The head of Tasmania’s largest native sawmill has warned no-one in the forestry industry wants a return to the “forest wars” and says wood from forests the Government is proposing to reopen to logging may go unclaimed. Source: ABC News
State Parliament returns next week, and the Government will table legislation to allow 356,000 hectares of previously reserved forest to be logged, ahead of the 2020 moratorium date.
The areas were protected under the now defunct forest peace deal, and were re-classed “Future Potential Production Forests” by the Liberals.
In 2016, Resources Minister Guy Barnett said the financial position of Forestry Tasmania required a dumping of the moratorium in order to reinvigorate the industry.
Mr Barnett named Neville Smith Forest Products (NSFP) as a company interested in purchasing timber from the areas, which are scattered across the state and include areas in the Western Tiers and Tarkine.
NSFP director James Neville-Smith today told ABC Radio Hobart he had made it clear to the Government that the industry did not want to return to conflict of years ago.
“I can’t be any more clear about it, none of us want to go back to what’s been termed the ‘forest wars’,” he said.
He said that his company would only take wood that had Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, stressing the “the wood that we would buy would not be contentious and therefore perfectly legitimate for a legal business like ours to purchase”.
“We’ve said that if we can buy FSC-certified wood, we’ll buy it,” he said.
Mr Neville-Smith said he was “surprised” at his company being named by the Government as a potential customer and said it may eventuate “no-one ever receives wood” from the areas where the Government is proposing to reopen to logging.
Premier Will Hodgman said industry would not be compelled to take the wood from newly reopened forests.
“We’re not forcing anyone to take the wood, we’re making it available to industry,” Mr Hodgman said.
“We said as the industry expands we should unlock the precious resource that’s been locked away to meet that increasing demand,” he said. “It’s optional.”
Labor leader Bryan Green said Mr Barnett had thrown NSFP “under a bus” for political purposes and called on him to apologise or resign.
“We can’t afford to have ministers use companies like that for political advantage,” he said. “The industry is just starting to pick up and yet we’ve got a minister in there wanting to run political arguments that have a massive effect on the industry.”