The Tasmanian Liberal government has succeeded in unwinding key parts of the peace deal to end the state’s forest wars. The legislation gives the timber industry greater access to forests, makes them harder to set aside from logging, and cuts out environmentalist consultation. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Around 400,000 hectares of high conservation value forests protected by the peace deal will be placed in future logging zones.
Access to reserves for rare rainforest timbers was also confirmed.
The Liberal government’s bill, which is passing through the state parliament, met an election pledge to “tear up” the deal reached between industry, union and environmental groups over nearly five years of arduous talks.
“For the first time in our state’s history the Green tide is being turned and the balance is being reset,” Resources Minister Paul Harriss said.
“We are rebuilding the forest industry, making clear that there will be no more lock-ups, and working to remove reserves from the clutches of the Green locksmiths.”
The government previously failed in its bid, which was backed by the Abbott government, to wind back the peace deal’s crowning conservation achievement – an extension of the state’s world heritage area to protect another 170,000 hectares of tall old growth forest.
The government was also warned its legislation may endanger vital international green certification for the state’s timber, and it has had to delay plans for the country’s first mandatory sentences for workplace protest, directed at forest activists.
Environment Tasmania’s Phill Pullinger said that after the marathon efforts to reach the original peace deal, the passage of the government’s forests bill was “very sad, and very disappointing”.
“This is something that Tassie absolutely has to move on from, and unfortunately this is going to take us backwards,” Dr Pullinger said.
His seat, and that of other environmentalists, has been removed from a ministerial advisory council on forests.
Independent Legislative Councillor Ruth Forrest, who played a key part in the upper house debate, said the government’s changes threatened a return to conflict not seen for many years, and could jeopardise Forest Stewardship Council certification for the state’s timber.
“It does not make one more job, or make one more tree available for the next six years,” Ms Forrest said.
Markets for Change chief executive Peg Putt said the state was entering a dangerous new phase with a carefully orchestrated plan to get FSC certification for the state agency Forestry Tasmania, despite the wholesale abandonment of environmental commitment.
Outside the state’s 1.5 million hectare world heritage area, and other national parks, the 1.1 million hectare system of conservation areas and regional reserves is open to limited timber industry access for specialty timbers such as celery top pine and myrtle.
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust director, Peter McGlone, said the government had opened protected reserves of many years standing to environmentally destructive logging.
A government spokesman said: “The Bill is not doing anything that is not already (and always has been) provided for in regional reserves and conservation areas.”
The leader for the government in the Legislative Council, Vanessa Goodwin, confirmed that a bill to crack down on forest protesters was being referred to a parliamentary committee.
“We are prepared to consider appropriate amendments to the bill to allay community concerns provided that the intent of the bill – protection for workers from workplace invasions – is maintained,” Ms Goodwin said.