FoE response to the Federal/ Tasmanian governments statement on forests

On Friday May 13th, 2005, the Prime Minister and the Tasmanian State premier, Paul Lennon, signed a Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement. This took place amongst the tallest flowering plants in the world, in the Styx valley in southern Tasmania.

The agreement is a package that was promised by the Liberal Party in the lead up to the last Federal election last October. However it did not come out quite as promised.

Firstly, both governments have signed off on a $250 million jointly funded package rather than the $50 million in the election promise. This money is to go towards a restructuring of the wood industry ($46 million for the development of the hardwood timber industry, including $4 million to modernise country sawmills and $200 million to be invested in the forest industry to ensure wood supply) during an transition out of old growth forests by 2010, whereby no more than 20% of old growth will be harvested each year in State forest.

Also in the package are:

  • the addition of 148,000 hectares of forest on public land to reserves. This will include 73,000 ha in the Tarkine rainforest corridor – an essential rainforest bridge between two large rainforest protected areas, the Sumac and the Baretop National Park;
  • Other formal reserves will be created in the Wielangta State Forest, the Blue Tier, the Eastern Tiers and the northeastern highlands;
  • 1080 will be banned in all forests on public land from the end of this year;
  • Two million dollars has been set aside for the Tasmanian devil disease research program.

However, Green groups were quick to point out that except for iconic areas such as the Tarkine and part of the Styx, the Howard government failed to adequately protect old growth forests as the package did not go far enough. This was the second change to the promises made on forests during the election. It was expected that other areas would have gained more protection. In places such as in the Break O’Day municipality which includes the Blue Tier, only 774ha were set aside as formal reserves and some slivers of forest were protected.

1080 will not be banned on private land, and there are no reserves set aside for speciality timbers, nor for the beekeepers.

None of the reserves in Tasmania will be protected from mining, and the introduction of selective logging will leave exposed clumps of island forests.

Of particular bitter disappointment was the fact that none of the world class Weld nor the Huon forests in the south gained any further protection.

Dr. Peter Pullinger, President of the Tarkine National Coalition however announced the agreement as an environmental achievement in that it assisted in the recognition of the Tarkine as one of the planet’s wilderness icons. He also, however, recognised the disappointment of other groups.

The National Association of Forest Industries have called for an increase of plantations by up to 25%, or 80,000 hardwood and softwood hectares over the next 10 to 15 years, to meet further wood demand.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association are concerned that the native retention rate is to be raised from 80% to 95%, although the State government will fund a program to assist landowners to retain their native vegetation.

Carol Williams [email protected]

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