highest level in 12 months. The total import volume for the first quarter of 2016 was just over seven million m3, which was about 2% higher than in the 1Q/15. With declining log inventories at the Chinese ports (about 40% lower this year than the same time last year), and an uptick in demand for wood in the domestic market, importation of logs has been trending upward since last fall when import volumes were the lowest in almost three years. The real estate market in China has been strong so far in 2016, and the sector has been the fastest-growing sector in a relatively shaky economy. Newly built houses in the largest cities in March were up almost 30% as compared with the same month of 2015. Although China does not use as much wood per housing start as is the case in North America, Europe or in Japan, there are still large volumes of wood consumed, particularly lumber for concrete forming. New Zealand and Russia continue to be the major suppliers of logs to China, together accounting for almost 70% of all imports. In the 4Q/15 and 1Q/16, New Zealand fell behind Russia after having been the major supply source for almost three years. Perhaps the most interesting development the past few years has been Australia’s increased presence in the Chinese log market. In three years, Australia has increased its log shipments almost three-fold to China and the country now has a 10% market share, equal to that of the US. Over the past three years, Australian logs have consistently been at the low-end of the cost curve with the 1Q/16 CIF average prices being slightly lower than for Russian logs and 12% below the average price for imported logs. China has not only consumed more logs in early 2016, but lumber demand has also gone up. Importation of softwood lumber from the two largest supplying countries, Russia and Canada, were 32% and 18% respectively, higher the first quarter of 2016 as compared to the same quarter in 2015.  

Die then live as a tree

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 05:13
Australians wanting to live on as trees after they die now have a new burial option, with a Melbourne research team discovering how to turn human ashes into plant food. Source: ABC News Lead scientist Dr Mary Cole said she believed they had created a world-first process to reduce the high salt and alkalinity levels of cremated remains that are normally toxic to trees. Her research had also been “incredibly emotional”, having used the ashes of a late friend to determine if the process was viable. “This to me is their immortality, they’re now a tree … and the family were very grateful because they now have trees with their mother and their wife’s ashes in them planted at their homes,” Dr Cole said. “We were able transform someone who was beautiful and contributing to the world to another living thing. “I’m not a religious person but it really was a very, very emotional time and I don’t know why but maybe it was just all the spirits of the planet were talking to us then.” She was originally approached by the founder of the memorial tree company Warren Roberts, who had struggled to come to terms with the death of a close friend 10 years ago. He said being close to nature had helped him grieve and research confirmed that the healing power of the environment was not just “some tree-hugging idea”. Mr Roberts said for every memorial tree, 200 more would be donated for planting locally and abroad. “It only takes about a 100 trees to offset all the breaths a human takes in their lifetime and we give back 200, and those trees are connected to that person’s legacy,” he said. The director of commercial services and operations at the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries trust, David Crowe, said the memorial trees would be offered as a burial option at its 18 cemeteries across Melbourne. “It’s very exciting … trees are traditionally commonly used in cemeteries for memorials but the cremated remains have always been in a container buried adjacent to the tree,” he said. “The beautiful thing about this is that you become one with the tree. I think a lot of people would really value the concept of basically living for another hundred years.”

Preserved mill town awarded

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 05:12
Deep in WA’s South Western forest region, Donnelly River Village is now a well-preserved vestige of the State’s rich timber milling heritage thanks to an enterprising group of cottage owners. Source: Domain The village, midway between Nannup, Bridgetown and Manjimup, faced an uncertain future until recently. The mill closed in 1978, and eight years ago the entire precinct of 35 cottages were put on the market for $3 million. The sale came to the attention of Fremantle resident Sue Hall. Ms Hall had been on the lookout for a forest getaway for 25 years. After visiting the village, she was smitten and set about scheming a way to secure her dream. Ms Hall reached out to the public through social media and an advert in the paper, seeking like minded heritage lovers interested in joining with her in buying the 1950s mill cottages. Establishing a new legal partnership, the 35 cottages were each offered for $75,000, giving each owner a one in 35 share in the village.  At a time when crowdfunding wasn’t hip, the response was fast and phenomenal. In 2010 Wheatley Village Pty Ltd was inaugurated by a group of similar-minded and impassioned investors. The community has carefully renovated the workers cottages, which are now offered as holiday accommodation, with each owner having responsibility for maintaining a particular cottage with their own funds. Cottages ooze rustic charm, with wood fires, original Metters wood stoves and oldfashioned but comfy furniture. The highlight is the setting, with front verandahs overlooking a stunning forest and village outlook, with neighbours chatting and kids playing on the flying fox while kangaroos and emus mingle with the human residents. There is a village shop and hall, lodge and old boarding house, making the venue a popular place for bush weddings and functions. The work of Ms Hall and her fellow owners in preserving the historic village was commended recently with a gong from WA’s State Heritage. The community of 35 owners were announced winners of the 2016 Western Australian Heritage Awards for a public or private organisation. Judges applauded the innovative ownership model and conservation plan for the village. “(Donnelly River Village) is now a pleasant holiday destination that celebrates its cultural heritage as a former timber town and gives guests and visitors an insight into life in simpler times,” said the award judges. “An innovative ownership model, with owners directly involved and guided by a conservation plan, it is an exemplar of good heritage management of a fragile site.” Built in 1950 by Bunning Brothers in partnership with the WA state government, the regulation Type 8 fibro weatherboard cottages echo Australian retro. After World War II, demands for Karri and Jarrah wood drove the expansion of the mill precinct, which came to include a general store, a post office, butchers shop, swimming pool, social club and school. In its heyday the socially progressive township notched up a claim for the suffragettes cause by allowing women to be members of the Donnelly Mill club, possibly leading WA at the time.

