The dark side of Ta Ann

Convenor of the Huon Valley Environment Centre, Adam Burling talks about an environmental and social justice perspective on Ta Ann and its operations in Sarawak and Tasmania. “Behind the thin veneer of green propaganda, there is another side toTa Ann. There are the practices of a company who sources logs from high conservation value forests in Tasmania, logs orang-utan habitat,and participates in human rights abuses by displacing indigenous people from their traditional lands in Sarawak. This low-key Tasmanian veneer mill owner is a palm oil and logging giant based in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is one of the largest hardwood loggers in the world, owned by some of the richest men in Malaysia. Ta Ann expanded its operations into Tasmania in 2006, after they were given millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and a discounted price for these island’s forests,” said Adam Burling. “Ta Ann’s Huon mill receives logs from endangered species habitat such as the swift parrot, its prime breeding ground on Bruny Island. Logs also flow from the wild forests of the Weld Valley, contributing to the loss of their precious high conservation values. In all their promotion, Ta Ann talks about obtaining logs from planted and regrown Tasmanian forests. In reality the Huon Mill’s logs regularly come from high conservation value and at times, old growth forests. Ta Ann has attempted to distance themselves from the environmental destruction their mill causes, by shifting the responsibility for sourcing the logs to Forestry Tasmania. Yet Ta Ann has made no attempt to ensure the feedstock for the Huon mills meets the criteria that the mill was originally promoted as using,” said Mr Burling Ta Ann’s two Tasmanian mills were given a total of $10.3 Million from the State and Federal governments to lure the Malaysian loggers here. Ta Ann’s Executive Director, told Tasmanian media in 2006, that hardwood here in Tasmania was being sold to Ta Ann cheaper than they could buy it in Malaysia or Indonesia. To further seal the deal, Ta Ann were given a 20 year contract locked in at the 2006 discount price. “Two Malaysian millionaires own just over 50% of Ta Ann between them. Both are high ranking members of the main political party (one is a member of parliament, the other is the cousin of the Chief Minister) that has controlled the Sarawak government for decades. This is a government which has been accused of nepotism and corruption in the administration of logging licences, which are handed out by the state’s Chief Minister,” said Mr Burling Sarawak’s own auditor general department’s report in 2008, was scathing of the regulation of logging in Ta Ann’s home state. Logging in Sarawak has been found to be almost totally unregulated. Pollution of rivers, logging of reserves, destruction of rare flora and fauna habitat and the displacement of thousands of indigenous people from their forest homes are just some of the standard practices of forestry in Sarawak. The report noted that poor enforcement and monitoring had led to illegal logging and contributed to environmental degradation, erosion, landslides, mud deposits and floods. More than 90% of Sarawak’s primeval forests have been damaged by logging. Animals like the orang-utan and the Borneo pygmy elephant in neighbouring state of Sabah, are being pushed to extinction by such logging practices.

Large areas of land in Sarawak are designated indigenous reserves, yet this does not halt logging. In the last 20 years some 1 million hectares of reserves have been logged. To understand the impact Ta Ann’s logging has on whole families and villages in Sarawak, below is a quote from an indigenous elder about the loss of land to Ta Ann’s logging operations. Jupiter Anak Segaran of Rumah Jupiter a village of some 28 families explains their situation. “A company, Ta Ann Bhd has been issued a lease by the authorities to develop the lands in our area. The lease or licence covers a huge area and it affects the customary lands of around four villages. Our community has lived in this area for many decades and we had cultivated the land with padi, fruit trees and some cash crops including oil palm on a small scale. But now, we are told that we have no rights and we were even ordered to stop using and cultivating our lands. If the government has acquired our lands and give it to the company, why are we not informed or notified and compensated accordingly? Our lands and properties are taken from our back and issued to others. This is sheer robbery. The government and our leaders should be protecting our rights to our lands and not simply giving it to others without informing and consulting us.” “Ta Ann’s operations both here and in Sarawak bring into question the companies commitment to social and environment issues. This Malaysian logging giant is profiting from the destruction of Tasmania’s native forests, while Tasmanians subsidise their damaging practices. Ta Ann has ignored demands from environmental and human rights groups both here and in Malaysia calling for them to become a responsible corporate citizen and end the destruction of native forests and the villages on native people. Protests in solidarity with people of Sarawak and for the Tasmanian forests will continue until Ta Ann changes the way it conducts its operations globally,” said Mr Burling

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