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• MONDAY: • The Age: Tasmania in $274m forests deal • The Australian: Giddings faces Greens ire on forests package • Mercury: $276m Tassie forest deal

• SUNDAY: THE EXAMINER: Forestry deal done: $276M to workers; Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Premier Lara Giddings have announced a historic agreement on the future of forestry in Tasmania with a $276 million compensation package. In a statement from Ms Gillard, she said the state of the forestry industry in Tasmania was not sustainable. She said the agreement would secure jobs, ensure a sustainable forestry industry and achieve environmental outcomes by protecting high conservation value forests and remaining old growth forests. The agreement also provides the protection of a further 430,000 hectares of native forest.

• TASMANIAN FOREST AGREEMENT: HEADS OF AGREEMENT:

The pressure on the Tasmanian Forestry industry over recent years and months has created a situation in which the industry and workforce cannot be sustained in their current form.

The Australian and Tasmanian Governments recognise the need for transition as a result of this pressure, and the intense pain and hardship experienced by many workers and their families in communities across Tasmania.

A change is needed in order to bring this distress to an end and create a transition that leads to a sustainable future for those communities and certainty for a sustainable forest industry.

This agreement will underpin a transition, provide immediate assistance to those workers and families who are in distress as a result of industry restructuring, support the restructuring of the industry towards future sustainability, create a significant conservation benefit by reserving and protecting High Conservation Value forest areas and strengthen the partnership between the two Governments and other stakeholders to develop and diversify the Tasmanian economy, creating new sources of prosperity and opportunity for all Tasmanians.

The principles and subsequent agreement among signatories to those principles, independently facilitated by Mr Bill Kelty, represent significant progress in working towards a settlement of the conflict over native forestry in Tasmania which has blighted community and economic life in the State for too long.

The two Governments acknowledge the effort and commitment put in by the signatories to those principles. This agreement is consistent with those principles and makes commitments to implementation which can realise the significant benefits potentially available to the whole community. They also note that, during the verification and implementation of this agreement, Gunns Ltd will continue to work towards the establishment of a pulp mill at Bell Bay.

The Tasmanian and Australian Governments agree that:

1. A package of immediate assistance will be provided to workers and contractors who are losing their jobs and livelihoods as a result of the current changes in the industry, namely the exit of Gunns Ltd from the native forest sector.This package will make up to $85m available to support employee assistance, retraining (and relocation) support for workers to support them in finding new jobs and opportunities and for harvest and haulage contractors to exit the industry permanently. $70m of this package will be provided by the Australian Government. This package will include a partnership with ForestWorks and Skills Tasmania to maximise the local opportunities for retraining and employment in local communities affected by the industry transition. Wood supply for the remaining industry will be guaranteed at a volume of high quality sawlog of at least 155,000 cubic meters per year and 265 000 cubic metres of peeler billets per year. In addition, as agreed by the Kelty process, speciality timber will be provided, noting that the industry claim is 12500 cubic metres per year, subject to verification. Existing contracts for wood supply will be honoured and the Australian government will fund a voluntary exit mechanism to enable further native wood supply capacity to be retired and reserve areas increased when suitable plantation wood supply is available. This mechanism will be completed by the end of the 2011-12 financial year.

2. 430,000 hectares of nominated native forest, from within the 572,000 hectares nominated by the Environmental NGOs, through the signatories, will be placed in immediate informal reserve by the state, subject to an independent verification process led by Professor Jonathan West. Verification of the boundaries of these 430,000 hectares will take place as soon as possible. This interim forest area will be protected from logging while the verification process is completed, subject to the agreed requirements of existing contracts, consistent with the Kelty process. This verification process will verify the boundaries and conservation value of the nominated areas and the level of reserve from the nominated 572 000 hectares compatible with the guaranteed supply outlined above. The process will be conducted by a body independent of both Governments and all other stakeholders and resourced by the Australian Government. The process will be led by Professor Jonathan West and a group of experts jointly nominated by the Australian and Tasmanian governments. The group will use its best endeavours to report to the Prime Minister and Premier by the end of 2011. The verification process will include opportunities for stakeholders and community members to contribute to and review the modelling of options and outcomes as far as possible. These findings will determine the area of HCV forest to be reserved. The Australian Government will provide funding for the verification process.

3. The Tasmanian Government will immediately regulate to guarantee wood supply and, by the end of the 2011-12 financial year, will legislate to formally protect the reserved areas of HCV forest with appropriate forms of land tenure which may include National Park and World Heritage status, compatible with other economic development opportunities.

