Image for Forestry moratorium is a mirage. Sounds like pulp fiction

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust believes that the statement issued today by independent facilitator Bill Kelty (On TT HERE)  confirms that a moratorium over logging of high conservation value forests is a mirage and the on-going talks he has recommended will lead nowhere.

“Mr Kelty’s statement recommends another six months of talks but provides no certainty that any high conservation value forests will be being protected at the end of this process,’’ said TCT Director Peter McGlone.

“Forestry Tasmania will have total control over the outcome of the talks but has absolutely no obligations to deliver anything for conservation. Without written instructions from the state government there is no guarantee over this six month timeframe.

“Even if the state government gives such orders to Forestry Tasmania, they have already been instructed to maintain existing wood supply contracts and therefore HCVF protection cannot be delivered.”

Earlier on Tasmanian Times: Tasmanian Conservation Trust analyses;
TCT: Burke has done nothing
TCT maintains opposition to the Bell Bay pulp mill
Urgent need to address key shortcomings in the Forests Agreement
Arthur Pieman – Minister O’Byrne favouring four-wheel drivers
Tarkine National Heritage under threat

Geoff Easdown, Herald-Sun: Gunns shares Up, then Down ...

SHARES in timber giant Gunns slumped yesterday, losing all of the gains after the Federal Government’s approval of the company’s controversial pump mill in northern Tasmania.

An 11 per cent plunge yesterday more than reversed Thursday’s gains, when the stock shot up 5.9 per cent on the news of Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke’s given final approval for the $2.3 billion venture.

At the end of trading Gunns shares were down to 56c - a 7c fall.

Since the announcement, the Greens and environmental lobbyists have made it clear that their seven-year battle to stop the project is far from over.

It also emerged after Mr Burke declared that the mill had cleared the final federal environmental hurdles that the company was having difficulty meeting existing state permit conditions.

The state issues centre on concerns about odour emissions from what will be a major industrial development on the doorstep of a tourism, food, wine region.

The release of odours such as total reduced sulphur, more commonly known as rotten egg gas, is an area where Gunns has failed to meet state guidelines.

Company chief Greg L’Estrange admitted yesterday that overseas experience with new pulp mills had shown that odour emissions could occur up to four times in the first year of operation.

Gunns has said that it won’t be expanding its timber plantations to generate feedstock for the mill. A company spokesman said existing plantations would be re-established after each rotation to supply the mill.

Morningstar analyst Peter Warnes said yesterday that, despite the Minister’s decision, the mill remained contentious.

“The final approval is a positive ... and is the means by which Gunns’ net tangible assets of $1.56 per share can be realised over time,” he said.

Geoff Easdown in the Herald-Sun HERE

Gunns Share Price HERE

Sue Neales, Mercury:

A NEW deal struck yesterday to halt logging in some of Tasmania’s most iconic native forests will hand millions of dollars of federal compensation to timber company Gunns.

It will also mean some forests earmarked for preservation sacrificed to logging in the next six months.

Delighted forest industry groups said the deal also cemented ongoing harvesting in Tasmania’s less significant public native forests for at least another 16 years.

The interim agreement putting in place a six-month moratorium on logging identified high-conservation-value forests was struck between environmentalists and forest industry groups late on Thursday night in Hobart’s Parliament House.

Brokered by former union boss Bill Kelty after three months of round-table talks, the deal enshrines temporary protection for 600,000ha of previously unprotected HCV public native forests until early September.

Premier Lara Giddings yesterday described the agreement as a breakthrough, enshrining a secure supply of native forest timber for sawmillers until 2027.

She also ...

Read the rest in Mercury HERE

Sue Neales comment,  Sounds like pulp fiction::

THERE was something sickening this week in watching a gaggle of politicians, lobbyists, corporate chiefs and environmental advocacy groups twist and turn over the Gunns pulp mill, the future of Tasmania’s native forest industry, and the moratorium halting logging in 600,000ha of state forest.

Clever it might have been.

And the outcomes might, if you are a perennial optimist, end up being better in many aspects than could have been hoped for seven years ago when the Gunns pulp mill was first proposed on the back of a serviette in a Hobart waterfront restaurant.

But what was so sickening and saddening to observe this week was the slick and calculated feel of almost every public utterance, media release and altered nuance issued in relation to the Kelty forest peace talks, forest protection plans and the Tamar valley pulp mill.

It was impossible not to watch all the dominoes magically line up within three days of each other, the linkages being made between the issues, and positions critically shifted at the last minute, and not feel a sense of done deals sealed behind closed doors.

The effect, yet again, was to make the majority of Tasmanians feel that they had been excluded from a cunningly manipulated decision-making process.

And perhaps the cleverest stroke of all, was that the Tasmanian government and the Tasmanian Greens have managed to make it look as though they were only mere bystanders in the intricate dance.

It all started, of course, late last week, when outraged members of the Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania went into meltdown after a series of unwise public comments from their representatives embedded in the Kelty forest peace talks, respectively Lyndon Schneiders and Phill Pullinger.

