Conservation groups have criticised a new deal on Tasmania’s forest industry, saying it will not end the logging of old growth forests, it will hand millions of dollars to the logging industry and will not stop Gunns Ltd’s proposed pulp mill in northern Tasmania going ahead in the face of community opposition.
The Tasmanian and federal Labor governments released a “Heads of Agreement” statement on July 24. The two governments will soon release an “intergovernmental agreement” to formalise the policy.
The deal includes $276 million from the federal government to fund a transition out of native forest logging. Of this, $148 million will go to the forest industry over this financial year.
The agreement does not specify how much money will be given to Gunns for exiting its native- forest wood supply contracts, although ABC Online reported on August 4 that Gunns was now demanding $106 million.
The agreement guarantees the ongoing logging of 155,000 cubic metres of high quality sawlog, 265,000 cubic metres of peeler billets and approximately 12500 cubic metres of specialty timbers from Tasmania’s native forests each year. Even Forestry Tasmania said that these figures cannot be achieved without impacting on the areas being considered for reserves.
Environment Tasmania, the Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society have welcomed the deal.
But the Australian Forests and Climate Alliance, a coalition of more than 30 groups, said on August 1 the deal was a “sham” and would “not deliver ‘peace’ in the forests”.
It said the deal “is just a waste of another [$270 million] of taxpayers’ money …
“Unless this deal is fixed, and fixed properly, direct action in the forests, in the courts and in the markets will continue until this appalling industry finally collapses, no matter how long it takes.”
The Alliance said three “key measures” were needed to resolve Tasmania’s forest disputes. These are: “a clear public commitment by industry, the unions and government to end all native forest logging”, “a clear and rapid timetable for a transition to plantation-only logging” and “immediate, unequivocal protection of 572,000 hectares of identified high conservation value forests as new national parks in Tasmania”.
On August 1, anti-pulp mill group TAP into a Better Tasmania condemned Environment Tasmania, The Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society’s backing of the forest deal.
Group spokesperson Bob McMahon said: “On the ABC Q&A program on July 25, revered environmental campaigner, Peter Cundall, condemned the part played by conservation groups in the forest peace negotiations in Tasmania for the past year.”
McMahon said the group “supports Peter’s position” and gave two reasons why.
He said: “1. The ‘roundtable’ negotiation process was illegitimate from the very start. It was unrepresentative, elitist and secret. TAP made it clear from the beginning that therein lay the seeds of failure.
“2. The only two remaining conservation groups left in the process, the Environment Tasmania/Wilderness Society group and Australian Conservation Foundation, are prepared to trade protection of high conservation value forest for a pulp mill, in effect, the Tamar Valley pulp mill.”
The Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network (TPEHN) announced it could “no longer remain a member group of Environment Tasmania Incorporated” on August 1.
It said: “TPEHN has been lobbying all parties to the Tasmanian Statement of Forest Principles to advocate for stronger and more detailed measures related to reforms in the management of forestry plantations. To our disappointment Environment Tasmania Inc. has failed to take a strong lead on the current issue of pesticide reform and has so far failed to take this public health matter seriously during their negotiations on the Principles.”
TPEHN’s David Obendorf wrote in an August 3 Tasmanian Times article: “It is now dawning on many long-standing environmentalists in Tasmania that the so-called ‘peace deal’ signed by the self-appointed environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) is nothing more than a cruel hoax …
“The decision-making processes the ENGO negotiators used — and their behaviour — has caused distrust and distress for many in the conservation movement. This forest peace process has been treated all along as a two-sided issue. Many Tasmanians were not consulted, whilst the people of northern Tasmania who stand to be affected have not been represented or heard.
“The Tasmanian forestry industry gets a financial package worth several hundreds of millions again! Yet the conservation of Tasmania’s forests will be haggled over for another year or so. This has been a very poor negotiation process; the conflict is not resolved.”
Peter McGlone, director of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, said on August 1 he was very concerned about an “anti-protest clause” in the agreement.
Clause 6 in the agreement says: “The Australian and Tasmanian governments have a clear expectation that, with the formalisation of this agreement, the long running conflict over native forestry in Tasmania will come to an end.”
McGlone said: “The Tasmanian Conservation Trust rejects this draconian and anti-democratic Clause 6 and calls on the conservation groups which have been helping to produce this agreement to also reject it.”
On July 26, Tasmania Greens leader Nick McKim called for a meeting with Premier Lara Giddings “to address shortcomings” in the agreement. McKim said: “With genuine leadership there is an opportunity to fix Labor’s Heads of Agreement, to restore the balance between conservation and industry outcomes.”