4. An ongoing commitment to economic development will be implemented through a partnership to pursue successful regional economic development. A regional Development Ministerial Advisory Council chaired by Bill Kelty has been appointed to lead the support for regional development opportunities in Tasmania and Professor Jonathan West will undertake a study to identify those opportunities. The initial stages of this process will include consultation with the community and stakeholders to identify the further work and the transition plan required for successful delivery of the supply and protection commitments formalised through the operation of this agreement, and the identification of other opportunities for regional economic development.

5. The two governments will work in partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding for Place-based investment. The Australian Government will commit $120 million over a period of 15 years, which includes an initial payment of $20m in 2011-12, to fund regional development projects which meet rigorous criteria for improving the productivity and income-earning capacity of the Tasmanian economy. The Australian government will provide $7million per year on an ongoing basis to support the costs of reserve management for the increased areas of forest protected under this agreement. Each of these ongoing payments will be subject to the passage of the legislation described in clause 3.

6. This agreement creates the chance to move on from a divisive conflict and build a stronger future for the Tasmanian community. The Australian and Tasmanian governments have a clear expectation that, with the formalisation of this agreement, the long running conflict over native forestry in Tasmania will come to an end and that stakeholders and signatories to the Kelty process will reflect this resolution of conflict in their own conduct and use their good offices to make clear their expectations of the conduct of other like-minded organisations.

7. The two governments expect that, as a result of this agreement, the Triabunna mill will reopen and be operated in accordance with the statement of principles and the terms of this agreement. The two governments also expect that, as a result of the implementation of this agreement, relevant organisations will support the provision of FSC certification for appropriate remaining forestry activity in Tasmania.

8. The Australian Government will provide the Tasmanian Government with an immediate payment of $43 million to facilitate the implementation of the agreement. This fund will be used for a range of activities including community consultation and the provision of information in order to facilitate understanding of this agreement and to establish the Tasmanian regional development process and providing voluntary compensable exits to sawmillers wishing to exit the native forest industry.

9. The Australian and Tasmanian Governments will work together to examine and identify potential opportunities from the Biodiversity Fund arising from increased forest reserves.

10. The two Governments will work together to support Rural Alive and Well workers to provide support to community members suffering from the stress caused by this transition.

11. The two Governments will formalise this agreement through an Intergovernmental agreement which will be signed within two weeks of today and includes agreed implementation and reporting structures. Implementation arrangements will include a process to continue involvement of the signatories in relevant aspects of delivering this agreement, including the verification process and other aspects of the statement of principles not covered by these Heads of Agreement.

12. Payments under this agreement will have no impact on GST funding to Tasmania.

Premier Lara Giddings

Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke

Deputy Premier Bryan Green

• WHAT LARA GIDDINGS AND BRYAN GREEN SAY:

Forest workers supported through Heads of Agreement


The Premier, Lara Giddings, today welcomed the signing of a Heads of Agreement on forestry which includes direct assistance for Tasmanian forest workers displaced by changes in the industry.


The joint announcement was made in Hobart today by Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings.


“The Commonwealth and State Governments are committed to working together to realise this opportunity to restructure the Tasmanian forest industry and attempt to end the bitter division the debate has caused over many decades,” Ms Giddings said.


“I recognise the pain that this debate has caused for many years, and also the pain caused in more recent times by changes in the industry.


“That is why we have supported the historic Statement of Principles process which has seen representatives of the industry, ENGO’s and the forestry union coming together for the first time.


“This process has never been about forcing change on the industry, but responding to the very real challenges the sector is facing, particularly as a result of Gunns Limited’s intention to exit native forest harvesting.


“It is clear that against the tide of these changing market conditions, doing nothing is not an option.


“The reality is that jobs are already being lost in the industry as we speak and this package will mean that those who lose their job as a result of this restructure will be financially supported.


“Through this Heads of Agreement we now have access to significant Commonwealth funding to assist with the transition to a new forest industry.


“Significantly, this agreement also marks an end to the debate over logging in old-growth forests.”


Ms Giddings said it was absolutely vital that contractors affected by Gunns’ withdrawal from native forests were supported as a key first step of the restructure process.


“This $85 million package, including $15 million from the State Government, will enable us to respond to the immediate needs of forest workers who have been displaced, often with loans on equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Ms Giddings said.


“Without this assistance, these people would not be able to put food on the table and risk having their homes repossessed.


“This funding will specifically be made available to those workers directly affected by Gunns Limited’s decision to exit native forest harvesting, including the indefinite closure of the Triabunna woodchip mill, with funds also set aside for retraining and re-skilling.”