Blundy could enter hardware business through Masters

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 05:11
Brett Blundy’s focus may have been on racking up a fortune while successfully floating three of his retail operations in the past two years. But now it appears the Australian rich-lister is attempting to reinvest some of those millions he made into buying Woolworths’ hardware operations. Source: The Australian Apparently, the seasoned retailer has made a tilt at parts of the Masters hardware portfolio and potentially also Home Timber and Hardware, which includes 43 company-owned stores and the wholesale hardware operation Danks. It comes as JB Hi-Fi is a bidder in the Citi-advised contest for some of the retail sites that are included in the Woolworths hardware portfolio, which it jointly owns with Lowe’s out of the US. Mr Blundy founded BB Retail Capital in 1980 and built up his initial fortune by growing a single record store called Disco Duck into a 238-store strong Sanity Entertainment Group, encompassing HMV and Virgin Entertainment, before it was divested in 2009. Forbes estimates he is Australia’s 42nd-richest man with a fortune of $645 million. Mr Blundy’s BB Retail may be working with JB Hi-Fi and Steinhoff, the majority shareholder of the listed Freedom Furniture. It is also understood JB Hi-Fi and Steinhoff Asia Pacific may have submitted bids for the Masters property portfolio as part of a consortium involving other parties, including a property developer. Some sources say the retailers are keeping their options open as to who they partner with on the process. Already, Charter Hall is working with Bunnings, Harvey Norman and Automotive Holdings, as first foreshadowed by this column, while private equity giant Blackstone is bidding for the entire offering alone. Metcash is vying for Home Timber and Hardware to combine with its Mitre 10 business, as is the Australian private equity firm Anchorage. JB Hi-Fi’s interest in parts of the Masters portfolio stems from its move to push further into the home appliance sector, which would require larger format stores. Yet its interest would likely depend on whether it successfully acquires The Good Guys, which is up for sale to trade buyers through Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Steinhoff is also bidding for The Good Guys as well as the Masters portfolio, as is Harvey Norman. Companies that Mr Blundy has floated on the Australian Securities Exchange, including jewellery chain Lovisa and homewares retailer Adairs, were popular among investors and saw him secure lofty profits as he cashed out. His 41% stake in Lovisa is worth $82m. He also has a proven track record in the property retail space with the float of his portfolio of bulky goods centres, Aventus, although it is understood that it is Mr Blundy’s private interests that have expressed interest in Masters, not the listed entity. Other companies owned by BB Retail Capital are Bras N Things, Diva and Dusk, and he has cattle stations in the Northern Territory. Meanwhile, it is understood advisers to Woolworths remain in the process of short-listing bidders for the hardware assets, with some already told they are through to the next round. Masters has 63 stores, at least half of which are owned by the company, and estimates value the properties at anywhere between $500m and $1 billion.

