Anti-forestry media coverage - comment

Friday 27 Jan 2012

Following on from the small piece in this week’s editorial, a number of anti-forestry stories caught our attention over the summer break.

In Australia, just before Xmas, Forestry Tasmania was in the gun again. After working tirelessly with Government, industry and the community to try and make the Tasmanian Forest Intergovernmental Agreement work, it wasn’t the efforts of FT that was catching the media’s attention. Rather, it was another tree sit and advertising taken out by the Wilderness Society and green groups that were getting the coverage. Apparently Senator Brown even took media on a helicopter trip to check out the tree sit from the air. Despite the efforts of FT and quality of information impartially being supplied, it like many other forestry operations and activities appeared to be unfairly treated by the media. Incidentally this week it was protestors shutting a veneer mill that got their fair share of media coverage.

In New Zealand, forestry was also being targetted. Concerned residents were honing in on forestry during and following the devastating flooding in Nelson at the top of the South Island. Comments like; “New Zealand's clear-felled monoculture forestry was destroying the land, its soils and waterways” popped up regularly in coverage of the flooding by the media.

In an outdoor magazine the Editor thumbed through there were several “anti-plantation forestry” letters that stood out. In one the headline read “Stop Pillaging the Trees”. The opening sentences read; “I always wonder why you do not hear much protest about one of New Zealand’s major environmental disasters – plantation pine trees. Nobody seems to speak up about this kind of destruction. Has anyone noticed how much damage is done to our mountains?” The letter goes on to talk about mountains being stripped bare and topsoil being ploughed under and pushed away. The contributor was particularly irate that nobody appeared to be concerned about the extent of erosion that was being caused by plantation forestry.

The coverage - a snapshot of just some of the “anti-forestry” news that appeared in the media over the break - is just the tip of the ice berg. I think it's a trend we're all aware of. The inability to provide concerted, consistent and well thought out national and regional communications to the wider community largely stems from not understanding or agreeing on the messages that should be relayed. Inadequate planning and resourcing probably also plays a big part.

Like the coverage over Xmas, we seem to be reactive to issues as they arise rather than actively "going on the front foot". As foresters, if we think about it, we also tend to address these issues from a scientific angle rather than trying to capture the "hearts and minds" of the wider community. Let’s learn from the approach being used so effectively by other industries and the “activists”. We have an incredibly positive story to tell.

In addition to developing long over-due pan-sector strategies to drive the forest products sector forward this year, let’s take a much closer look at our communications efforts as an integral part of these new strategies. Let’s use 2012 as the start point for positively improving our communications - singing from the roof tops the positive messages that we've all got to share - both individually and collectively.

How do we do it - we'd be interested in your thoughts in this week's Offcuts poll.

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