Who is Running the Peace Talks on the Tasmanian Forestry Statement of Principles?


Who are the people that are negotiating the Tasmanian Forestry Statement of Principles, and who has given them the right to negotiate the use of Tasmania’s forest on behalf of the Tasmanian people?

On one hand we have the forest industry represented by:

Timber Communities Australia Ltd

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union

The National Association of Forest Industries

The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania

The Australian Forest Contractors Association

The Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association

Tasmanian Country Sawmiller’s Federation

And Environmental groups represented by:

Environment Tasmania

The Wilderness Society

Australian Conservation Foundation

Why have these groups that have basically been at war for decades now been forced to sit down and try and talk peace? Obviously the industry through its own gross mismanagement is on it’s knees and begging for help. It has no choice but to concede defeat in the war and to raise the white flag. We have two sides to this war, one side that under the previous Chairmanship of Gunns Ltd, John Gay that would not have been happy until every last Old Growth tree in Tasmania was fallen and is still obsessed with building a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley at any cost. On the other hand we have environmental groups that will not be happy until absolutely no native forest is ever harvested again and locked away forever.

The Statement of Principles that has been reached is for a phasing out of native forest harvesting at the cost of thousands of jobs in the high value adding sawmilling, craft and furniture making industries which will require a substantial Government bail out package. In exchange for a “Pulp Mill” (not stated where) that is plantation based.  It is absolute madness if we have to trade off an end to selective Native Forest harvesting of high value specialty timbers which will cost up to some say 3000 jobs and millions of taxpayers dollars to bail them out so we can get a pulp mill. In my view this is a lose / lose situation. The forest industry lose and the opponents to the pulp mill lose. The amount of jobs lost in the roll back of native forest harvesting will not even come close to being compensated for by the jobs created by the Pulp Mill.

This takes me back to my original question as to why is it that these groups have been selected to make this deal? Those who voted Green at the last election did so  because they did not want a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. Whenever you ask the Greens or the Labor Government about the peace talks they throw up their hands and say “Oh we are not party to this agreement, we have nothing to do with the process” Why not? Who is running this State?  The forestry Industry and Environemetal groups or the elected Governemt of the day?  Every time I hear Kim Booth or other Greens on the radio the rhetoric I hear is they want to do more with less . Well Kim a pulp mill is just one step up from woodchips and no native forest logging of specialty timbers is several giant steps backwards. So if the final agreement is a pulp mill and an end to native forest logging what are you going to do about it? This deal means a pulp mill with NO forestry, not more with less.

Bill Kelty stated at a press conference in Launceston on March 22

“it wold be easy to conclude that there is insufficient agreement to establish a workable solution. This is evidenced by:

The difficulty of the task itself. The parties are seeking to overcome generations of mistrust and divergent views. The non-signatories views reflect that generational view:

The agreement requires all aspects to be encompassed as a packaged approach. No one principle can be seen in isolation;

There remains a strong divergence of opinion on the pulp mill at Bell Bay;

There are a number of interested parties/stakeholders who are not signatories;

There is a need for Government at both State and Federal level to provide support in an economy under fiscal pressure;

There is uncertaintity surrounding the economic position of Gunns Ltd, reflected in the volatile and relatively low share price; and

There is uncertaintity surrounding the timing and specific intent of Gunn Ltd’s voluntary withdrawal from native forest processing “

If the two sides are to reach a final agrrement they both will have to conceed some ground. A far better agreement that would address most of the above issues mentioned above by Bill Kelty would be if Gunns agrees to move the Pulp Mill to Hampshire and got back to the Resource Palnning and Development Commisssion and have the mill fully assessed as it should have been in the first place. There is no way Gunns will ever get a social license unless it does, which means there is no way they will find a joint venture partner. Most of the opposition to the mill is due to the two facts that it is located in the wrong place and the corrupt proccess of aproval.  For the concession of Gunns to move the mill the Environmental groups will need to conceed some ground also and they can do this by locking up the very high conservations forests they want locked up but leaving parts unlocked so that some high value specialty timber from native forest can still be selectively harvested for sawmilling, furniture making and craft wood etc. This will save thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of  taxpayers money on a bail out. A small portion of the millions saved that would have been needed to bail out the forest industry could then go towards compensating Gunns for the cost of moving the mill to Hampshire.

This way we go from lose / lose to win / win. The forestry workers keep their jobs, the high conservation forests get locked away for ever and the State gets a pulp mill that most people are happy with.

So again why do we need these peace talks? Surely we just need a Government with leadership and vision to sit everyone down and say this is what we are doing and this is what you have to do. The Government should be running this State and instead of talking about it get on with the job of governing for the people.

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