Ms Giddings said she hoped the $85 million fund could begin to be distributed as soon as possible.


Ms Giddings said the HoA also contained recognition that a sustainable native forest industry could operate alongside new areas of forest reserves.


“The balance between reserves and ongoing sawlog availability for Tasmanian sawmillers will be in keeping with the spirit of the Statement of Principles process,” Ms Giddings said.


“This agreement protects family sawmillers and the veneer industry in recognition that the native forest industry can have a strong and sustainable future in Tasmania into the future.


“We will regulate to guarantee supply of sawlogs to Tasmanian sawmills and existing wood supply contracts will be honoured.”


“The HoA also recognises the importance of downstream processing sustainably grown plantation timber through the pulp mill.”


Deputy Premier and Minister for Energy and Resources, Bryan Green, said the package would support timber workers through this transition process, along with the communities that rely on the industry to survive.


“The package contains funding of $120 million which will help secure the long-term future of regional communities over the next 15 years through for regional development projects, to be identified through a process led by Bill Kelty,” Mr Green said.


“There is also an opportunity to access significant additional funding through the Commonwealth’s Regional Development Fund and the new Biodiversity Fund.


“Over many years operators in the Tasmanian forest industry have shown their ability to innovate and adapt to new practices and a key focus of the package will also be to help facilitate that innovation through funding and research and grow the industry off plantations.”


Ms Giddings said she hoped all sides of the forestry debate would recognise the opportunity to end the bitter conflict that has divided the state for far too long.


“Peace in the forests requires both sides of this debate to recognise the enormous amount of goodwill and sacrifice that has been poured into the historic Statement of Principles and to respect the outcome of this process.”


• WHAT NICK MCKIM SAYS:

REPONSE TO LABOR FORESTS HEAD OF AGREEMENT DEAL
Peace in our Time Opportunity in the Balance

Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader
Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Tasmanian Greens today said that they reserve the right to support or not to support key elements of the Heads of Agreement signed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Premier Lara Giddings, and released late today.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that the Greens will support or oppose elements of this Labor package on their merits, and expressed concern that the opportunity for an enduring outcome may have been missed.

“This is an agreement between Labor at State and Federal levels, and has not been accepted or signed off by the Greens,” Mr McKim said.

“We have always argued that people in the industry doing it total due to a failed business model should receive appropriate financial assistance, but this package delivers too much up front to the industry, and not enough for conservation.”

“We are disappointed that this agreement has been signed today as we believe that with a little more time a more workable and enduring solution could have been achieved.”

“The intent of the Statement of Principles was to bring peace to the forest debate, but we are concerned that this agreement will see that opportunity lost.  A little extra time invested would have improved the chances of this goal being delivered.”

“Despite our disappointment that key aspects of this package do not meet community expectation, the Greens will continue to work hard to improve outcomes flowing from this deal.”

• TARKINE BETRAYED, SAYS TARKINE NATIONAL COALITION

Tarkine betrayed for 30 pieces of tin.

Tarkine National Coalition has condemned the Intergovernmental Agreement to implement the Tasmanian Forests Statement of Principles.

The Intergovernmental Agreement fails to address key points of the Statement of Principles, chiefly the immediate protection of 430,000 hectares in National Parks, and that the voluntary surrender of sawlog quota would not be reallocated to the industry.

The Intergovernmental Agreement instead offers only informal reserves, subject to “other interests” tests. This effectively means that where it can be shown that there is a potential for mining exploration or development, the reserves will be unlikely to be granted.

The Tarkine area is currently under unprecedented mining interest.

“This amounts to a yet another betrayal of the Tarkine by government at the behest of mining interests”, said Tarkine National Coalition’s Campaign Coordinator Scott Jordan.

“The Tarkine is being sold for thirty pieces of tin.”

The Tarkine National Coalition approached the Minister Green four months ago seeking a meeting to discuss talks with the mining industry about National Park boundaries for the Tarkine. The Minister rejected the talks plan despite TNC securing strong industry support.

• BEN QUIN: Where to now for Tasmania’s forest industries?  Prime Minister Gillard and Premier Giddings should review recent history before making any further decisions.

When the forest industry was last on the front foot after the 2004 Federal election, (we all remember the meeting at the Albert Hall in Launceston where John Howard was given a rapturous reception by Tasmanian forestry workers) it took the opportunity to reach too far. The industry, led by Gunns and FT, launched into its “pulp mill or death” strategy and trampled over Tasmanian political process to get its way. 