Human face of NZ forestry safety

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 05:09
Maryanne Butler-Finlay holds Charles Finlay’s ashes as she and her family remember workers killed in forestry accidents. When Maryanne Butler-Finlay was told there would be no prosecution in the wake of her husband’s forestry death, she says “that’s when I decided to fight.” Source: Stuff.co.nz Ms Butler-Finlay was giving evidence at the Coroners inquest into the death of Charles Finlay, a hearing that veered from the confrontational to the emotional. Finlay died on July 19, 2013, after being struck by a log at a forestry site near Kinleith. Ms Butler-Finlay told the hearing the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, the Government body responsible for launching prosecutions before the creation of Worksafe, initially said they would prosecute Finlay’s employer M&A Cross, then opted not to. “I felt defeated. I thought Charles would be held responsible. That was when I decided to fight,” she said. M&A Cross was eventually found guilty of safety breaches after the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) launched a private prosecution in 2015. The decision not to prosecute was raised by Ms Butler-Finlay’s lawyer Simon Meikle during a tense exchange when questioning Jason Gibson, the Worksafe investigator in charge of the case. “Can you explain why M&A pleaded guilty to a charge you said there wasn’t enough evidence for,” Mr Meikle said. “I’ve read the summary of facts and in my view the case was quite weak,” Mr Gibson said. “You were wrong weren’t you,” said Mr Meikle. “I’m not going to answer that,” said Mr Gibson. When asked whether Worksafe sought legal advice, Gibson said it had, but nothing was in writing. “There’s legal advice and there’s legal advice,” he said. That prompted Coroner Wallace Bain to question Mr Gibson himself. “But no record of it anywhere? I find that odd.” Mr Meikle also criticised Mr Gibson for what he described as an inadequate investigation into Finlay’s death. “I don’t wish to comment,” he said. Speaking while holding her husbands ashes, Ms Butler-Finlay also told the hearing about the impact forestry work had on her husband. “He felt like a part-time dad. He aged. My husband turned into an old man in front of my eyes.” She also said it still hurt that news of Charles’ death was on social media before she was told. “It still grates me Charles lay in the bush for three hours. It was on Facebook before I was told,” she said. “This is the last thing I can do for you babe. I can continue to fight for safety in the forestry industry, an industry you loved.” After speaking a video montage was played to the court of photos of Charles and family, prompting tears from Ms Butler-Finlay and Whanau members at the hearing. Mr Bain paid tribute to the family and their efforts to campaign for forestry safety, and promised a number of recommendations would be made, hinting at some during the hearing. “If there’d been no operation of machinery because he [Charles] couldn’t be seen, he’d still be here,” he said. Mr Bain also said a protocol was required around informing family members of forestry deaths. The CTU also tabled a number of recommendations it was seeking from the Coroner, including regulating forestry work hours and requiring work to stop if an employee’s location is unclear. “This morning I woke up today and felt a lot better, a lot calmer,” said Ms Butler-Finlay after the inquest. “This is the last thing, we couldn’t do anymore for Charles.”

Special rates for road damage from harvesting

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 05:07
A special rate to cover the damage heavy trucks are expected to create on Whanganui’s rural roads when forest harvesting accelerates is something the district council needs to get serious about. Sources: Wangaunui Chronicle, New Zealand Herald That is the message from Wanganui Federated Farmers in its submission to the council’s 2016-17 annual plan. Branch spokesman Tim Matthews told councillors they should look at what Ruapehu District Council is considering – a special differential rate to recover costs from the forest landowners. Mr Matthews said Whanganui’s rural roads would experience heavy vehicle movements at least four times and possibly 10 times higher than those currently servicing existing farming operations adjoining the forests. “There is a clear case for introducing either a special forest road policy or a differential roading rate,” he said. Harvesting Whanganui’s 15,000ha of pine plantations would have an impact of millions of dollars on those roads. A council study showed it would cost an extra NZ$20 million over 30 years to provide the present level of roading “service”. The Ruapehu council meets tomorrow to decide whether to introduce a rating system that would charge forest landowners. In that region an estimated 36,500ha of forestry plantation is expected to mature from now on, and harvesting could yield 24 million tonnes of timber to be trucked out. A Ruapehu council spokesman said the issue was that forestry units were rated at a much lower level due to the lower capital value of forestry compared with dairy and sheep and beef farms. “This has led to inconsistency in how we rate land use and is inconsistent with community demands that the rating arrangements are fair and equitable. So our council is proposing to charge forest land owners more on the Land Transport Rate to compensate for the damage heavy logging trucks do to the road network,” he said. The proposed differential would be set at 1.5 times the targeted roading rate on the capital value of forestry properties with a land use category of Forestry Exotic (FE). This would generally increase rates on forestry blocks and help shift the burden of the land transport rate requirement from higher capital value properties to land used solely for forestry with very low capital value. The spokesman said the effects on each property were variable but the differential “sends a signal that land use types have varying effects on rural road networks”. While a differential was not the entire answer to the problem, it was a response to a community demand to for fairness and equity. Two years ago Ruapehu council asked the Road Controlling Authority Forum NZ (RCAF) to fund a report into the key issues around the impact of forestry heavy vehicles on road networks and provide guidelines for fair and equitable distribution of costs. Ruapehu intends to use the report’s findings as guidelines for reviewing the council’s approach to this issue.

