Image for Green groups protest, Lara lashes Libs, Farmers wary

• Miranda Gibson: Still Wild Still Threatened

Protesters abseil from Parliament House Canberra in a call for real forest protection.

Two conservationists have abseiled from the roof of Parliament House in Canberra, in response to yesterday’s announcement by the Labor Government on a Tasmanian forest agreement. Still Wild Still Threatened spokesperson Miranda Gibson and another protestor have suspended themselves from the building to unfurl a banner calling for Julia Gillard and Tony Burke to take real action to protect Tasmania’s forests. 

“We are on the roof of Parliament House today sending a clear message to Julia Gillard and Tony Burke that urgent action is needed to address the substantial short-falls of yesterdays’ Heads of Agreement announcement” said Miranda Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.

“Yesterday’s announcement falls embarrassingly short of the promised 572,000. What significant areas of pristine native forest will be lost if over 140,000 hectares is removed from the reserve agenda?” said Ms Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.

“The current agreement risks further entrenching the outdated and failing logging industry, while placing conservation outcomes secondary. Urgent action is needed from the Labor government to ensure that this opportunity to protect Tasmania’s world class forest is not lost. Over the next two weeks, the details of the agreement will be finalised and we are calling on the government to immediately place the full 572,000 hectares into formal reserves” said Ms Gibson.

“Hundreds of hectares of pristine forest is being lost everyday and this will continue unless the government takes action to provide immediate formal protection.” said Ms Gibson. “The prioritisation of industry contracts over much-needed environmental outcomes opens up future national parks and World Heritage Areas to be lost to industrial scale logging over the next 12 months, if this agreement is not changed” said Ms Gibson.

“Gillard and Burke must take action to ensure the Intergovernmental Agreement provides real forest protection through a legislated full reduction in saw log and veneer quotas and full extinguishment of those native forest quotas that are handed back” said Ms Gibson.

“If the Labor government fails to act now to ensure conservation outcomes are prioritised in the Intergovernmental Agreement they will be breaking the commitment they made to Statement of Principles and failing the Tasmanian community” said Ms Gibson.


• Media Update:

Police remove protesters from the roof of Parliament House Canberra

Two conservationists who attempted to abseiled from the roof of Parliament House in Canberra were removed by Parliamentary security and Australian Federal Police. The pair were attempting to unfurl a banner highlighting the need for urgent action by the government to protect Tasmania’s forests. The two protesters were taken by ACT police but were released without charge.

“Despite being unable to display our banner at today’s action, we feel that we have successfully brought attention to the Federal Government highlighting the need for immediate action to protect Tasmania’s forests” said Miranda Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.

“Today’s action was taken in response to yesterday’s announcement of a forest agreement. This Heads of Agreement falls far short of the conservation outcomes that are needed in Tasmania. The current agreement offers little protection for our forests and as long as Tasmania’s precious high conservation value forests are falling we will continue to take peaceful protest actions” said Ms Gibson.

• Jenny Weber, Huon Valley Environment Centre

Labor Deal fails Tasmania’s forests

The State and Federal Labor government have failed the forests again, with another pay out to the loggers and a poor attempt at conservation outcomes. Huon Valley Environment Centre vows to continue to highlight the ongoing deforestation of Tasmania’s southern forests.

“Yesterday’s Heads of Agreement gives security to a long term contract to native forests with Malaysian timber company, Ta Ann. It fails to give immediate protection for high conservation value forests, protection that is long overdue. It entrenches logging of native forests and there is no clear commitment to a full transition out of these rich carbon stores and wildlife habitats in Tasmania,” said Ms Weber.

“The immediate moratorium on high conservation value forests has failed to be implemented, and now logging will continue in the high conservation value forests for another six months before verification of boundaries is final. 430 000ha in informal reserves falls short of the full 575000 ha that has been identified as being high conservation value forests over decades, by environment groups, scientists and the government’s own expert bodies,” said Ms Weber.