It got death by mistake.

Now we have the Greens and environmental groups seemingly on the front foot.  They too are over-reaching.  They have launched an artistic revision of the original pulp mill or death strategy and they too now attempt to trample political process to get their way.

It will be death again if we accept the false logic that we can trade off our native forest industries for an expansion of plantations and a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley.  It is a fraudulent trade.  More public money will be lost on the endless cycle of compensation, jobs will go, there will be no forestry peace and Tasmania’s natural environment will be further degraded.

Before any binding decisions are taken on the future of Tasmania’s forest industries, we must know the answer to this question:  “is it correct that there is no viable market in the world for the products of Tasmanian native forests”?  That’s the argument we have been sold by Gunns and the ENGO’s.  I am deeply suspicious that this is merely an argument of convenience, although the matter of convenience has a different interpretation between the parties.

If we are to have an honest discussion, the existence of viable markets should not be allowed to fuel fear of environmental destruction.  For example, there have been several recent incidents of unethical demonising of China by commentators on TT as part of a campaign to frame the environmental debate.  There is a clear public consensus for change in the way we manage our forests.

This should be acknowledged by the industry and legislature in any decisions taken.  Yet the consensus does not stretch so far as ceasing operations in native forests.  This should be acknowledged by the Greens and ENGO’s.

If the current forestry dilemma is based in the nature of cyclical markets, then let’s not allow Gunns and FT off the hook for having a bad commercial strategy.  All Australian commodity exporters have to deal with fluctuating markets and exchange rates.  Do we establish a precedent of public insurance for all commodity exporters against these risks?  Of course not.  As a general rule, the beauty of trees is that the longer they grow, the more valuable they become.  Money in the bank, earning interest if you wish.  It is just that Gunns spent too much on their ANZ and FT credit accounts.  No need for sympathy here.  We can frame a sustainable forests policy that deals with these cycles without any more “help” from Gunns or their pulp mill boosters.

The more complex question is in relation to distressed contractors.  The public is being asked to provide immediate substantial compensation to these people.  I have some sympathy, but we must have an honest discussion about the root of their distress.  Did the contractors enter into risky contracts knowingly, either in the hope of higher rewards or out of spite for “Greenies”?  Or have the contracts been dishonoured, or were they illegal in the first place?  These will be uncomfortable questions for one or other party in the contractual arrangement, but that must not be a reason for hiding the facts from the public.

All parties to these current discussions (and the public is excluded here) have a vested interest at stake and a supposed ace to play – “A” pulp mill, native forests, “THE” chip mill and compensation.  Only two things are clear.  The ongoing performance at this round table circus is not in the public interest and the current stalemate is an indictment of our truncated Parliament and the capabilities of its members.

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• WAM!: MEDIA RELEASE: Women protest naked to stop the mill

The latest group to emerge from the Tamar Valley Community, WAM! (Women Against the Mill) is comprised of passionate women prepared to engage in cheeky random acts of protest to highlight their opposition to the proposed pulp mill.

Stephani Taylor, spokesperson for WAM! said, “This action is to highlight how vulnerable we feel as a community. As women we are the carers, the nurturers of our children and grandchildren and we are seriously concerned about the health effects that the toxic air pollution will have on our health. We are also concerned about the effect that the effluent going into our ocean will have on marine life.”

In the action today the women of all ages, braved the mid-winter cold and lay naked on a banner which stated “VULNERABLE, NO TOXIC PULP MILL”. The event took place 2.5 kms from the pulp mill site, at Rowella which the locals call the sacrificial zone.

“Gunns say they are going ahead with this mill despite the fact that this project has never been adequately assessed on environmental and social grounds. The community is feeling very vulnerable. Our businesses are threatened, our lifestyle is threatened, our health is threatened and we are concerned about the road safety issues of all the extra log trucks and trucks carrying chemicals to the mill. Our children and grandchildren travel to school on these roads and we are very concerned about their safety.” she said. “The people also feel vulnerable to the government corruption which fast tracked this project; the government which continues to ignore our concerns.

“WAM! came about because many of these women have been suffering from bouts of depression due to the threat of this mill. We felt the need to do cheeky, outrageous but powerful actions that make us and the community laugh. We have been to all the rallies, written letters and spoken to politicians, some of us have been arrested with Pulp the Mill, and now we are literally placing our bodies on the line to continue to show our opposition to the mill.” she concluded.

Mercury report: Modesty pulped in protest

First published: 2011-07-24 04:41 PM