Local business owner Charlie McShane has been pushed into a corner by what he says is a hypocritical federal Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), and as a result had to burn more than 250 tonnes of timber over the weekend.
The massive bonfire which stretched into the distance was also used as a form of protest and an attempt to draw attention to his plight.
Mr McShane is the proprietor of New England Hardwoods, a timber mill which he said is at the forefront of environmental soundness. The mill owns its own forest on site, of completely regenerative wood, with a cycle of 20 to 30 years.
“As far as we are concerned this is the future of the industry,” Mr McShane said.
“Some larger operations in Tasmania and around the globe are looking to go the same way, but because of this uniqueness we get stung by the CFI when it is businesses like us that should be rewarded.”
He argues that since his forest is capturing approximately 8000 tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere each year, the less forest he logs for the mill the more carbon is captured and, under the current initiative, this should be rewarded with carbon credits which can then be sold.
“A lot of the reason I am doing this is to bring attention to the hypocrisy of the Gillard governments policy,” Mr McShane said.
“I know I will not get anything back and have been told as much, but the system is a one way street for the government to increase tax and give nothing back.”
After months of phone calls, meetings, and an email chain as long as the pile of burning timber the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research, and Tertiary Education told Mr McShane it was an unwinnable battle for the small business.
This is despite the fact its own website states, “The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) allows farmers and land managers to earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land. These credits can then be sold to people and businesses wishing to offset their emissions.”
On top of that, the department’s top point in its methodology development section is reforestation, forest management, and native forest protection, all aspects that are addressed at New England Hardwood.
“I have been in contact with Tony Windsor’s office, and Mr Windsor has been quite reasonable, talking to me, exchanging emails and even coming to see me, but I think he is hitting the federal brick wall as well,” Mr McShane said.
“Barnaby Joyce has failed to reply to any emails or to call back after several messages. It is something I thought he would jump on.
“In order to get it looked at I have to have environmental studies and an impact statement done, at a possible cost to the business of anywhere between $10,000 and $250,000. It doesn’t make any sense.
“They pretty much told me my trees don’t capture any carbon, which is news to me and several scientists out there.”
The 250 tonnes of timber in the bonfire where the offcuts from the mill that can’t be used for anything else, and this amount of wood accumulates every quarter.
“Ultimately what we would like to do is chip it all up and spread it back over the forest, but getting a chipper and going through the process is a cost to the business we can’t afford, so the only option is to burn it off,” Mr McShane said.
“Why can’t the carbon credits scheme at least help us out with the cost? I thought that was the basis of the policy: tax the high polluters and give back to the ones trying to be innovative and give back, but the motivation is hard to come by if it is coming out of your pocket.”