Strzelecki Deal No Closer to Resolution

\StrzeleckiEnvironmental organisations Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Friends of Gippsland Bush (FoGB) have today announced concerns that the $7 million Cores and Links Deal to save Strzelecki Rainforest is no closer to resolution 18 months after a Heads of Agreement to protect the area was signed.

the Big Tree, Strzlecki Ranges

***Press Release April 29, 2008***
Strzelecki Deal No Closer to Resolution

Environmental organisations Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Friends of Gippsland Bush (FoGB) have today announced concerns that the $7 million Cores and Links Deal to save Strzelecki Rainforest is no closer to resolution 18 months after a Heads of Agreement to protect the area was signed. Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP) and the State Government have until May 2 to sort out the deal before a recently extended deadline finishes.

 
FoE spokesperson Anthony Amis said; "We're still in the dark. I mentioned to Minister Jenning's Advisors three weeks ago that a round table meeting with all parties present would be the best way to go. I thought it a good idea to talk our way through this, but apparently this idea has fallen on deaf ears. We fear that a deal without community support will severely undermine the ecological integrity of the region."
 
"FoE has already expressed concern that HVP and DSE had cooked up a deal between themselves prior to the community even being involved in the process. This has been confirmed by a recent Freedom of Information (FoI) Request which explicity shows that DSE and HVP had agreed on 3 options several days before the community was first invited in to negotiations in May 2006."
 
"The documents also show that HVP's preferred option months prior to signing the HoA was to knock out 460,000m3 of native forest as well as a large portion of the cores and links. It appears that DSE was aware of HVP's plans, but the community was kept in the dark at the time" Mr Amis said.
 
"Not only that, but 126 documents (313 pages) were exempted from release under the FoI with 12 documents only released in part. That's over 50% of all documents. If this was an open process why is the DSE to secretive? What are they trying to hide and why are they attempting to protect HVP?”
 
”FoE is currently appealing the exemptions and is willing to take this issue to the courts to get to the bottom of this. We feel as though we have been shafted by the DSE and HVP. The worst outcome now would be that the Minister cuts off communication with the community and lets DSE and HVP get away with their agenda" Mr Amis added.
 
Spokesperson from FoGB Susie Zent said; "FoGB, as members of the Strzelecki Forest Community Group (SFCG), comprising 3 shires, the Catchment Management Authorities, the Trust for Nature (TFN) and community groups, who are signatories to the HoA, are at a loss to understand why Minister Jenning's staff would consider negotiating a deal with HVP, without involving the major stakeholders who were responsible for a negotiated outcome between Minister Thwaites, the community and the industry which led to the signing of the HoA in October 2006."
 
She added; "If Minister Jennings wants to implement Government policy it must be done in full consultation with the broad community represented by the SFCG and the TFN to achieve the best biodiversity outcome for the bioregion . A " one off harvest" of 1500 hectares is NOT what we agreed to both prior to or post signing the HoA . If this is what the Government agrees to it will mean the destruction of the proposed Rainforest Reserve linking Linking Tarra Bulga National Park to the Gunyah Gunyah Rainforest Reserve"
 
"To make matters worse the Government will pay HVP millions of dollars to devastate the remnant wet and cool temperate rainforests of the Strzeleckis - areas identified as sites of National, State and Regional significance. This proposal will NOT be supported by the Gippsland community. The HoA was never based on hectares but pulp/volume shortfall to meet contractual arrangements to the Maryvale Mill. It seems that this Minister's staff lurch from one crisis to the next. Whatever happened to community consultation based on accountable transparent processes?" Ms Zent concluded.
 
For further information contact Anthony Amis 9419 8700 or Susie Zent 51 691 588