“Tasmania was assured that the statement of principles would deliver immediate protection for ENGO’s identified 575 000ha, and now under this agreement sadly the impacts of deforestation and large scale land clearing on Tasmania’s southern forests will continue” said Ms Weber.

Huon Valley Environment Centre is a independent environmental organisation, and we will continue to protest in the defence of the native forests of southern Tasmania as long as they remain threatened.

• Lara Giddings, MP Premier:

Liberals offer no real solutions to forest debate

The Premier, Lara Giddings, today said the hollow alternative forest policy put forward by the Tasmanian Liberals would offer no comfort to struggling forest workers.

Ms Giddings confirmed she had received correspondence from the Opposition Leader Will Hodgman proposing an alternative approach to forest policy.

This so-called olive branch is highly surprising given that just over a fortnight ago the Liberals were more interested in playing politics when a no-confidence motion was threatened over the critical issue of Triabunna, Ms Giddings said.

Mr Hodgman would like to pretend that he wants to end conflict in the forests but in reality he is only interested stoking the fire.

I have considered a bipartisan approach myself in the past but the reality is that this offers no solution to the challenges the industry currently faces in overseas markets and it offers no support for struggling forest workers.

The proposal he has put forward offers no money for contractors, it contains no money for regional development and it arbitrarily locks up 150,000ha of forests, with no money set aside to manage new reserves.

•Jan Davis, TFGA:

“It’s not the end; it’s just another beginning” – farmers

Tasmania’s private forest owners own and manage 26 per cent of all native forest in Tasmania and they remain wary of the so-called forests peace deal. 

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) is the voice of those private foresters who have 1600 family farms that integrate forestry into their operations. Their forests cover 885,000 ha and support 5400 full-time equivalent jobs.

The TFGA is seeking an independent analysis of yesterday’s Federal/State heads of agreement to gauge its impact on private land.

The analysis will need to investigate:
• the implications of the agreement on private forest enterprises of aspects such as the effects of any contraction of forest contracting and sawmills;
• the likely lifetime (if any) of the Triabunna woodchip mill;
• the source each year of 155,000 cubic metres of sawlogs; and
• the impact that more plantations will have on prime agricultural land.

“One thing is already clear. The Statement of Principles was meant to deliver ‘peace in our forests’ and certainty to farmers who have borne the brunt of decades of turmoil,” TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said today.

“This laudable aim is clearly doomed.

“The Australian Greens and the Tasmanian Greens have each said they do not accept the peace deal; that they want greater forest protection. Environmental activists say they will continue to protest in forests and to the boardrooms of our customers.”

Ms Davis said the deal was being reported as “the end of native forest logging in Tasmania”, yet it applied only to public land.

“We anticipate the campaign may now switch to native forest logging on private land and renewed opposition to private plantations.

“The 1997 Regional Forest Agreement and the 2005 Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement were meant to bring a 30-year period of certainty to the forest industry. Private foresters bore the costs of these agreements on the basis that these compromises would allow them to get on with their lives.

“These costs amounted to tens of millions of dollars out of the pockets of farmers and of the local communities dependent on their businesses. Yet they have received not one cent in compensation. Now it seems they will also be expected to pay the costs of this Statement of Principles agreement. That is simply not acceptable.

“No-one can consider this peace, when the threat to our livelihoods is even greater now.

“It’s not the end: it’s just another beginning,” she said.

Ms Giddings said the letter was yet another example of the Liberals choosing to grandstand instead of offering real policy alternatives.

The Liberals policy would not provide one cent to the forest workers who have already been displaced by Gunns decision to exit native forest harvesting.

In contrast to the hollow politicking of the Liberals, the $276 million package negotiated between the State and Commonwealth Governments over the weekend offers tangible support for struggling contractors, including an $85 million assistance package.

It also makes available $120 million to stimulate regional investment and new industries that will keep communities vibrant.

And it offers a significant conservation outcome, including $7 million per annum in perpetuity from the Commonwealth to manage new reserves.

