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Great Southern Plantations in the Tiwi Islands

Tiwi Woodchip Plantations (Stateline: November 26 2010)
Great Southern Creditors Vote To Wind Up Companies (November 20 2009)
$80 million needed for Tiwi Plantations (July 17 2009)
Great Southern on Tiwi Islands. Timber, Fear, Intimidation and the Great Tax Dodge (June 5 2009)
Great Southern's Last Ditch Bid Fails (May 20 2009)
Failed MIS Gave To ALP (May 20 2009)
$4 Billion Hit For Tax Scheme (May 18 2009)
Great Southern Another To Take MIS Hit (May 18 2009)
Australia's Biggest Scam Comes Crashing Down (May 12 2009)
Forest Firm Told to Pay $2m for Damaging Islands 16 October 2008
Forest Clearing on the Tiwi Islands Radio National 14 Sep 2007
Also have a look at this web page for recent developments.

Great Southern Plantations in Victoria here

The Environment Centre of the NT is very concerned about the current Great Southern Plantations (GSP) (formerly Sylvatech) forestry project on the Tiwi Islands (Melville Island), north of Darwin . We are even more concerned about major expansion plans for the same project.

GSP (formerly Sylvatech) has gained approval from the Territory and Commonwealth Governments to clear up to 26,000 hectares of old growth forest on Melville Island and replace it with an exotic acacia species, acacia mangium. The acacia plantations will be used for a new large scale woodchip export industry supplying Japan and other Asian countries.

There are many reasons to be concerned about this project, which appears to currently have the backing of the Tiwi Land Council.

Making matters worse, in an advertisement in The Australian newspaper in May 2005, Sylvatech referred to its "aggressive expansion plans" which would, if approved by Government and Tiwi Islanders, result in the clearing of a massive 100,000 hectares of Tiwi Island forests.

typical chemical management?


» The forests being cleared are unique and magnificent and contain several endangered species;

» The traditional owners and indigenous communities have not been fully informed as to the risks and dangers of this project, or the impacts of the proposed "aggressive expansion";

» There have been many failed plantation forestry projects in the NT and this one could well fail too, leaving the local Indigenous people in a very serious situation;

» Establishing largescale monocultures of exotic species grown as short rotation commodity crops entails many dangers including the use of large quantities of toxic chemicals and fertilisers which can harm local species and pollute waterways and ultimately impact on the health of local communities;

» The price received by the company, and hence any income for the Tiwi Indigenous community, may turn out to be far less than expected given the worldwide glut of pulp plantations and the general decline in commodity prices.

land clearing on the Tiwi Islands late 2004

The Environment Centre fully supports Indigenous self-determination, but this must be based on informed consent. Companies and Governments seeking to sell projects to Indigenous communities have a heavy burden of responsibility to make sure the community is made fully aware of the impacts, costs, risks and trade-offs involved. We do not believe that has occurred here.

ECNT is calling on the Territory Government to undertake, in co-operation with the Tiwi Islanders, a full, independent, expert audit of the existing project to ensure that all environmental and community protection conditions are being fully complied with and that no significant environmental or community problems are emerging.

We are also calling on Territory and Commonwealth Governments to rule out the proposed aggressive expansion to 100,000 hectares, which can never be sustainable.

land clearing on the Tiwi Islands late 2004

6 November 2006: What the scientists say about forest destruction on the Tiwi Islands.

A new and alarming scientific paper has recently been published following research on twelve Tiwi Island native mammal species:

Brush-tailed rabbit-rat; Black-footed tree-rat; Northern brown bandicoot; Common brush-tail possum; Grassland melomys; Brush-tailed phascogale; Butler’s dunnart; Red-cheeked dunnart; Sugar glider; Pale field-rat; Delicate mouse; Western chestnut mouse.

Findings: "Seven of the 12 native mammal species examined in this study (C. penicillatus, M. gouldii, Rattus tunneyi Thomas, 1904, Melomys burtoni Ramsay, 1887, Sminthopsis butleri Archer, 1979, Phascogale tapoatafa Meyer, 1793 and Petaurus breviceps Gould, 1842) were not recorded at all in plantations, and these (and other) species are likely to be severely disadvantaged by plantation development.

land clearing on the Tiwi Islands late 2004

"Until recently, the Tiwi Islands have remained largely untouched by modern development. Our study contributes to a broader programme that examines the conservation significance of the Tiwi Islands (Woinarski et al., 2003a,b,c), with particular relation to the development of a forestry programme that will replace at least 25,000 ha (and more probably 100,000 ha) of eucalypt tall open forest with short-rotation plantations of exotic Acacia mangium (Woinarski et al., 2000).

"For these islands, and many others across the world, there is a major challenge to retain conservation values, in part defined and supported by relatively intact environments and previous limited development, given an apparently unalterable pressure for increasing exploitation of resources...

Figure 8 (above)

"Extensive plantation development is now occurring on the Tiwi Islands, and is likely to expand considerably over the next few decades. This development targets the tallest and most well developed eucalypt forest environments, which are especially favoured by C. penicillatus and much used by many other mammal species. Our results suggest that most of these species are absent or uncommon in the plantations that replace these forests, and hence that this development will substantially reduce the status of these mammal species on this island stronghold."

Reference: "Environmental relationships of the brushtailed rabbit-rat, Conilurus penicillatus, and other small mammals on the Tiwi Islands , northern Australia "; Ronald S. C. Firth, John C. Z. Woinarski, Kym G. Brennan and Craig Hempel; Journal of Biogeography (J. Biogeogr.) (2006) 33, 1820–1837

NT Government Parks and Conservation Masterplan (2005): Tiwi Islands identified as being of International Conservation Significance.

"This Masterplan provides a framework for the management of the Territory’s natural assets in ways that conserve our biodiversity. The Masterplan acknowledges that, while all natural assets have some significance for biodiversity conservation, some are more important than others and require more dedicated conservation management.

"This section systematically identifies terrestrial areas of international and national significance, providing a basis for special measures to protect their values. Sites are prioritised for management consideration because:

we have explicit national and international obligations for them the exceptional biodiversity they contain makes site protection highly cost effective.

"Sites which have international significance for one or more biodiversity conservation features (Figure 8), together with those which have national significance are the Territory’s prime areas for biodiversity conservation. Poor management of such sites is likely to have the most detrimental impacts on the Territory’s overall biodiversity. These are the priority sites for biodiversity conservation and are the places where conservation effort will be most cost-effective." (Source: NT Parks and Conservation Masterplan, NT Government, 2005)

6 June 2006. Melville (Tiwi) Island clearfelling "atrocities": an eye-witness account.

"I am responding to your campaign against the expansion and practices on Melville Island by Great Southern Plantations Ltd (GSP). In 2004 I worked with Sylvatech Forestry (former owners of the clearfelling project prior to take over by GSP in 2005) on Melville Island.

I have numerous photos which illustrate unsafe and poor environmental work practices and have first hand experience as to the practices being undertaken on the ground. I worked within an entirely non-indigenous work crew and believe that the involvement by traditional land owners is token at best.

I have never been so overwhelmed by the blatant unsafe work practices in place and the total disregard for the environment and remaining native forest. One of the reasons tossed around by workers as to "how they got away with it" was the isolation of the island and the inacessibility by campaigners and work safe investigators....

I wish your campaign the best of support and hope that the atrocities occuring in such an unspoilt area of Australia can be stopped before it is too late."

Name withheld by request.

Tiwi Islanders ripped off over clearfelling project?

The statements (below) by the new owners of the Tiwi forest clearfelling and woodchipping project, Great Southern Plantations Ltd (WA), raises questions about the ethics of their operation and their dealings with the Tiwi Island Indigenous communities whose land is being targeted for clearing.

"COMPANY ANNOUNCEMENT / MEDIA RELEASE Thursday, 17 February 2005 Great Southern to Acquire Sylvatech Limited and Assets of Environinvest Limited.

Great Southern Plantations Limited (ASX Code GTP) is pleased to announce its intention to make a takeover bid for Sylvatech Limited and at the same time acquire certain assets from Environinvest Limited...Sylvatech is an unlisted public company involved in the development and management of forestry projects on the Tiwi Islands. The Sylvatech acquisition will provide Great Southern access to extensive plantation land for future projects at a significant discount to current market prices for land in Great Southern's traditional plantation regions. Further details of Sylvatech and the impact of the acquisition on Great Southern are contained in the investor presentation to be released today." (GSP Media release, Feb 2005)

"Market based land rentals:

~$17/hectare per annum + 2% of net harvest proceeds for plantation ready land

~$1/ha pa for land that is not plantation ready" (GSP shareholder presentation, 2005)

"The acquisition not only provides Great Southern (GSP) access to extensive plantation land for future projects at a significant discount to current market prices for land in Great Southern’s traditional plantation regions, it also involves us embarking on a relationship with the Tiwi Island people.

"The project currently involves some 33,000 hectares of leasehold property on a 30 year term with an option for another 30 years, and an option to enter further leases for up to a potential 50,000 hectares of land.

"The purchase price was reduced after the advent of Cyclone Ingrid, which caused damage to plantations on the island – however, Great Southern has now managed to secure insurance to cover similar events should they occur in the future.

"This land represents a valuable resource for Great Southern, which is likely to represent a capital saving to the company of about $40 million annually over the next 8 years. Because of the size of its plantation projects Great Southern is uniquely placed to use the Tiwi land in a balanced portfolio which will see it account for about 20% of expected plantings in future years." (GSP Annual Report 2005)

"The acquisition of Sylvatech will provide a number of strategic benefits to Great Southern

Low cost source of land Potential to access further land on Tiwi Islands for plantation purposes

Further geographic diversification of plantations

Diversification of plantation species

Low haulage rates due to location near port infrastructure

Proximity to Asian customers reduces shipping costs

Benefits from consolidated distribution network

Elimination of duplicated administrative expenses

Closer working relationship with the Federal Government "Pine logs and eucalypts resulting from plantation establishment operations are shipped to China, Vietnam and Indonesia for sale under contract and will total up to 200,000 tonnes per annum from 2005" (From Great Southern Plantations website, 2005.)

Are the Tiwi Island Traditional Owners and communities being severely ripped off by being paid far less for the use of their land than are landholders involved with plantation companies in southern Australia? Environment Centre of the NT will investigate further.