Damning appraisal of NZ forestry

GFIS - Thu, 26/05/2016 - 05:05
New Zealand Coroner Wallace Bain released findings earlier this month from an inquest into the death of 23-year-old Robert Epapara, one of 10 forestry workers killed on the job in 2013. Source: World Socialist Website The inquest was one of eight carried out into recent deaths in forestry, which is New Zealand’s third largest export industry. The findings came after five more fatalities at logging operations in the first quarter of 2016, making it still one of the deadliest occupations in the country. With the most technologically advanced equipment, such deaths are largely preventable. The majority of companies continue to operate with cheap harvesting gear, and many have lax procedures and poor safety training. In 2014, Epapara’s employer Complete Logging Limited was fined $60,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $75,000 for “failing take all practicable steps” to ensure his safety. Epapara was hit by a log felled by another worker. In violation of an industry code of practice, he did not have a radio to communicate his location with the rest of the crew. Mr Bain criticised the company but, according to the Rotorua Daily Post, said forestry’s safety record had “dramatically improved” following an industry-led review in 2014, and several inquests and prosecutions over deaths. Mr Bain said: “The industry is now a far safer place to work and families will not have to go through the heartbreaking process of losing a loved one when that death was preventable.” The coroner was forced to concede however, that this year’s deaths were a “concern … especially after all the publicity and education in the sector.” In fact, the five recent deaths are a significant spike that gives the lie to official claims of a “dramatic improvement.” This year’s toll is already higher than 2015 (three deaths) and 2014 (one death). In the past decade there have been 54 deaths – 27 since 2010 and some 2000 serious harm incidents. Forestry workers are 70 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average NZ worker. The industry’s death rate is 34 times higher than Britain’s and seven times that of Australia. The deaths this year include Blair David Palmer, a 53-year-old foreman with over 20 years’ experience. He was crushed by a falling tree on March 31 while working for contractor DG Glenn Logging at Pan Pac’s Pohukura forest block near Napier. A week earlier, Damian Lee Tai, a worker in his thirties, was hit by a log and died in Pakotai near Whangarei. On March 10, 31-year-old Matangaroa Taramai was killed, apparently by a tree that fell on him on a block managed by Forest Enterprises east of Masterton. A few days earlier, three-year-old Felyx Rhys Hatherley was killed by a rolling log while visiting his father’s workplace with his mother, at Point Lumber Washdyke’s operation in Timaru. Gaddum Construction worker Miki Butler-August died on February 17 when he was run over on a block in the Bay of Plenty. In addition to five worksite deaths, there have been at least eight logging truck accidents this year. A collision between a car and a truck in Waikato last month killed one woman and seriously injured two others. Five serious incidents involving logging trucks in the Northland region between April and mid-May prompted a 150-strong public meeting in Whangarei recently to confront Transport Agency officials over the ongoing danger to public safety. The spate of deaths comes after a public relations campaign designed to create the impression that the industry and the government regulator WorkSafe NZ had learned from the 2013 toll and, with the collaboration of the trade unions, made significant safety improvements. In 2014 the industry launched an “Independent Forestry Safety Review.” Its task, as the WSWS noted, was to whitewash the responsibility of the forest owners, contractor companies, governments and unions by not assigning “blame” and making vague calls for safer practices. Far from being independent, the review was led by the business owners themselves. It included Forest Industry Contractors and the Farm Forestry Association, alongside WorkSafe and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU). The review resulted in the formation of the Forest Industry Safety Council (FISC), which includes business leaders, WorkSafe representatives and FIRST Union leader Robert Reid. In February, the council trumpeted the reduction in deaths and injuries in 2014-2015 as a “dramatic improvement.” After insisting that the FISC would lead to safety improvements, the CTU described the latest deaths as “totally unacceptable.” CTU president Richard Wagstaff asked whether companies were “putting additional pressure on those working to get the logs cut in order to maximise profit.” Mr Reid similarly told the media: “We need to make sure that if the market for wood goes up, the price of wood goes up, it’s not workers who are going to suffer and lose their lives.” Neither union leader explained why their collaboration with big business and the government had failed to prevent the deaths. The unions’ role in the FISC is precisely to keep the industry profitable and prevent any industrial campaign among workers to demand decent working conditions. FISC distributes “health and safety information” to forest workers, their supervisors and managers, and aims to make “everyone as accountable for their safety as their roles allow.” There is no legal requirement for businesses to adopt the safest technologies. Shifts up to 12 hours are common, leading to fatigue among workers. Regulation consists chiefly of occasional inspections and advice. In a number of cases, WorkSafe has refused to prosecute companies over workplace deaths. The decline in forestry deaths in 2014–2015 appears to have been due, not to improved safety, but a downturn in activity. The 2013 toll coincided with the biggest forestry harvest ever seen. By August 2014, an industry group estimated that 50 small contractors had left the industry amid falling export prices, largely due to China’s economic slowdown. In 2015, the volume of logs harvested dropped 3%, the first decline in seven years. While the precise causes of the latest deaths are not yet clear, they correlate with an upswing in the industry. By November 2015, demand had rebounded and log prices were at a seven-month high of $92 a tonne, driven by a decline in the New Zealand currency and falling international oil prices. By April 2016, the wharf gate price rose a […]


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by Dr. Radut