Disagreements and conflict over the future of Tasmania’s forestry industry continue to dominate the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) process.
The agreement process announced last year was meant to resolve years of disputes which have come to be known in Tasmania as the ‘Forest Wars’.
But, as Government, environmentalists and industry try and map out a plan to protect a key industry while preserving Tasmania’s natural resources, others have weighed in on the debate.
The latest issues range from various issues impacting the local market due to international concerns and political wrangling over Tasmania’s Indigenous community providing a voice.
Malaysian company Ta Ann, a major exporter of Tasmanian forestry products, laid-off 40 workers in Tasmania earlier this year.
The cutbacks have been attributed to the environmentalists influencing the corporate conscience of some businesses in Japan.
In response to the job losses resulting from the trade setbacks, Tasmania’s Deputy Premier Bryan Green set off on an Asian Trade mission in an attempt to appease the environmental concerns of Tasmania’s forestry customers.
“We talked about what we were trying to achieve with the IGA and assured them that the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification) of the product that leaves Tasmania is a world certification,” Deputy Premier Green said on his return.
“They want us to resolve the matter and I’ve indicated that the government will be resolving the IGA, which in the end should be solving the matter of the protests.”
Deputy Premier Green highlighted conflict between the environmentalists and those in the industry.
He said former state Greens leader Peg Putt and Greens Senator Christine Milne were “trying to torpedo the agreement”.
“The way they are speaking about Ta Ann is very poor,” he said.
The Greens also got stuck into Forestry Tasmania.
Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said the agency is pre-empting the IGA verification process to prevent any meaningful conservation outcomes, while trying to distract from the mounting evidence of their gross resource mismanagement.
“Enough is enough. Rather than front up and face up to the fact that they have clearly over-allocated and over-contracted the resource, Forestry Tasmania is attempting to blame the conservation and biodiversity regulations contained in the Forests Practices Code,” Mr McKim said.
“Once again Forestry Tasmania is seeking to pre-empt the Jonathon West Verification process. Any attempt to pitch for a ‘trade-off’ between the IGA reserves outcome versus a Forest Practices Code with watered down biodiversity provisions is unacceptable.”
“This rogue agency is determined to be obstructionist and has to be abolished.”
Forestry Tasmania was again condemned by Greens, this time for another issue which resulted in a member of Tasmania’s government issuing an apology to the aboriginal community.
Earlier, Tasmania’s Aboriginal community announced that it was seeking control of 570,000 hectares of native forests covered by the IGA after entering into discussions with Forestry Tasmania.
A Forestry Tasmania spokesperson said: “One of the reasons I welcome the Aboriginal community’s involvement is that it can play an honest broker role should the peace process set aside more reserves and allocate specific areas for wood production.
“If that was to happen, I would envisage the Aboriginal community would make sure there was no harvesting in the designated conservation areas, but they would also endorse products from the wood production zone.
“The concern with the current process is that there won’t be anything to stop green groups from continuing market attacks after the peace deal is signed. There needs to be a mechanism to enforce the peace.”
Tasmania’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Cassy O’Connor responded by accusing Forestry Tasmania of exploiting Indigenous people.
That prompted Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s legal director Michael Mansell to fire back, condemning the Minister for making such “paternalist and condescending comments”.
So after a review of the comments the Minister was forced to apologise to the Aboriginal community.
Still, it appears the ‘peace deal’ is a long way from ending the ‘Forest Wars’.