If the Liberals were truly interested in a spirit of bipartisanship they would support this package for the real support it offers timber communities, the certainty it provides for a sustainable forest industry into the future and the opportunity it presents to end a conflict that has divided our state for far too long.

• Bob Brown:

How to fix forests agreement

Greens Leader Bob Brown says the Tasmanian forests agreement, to be finalised in a fortnight, would be fixed by the promised 572,000ha of national parks being established forthwith.

“These forests have been studied and mapped for decades. There have been scientific assessments of their world heritage values since the early 1990s. The only possible glitch is with clearfelled, burnt and degraded areas and Forestry Tasmania knows where all these are.

“The national park areas should be established and work on World Heritage nomination and tourism and hospitality planning well underway before Christmas,” Senator Brown said.

• Vica Bayley, Wilderness Society: Tasmanian Forest Heads of Agreement

The Wilderness Society cautiously welcomes the Heads of Agreement signed by State and Federal Governments yesterday and will work to ensure the details of the Intergovernmental Agreement will deliver on the implementation of the Statement of Principles in full, including the protection of eNGO identified forest reserve areas.

Since May when it suspended involvement in the Kelty talks, The Wilderness Society has been calling on Governments to get together and negotiate the implementation of the Statement of Principles and to provide the necessary fund it.

“The Governments have now heard the call to get behind the Statement of Principles and this is welcome,” said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.

“This Heads of Agreement builds on the Statement of Principles and demonstrates Government engagement in delivering on those principles. To do this, the Intergovernmental Agreement must detail the implementation of all principles in full,”

“Detail will be important and we will fully participate in developing the detail to ensure all environmental opportunities are met, including issues not specifically addressed in the Heads of Agreement, like private land protection and plantation management reform.”

The Heads of Agreement maps out a process to immediately protect 430,000ha of unique and important native forests, with a further 142,000 set aside from logging and awaiting protection subject to verification processes. These will ultimately be reserved via formal reserves as part of a range of legislative reforms that must go through both houses of Parliament.

The Wilderness Society is pleased that relief has been delivered to displaced and struggling timber workers who have been forced or are looking to exit the industry as a result of the industry crisis.

“Support for workers and contractors was a fundamental underpinning the principles and we hope this delivers on the needs and expectations of those workers,” he concluded. 

• Nick McKim:

Re-Couple Conservation & Industry Certainty

Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader
Monday, 25 July 2011

The Tasmanian Greens today said that they are committed to working to maximise any conservation outcomes from the Labor Heads of Agreement on Forests, in line with the original Statement of Principles process.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that the main problem with the Heads of Agreement is the decoupling of conservation commitments from industry support.

Mr McKim also said that the indecent haste with which the Prime Minister pushed this process over the weekend has resulted in a less than satisfactory outcome than what could have been delivered had a little more time and effort been invested in getting the best Agreement possible.

“The Heads of Agreement can be salvaged, and the Greens are committed to work hard to maximise conservation outcomes in line with the Statement of Principles,” Mr McKim said.

“The fundamental flaw in Labor’s rush-job is that it decouples the conservation outcomes from the industry outcomes, contrary to the clear requirement of the Statement of Principles process that certainty was to be provided to both equally and up front.”

“All signatories endorsed that principle, yet this Heads of Agreement dismantles that fundamental commitment by deferring any conservation outcome to later down the track, and still with no certainty that there actually will be any delivered.  Whereas industry is provided certainty straight away with cash up-front.”

“The Heads of Agreement in itself will not deliver anything, instead it forms the basis of the subsequent Intergovernmental Agreement, and the conservation and industry outcomes need to be recoupled through that process in order to reflect with integrity of the Statement of Principles.”

“The very rushed process apparently driven by the Prime Minister’s unrealistic timeframe demands over the weekend is the primary reason why we have such a less than satisfactory outcome.”

“The Statement of Principles was a long and detailed process, which is understandable when representatives of different sides of the debate come together to genuinely attempt to resolve a decades-long divisive debate, and we believe that with a little more time a much better package would have resulted,” Mr McKim said.