About 5000 people protested outside Parliament House in Hobart on June 14 to call for the protection of Tasmania’s World Heritage forests. The World Heritage Committee unanimously approved the extension of 120,000 hectares of new reserves to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage property at a meeting in June last year. The forests were judged to have met all four natural heritage criteria.
The Tony Abbott government has done something no other government in the world has done before, asking UNESCO to take one of the nation’s unique natural areas off the World Heritage list. In Tasmania, 170,000 hectares of forest was given World Heritage status in June last year. Environmentalists have long considered the areas, which mostly border existing World Heritage areas, worthy of protection. Among them are well-known forests such as the Styx, Weld and Upper Florentine Valleys.
Victorian state government enterprise VicForests tabled its annual report in parliament in October last year, revealing that, for the sixth year running, the corporation had failed to pay a dividend to the state for being allowed to log publicly owned forests.
Two protesters chained themselves to a gate, preventing VicForests contractors from accessing a logging coupe for the day in the Toolangi State Forest north of Melbourne, on February 7. The Toolangi State Forest is one of the few areas of forest unburned by the 2009 Black Saturday fire. Environmental campaigners have called for its incorporation into a proposed Great Forest National Park. It has been estimated that only 1% of the old growth tall forests of the central highlands area is left.
The Socialist Alliance is running two candidates in the Tasmanian state election on March 15. Whether Labor or the Liberals form government after March 15, Tasmanians can expect to see “prioritising of big business over the interests of the general public and the continuing privatising of essential public services,” Jenny Forward, the Socialist Alliance's candidate for the electorate of Franklin, told Green Left Weekly.
Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings sacked Greens ministers Nick McKim and Cassie O’Connor from cabinet on January 15 — the same day that she announced a state election would be held in March. The Greens have shared power with Labor since a minority government was elected in 2010. But the deal has proven unpopular with Labor voters and Giddings has ruled out a power-sharing deal with the Greens in future.
Forest protesters disrupted work in the southern Tasmanian town of Esperance on July 16, disrupting operations of Malaysian logging company Ta Ann. The Huon Valley Environment Centre (HVEC) said 40 people occupied the logging area and one person held a tree sit, which was attached to the logging machines. HVEC spokesperson Jenny Weber said: “Controversially Ta Ann continues to receive timber from old growth ecosystems, and this logging area is forest that was promised protection, and now tragically the ancient eucalyptus regnans and wildlife habitat is being lost.
Some environmentalists have justified their support for the forest peace deal — passed by Tasmania’s Legislative Assembly on November 23 — on the grounds of not letting “perfect” become the “enemy of good”. But a closer look at the details of the deal, which will allow the logging of native forests for another generation, makes clear it cannot even be called “good”.
The two-year negotiations between loggers and environmentalists, which many hoped would end the conflict over Tasmania’s forests, collapsed on October 27. The Wilderness Society, a key negotiator in the talks, blamed the collapse on the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT), which represents logging companies such as Malaysian logging firm Ta Ann and, previously, Gunns Ltd.
It was standing room only when community members and supporters attended Ringwood Magistrates’ Court on September 6 to witness the dropping of all charges against 12 activists, arising from protests to protect the Gun Barrel coupe in Toolangi State Forest from clear-fell logging in July and August last year. The withdrawal of all charges, without explanation or reason, is a significant victory for the accused and their supporters, and every Victorian who cares for the protection of natural heritage.
Activists from the Huon Valley Environment Centre (HVEC) and Still Wild Still Threatened returned to the Picton Valley on April 7 to launch a 10-week campaign to protest the logging of Tasmania’s old growth forests. Police broke up a similar protest in the Picton Valley on February 18, in which two HVEC protesters were arrested. HVEC’s Jenny Weber said on April 7 that the groups’ campaign is “aimed at promoting the benefits to both the community and the environment that will be delivered when native forests are given full and formal legislated protection.
The government of Papua New Guinea has been awarded Greenpeace’s “Golden Chainsaw” award in response to its corrupt, anti-environment forestry policies. In a report released on October 25, the environmental advocacy organisation said PNG should not be allowed to take part in the controversial Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) carbon trading program until “safeguards for biodiversity and indigenous and landowners’ rights and ending the corruption and illegal logging” are in place.
The signing of the much-anticipated “Forest peace deal”, an agreed statement of principles between some conservation groups and the timber industry, was announced on October 19. Most of the statement of principles had already been leaked. Still up in the air was the two last minute demands made by the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania. These concerned recognition of already existing supply contracts from publicly owned native forests and the use of forests for wood-fired power station.
Beginning in April, so-called peace talks have taken place between some conservation groups and timber industry stakeholders about the future of the Tasmanian timber industry. Both sides have painted the talks as a once in a lifetime opportunity to “end the forest wars”. Environment Tasmania (ET) director Phill Pullinger told the May 13 Australian: “We've had 30 years of worsening trench warfare in Tassie over forests and now is the time and the opportunity to essentially solve the forest conflict — and solve it properly.”
Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania’s Forests by Anna Krien, BlackInc, 2010, 304 pages, $29.95 REVIEW BY TIM DOBSON “I was the premier of Tasmania but these bastards were infinitely more powerful than me. You’ve no idea how powerful they are. I couldn’t move. For God’s sake, keep fighting them. That’s why I’m ringing you, they have to be stopped.” Two weeks before his death, former Tasmanian Labor premier Jim Bacon, said these words in a phone call to well-known anti-pulp mill campaigner and ABC TV’s Gardening Australia host Peter Cundall.
The Australian logging industry is seeking to cash in on a global surge in markets for forest biomass and wood-fired power. Proposals for new wood-burning power stations are popping up around the globe. The US alone has 102 new wood-fired power stations planned, the October 25, 2009 Independent said.