The pair appeared to indicate they would be “happy” to support and even endorse an “improved” Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill if it meant an extra 600,000ha of Tasmania’s high conservation value public forests were permanently protected.

That was exactly the trade-off or “in-bed-with-the-devil” deal that so many Tasmanians, especially those agitating against the loathed pulp mill, had feared was in train.

Moreover, it confirmed what many had always believed was the planned and inevitable outcome of green groups with a 30-year-long agenda to “save the forests” perhaps naively engaging with traditional logging adversaries in the Kelty talks.

The back-pedalling that followed from the environmental groups this week, as their phone lines clogged with diatribes from enraged members, was both masterful and, it must be said, hardly honest.

On Wednesday, a press release signed by the three environmental groups involved in the Kelty Statement of Principles negotiations, came out with a statement that suddenly seemed to withdraw their backing of the previous week for the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.

They called for federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to reject its approval, claiming it was now “totally unacceptable”.

But a closer reading of this chameleon-like press release indicated spin at work.

Their green groups’ “opposition” was to the “current” pulp mill proposed, one they claimed used native forests to make pulp.

Technically correct the green groups might have been. But it was all a ploy, a play on words, designed to confuse and ...

But amid all the boasting of tough new standards for the pulp mill, a few key questions remain unanswered.

Can the Tasmanian Environmental Protection Authority, established as an independent body, unilaterally alter operating and construction permits and limits imposed on the Gunns pulp mill without any parliamentary oversight?
Can the pulp mill meet all of the noise, small and air emission limits set by Sweco Pic for the mill in the fast-track state approval process in 2007, or is it trying to get them relaxed?
Is Premier Giddings right when she says it is unlikely any aspects of the pulp mill’s construction or operating conditions need to be amended or returned to the Tasmanian parliament for changes?
While Gunns and Mr Burke have guaranteed the pulp mill will only use plantation timber, what will be the source of the 500,000 tonnes of woodchips annually needed to fuel the wood-fired power station on site?
Why was Mr L’Estrange in Japan last week negotiating the price of native forest woodchip exports with Japanese pulp and paper companies if Gunns intends to exit all native forest logging and woodchipping?
How can a water or effluent pipeline for a privately-owned pulp mill be declared essential state infrastructure, triggering compulsory acquisition rights?
If Gunns is bought out by another company, probably an overseas buyer as appears increasingly likely, how many of the state and federal control processes will automatically be imposed on the pulp mill?

And until some of the slick and manipulated feel surrounding the still-secretive forest peace talks disappears, giving way to more open engagement and discussion, it is unlikely public confidence in any outcome or final solution will grow.

Read the full Opinion in Mercury HERE

Matthew Denholm, The Australian:

Uneasy woodchip deal all set to splinter
PEACE, as American journalist and writer Ambrose Bierce observed, is “a period of cheating between two periods of fighting”. And so it seems in the so-called forestry “peace process” in Tasmania.

Conservationists are crying foul over a state government go-slow on a promised logging moratorium. At the same time, green groups are at war within themselves over how far they should go in warming to Gunns’ planned pulp mill, to persuade the company to surrender its rights over native timber, a prerequisite to a lasting forest deal.

A “statement of principles” agreed by loggers and conservationists last year—and endorsed by state and federal governments—provides for a moratorium on logging of key forests within three months.

Most people, including federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, took this to mean the ban would be in place three months from the federal and state governments giving the deal their blessing on December 15 last year.

Instead, the march of industrial logging has continued, with the state-owned Forestry Tasmania sending the chainsaws into new areas the green groups assumed would be protected.

Environmental groups had been sticking by a threat to walk away from the historic talks, aimed at ending 30 years of bitter conflict over forestry in Tasmania, if the moratorium was not in place by next Tuesday.

However, meeting that deadline now appears impossible.

Having dragged its feet, the Tasmanian government only on Thursday this week belatedly instructed FT to organise the rescheduling of logging coupes and new road-making required to meet the moratorium. And the government placed on this a caveat that it only be done as far as it can without leaving FT in breach of its contractual obligations.

Green groups—The Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Tasmania—appear to have accepted the compromise to avoid walking away from what the TWS describes as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to resolve the nation’s longest running environmental sore.

While the talks are aimed at securing a forest agreement, they are also very much about Gunns’ proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill. A deal is impossible without Gunns, which holds contracts for the lion’s share of Tasmania’s annual native forest sawlog production, 220,000 of the total 300,000 cubic metres.

With Gunns’ key Japanese market no longer happy to take woodchips sourced from high-conservation-value forests, the company has vowed to exit native forest logging in favour of its vast plantation estate.

If Gunns did so as part of a wider peace deal to shift the industry to plantations, this would free that lion’s share of native timber. In theory, this would create enough slack to allow protection of the 600,000ha of forests as sought by green groups, while meeting existing contractual obligations to saw and veneer millers. A win-win.

So what does Gunns want in return for making a deal possible?

Its sole focus these days, having shed wine, retail and construction businesses, is resurrecting its stalled $2.3 billion mill.

Full Matthew Denholm story, HERE

And, Stateline: