Taxpayers could be forced to fund more sawmill buyouts to ensure the success of Tasmania’s forest peace deal. There is $15 million in the forest peace deal to buy out contracts owned by sawmills that will be affected by a reduction in native forest logging. Source: Yahoo 7 News, The Mercury, The Australian
There is speculation peace deal negotiators want to increase the funding pool.
Sawmill owner Robert Torenius said the $15 million currently set aside is not enough to entice any of his colleagues to exit the industry. He says that contrary to reports, business is strong.
“There is a big demand,” he said. “You’ve got to realise that Gunns are not in the market any more so a huge amount of their product is not on the market any more and the customers are looking elsewhere. It would have to go up significantly.”
Both the State and Federal Governments have not ruled out making the move. The Premier, Lara Giddings, says negotiators still have until Monday to strike a deal.
“We’ll have a fairer idea then as to what other asks there may or not be on Government,” she said. “Of course if there were other asks we would have to go to the Australian Government and work with them through that but it is a difficult challenging time.
“What we want to see is a result through these negotiations.”
However, Tasmania’s opposition is warning that forestry will be turned into a “cottage industry” if leaked figures from the state’s forest peace talks are correct.
The Australian newspaper has reported negotiators are set to agree on 525,000 hectares of native forest being protected, the largest such allocation in the state’s history.
Controversially, it is expected the outcome may only be agreeable to industry if the forest practice code is relaxed to allow more intensive logging in those forests left out of the deal.
Sources said that without a relaxation of the code requirements in remaining production forests, the annual sawlog harvest would be reduced to between 120,000 and 130,000 cubic metres. This is considerably less than the 155,000 cubic metres a year agreed to in last year’s interim peace deal and less than half the volume previously guaranteed.
The hectare figure is one of the most keenly awaited out of the talks.