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Epic fail for forest peace talks

Tasmania’s failed forest peace talks have repercussions that go well beyond the withdrawal by the Federal government of $150 million in funding. Timberbiz, The Australian, The Mercury, Sydney Morning Herald, ABC News

Without a truce, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke cannot approve more than $100 million to help the forest industry restructure. The Gillard government also refused to intervene to save 120 jobs under immediate threat.

“I believe the Government needs to take a lead on it. I cannot handle unelected people carving up something that belongs to every taxpayer,” said Dorset mayor Barry Jarvis, who has become a spokesman for the 11 regional councils lobbying for a greater say on the future of local industries.

Groups including The Wilderness Society and Markets for Change said they would resume campaigns aimed at destroying markets for Tasmanian timber products sourced from high conservation value forests.

Malaysian-owned veneer maker Ta Ann confirmed it was “reviewing its options” amid rising fears it will quit the state in the face of a renewed Markets for Change campaign.

Ta Ann will examine the operations of two mills employing more than 100 people and held crisis talks with Government. Company representatives discussed supply and renewed campaigns against its Japanese customers with Deputy Premier Bryan Green.

The Australian said talks broke down over 59,000 cubic metres of sawlogs identified under a program to fund sawmills to exit the troubled industry.

The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania and the Australian Conservation Foundation demanded the vast bulk these sawlogs should be retired to ensure 523,000 hectares of forests could be added to national parks.

“At the start of this process there was legislated supply of 300,000 cubic metres category one saw log supply for industry. When the negotiations broke down that number was down to 155,000 cubic metres,” Coalition Forestry spokesman, Tasmanian Senator Richard Colbeck said.

“The area the green groups were claiming for lock up was 572,000 hectares. It had only reduced to 430,000 hectares through the process, with a number of green groups and politicians still demanding the full 572,000.

Three or four large sawmillers potentially interested in taking-up this resource – wanted most of the surrendered log contracts offered up for re-sale. The Forest Industry Association of Tasmania insisted most of the surplus logs were needed to maintain annual volumes.