Greens win deal to save Tasmanian forests
The Greens have clawed back gains with the Gillard government to protect big tracts of Tasmanian native forests.
The Greens have clawed back gains with the Gillard government to protect big tracts of Tasmanian native forests. THE Greens have clawed back gains with the Gillard government to protect big tracts of Tasmanian native forests in an inter-government deal aimed at achieving peace on the island.The 430,000 hectares of forests to get stronger protection from Canberra have been the scenes of some of Australia's most bitter and protracted logging disputes over decades.The last-minute changes after protracted negotiations stung the forest industry, which is calling the deal a bitterly disappointing sham.When the $276 million peace package was initialled a fortnight ago, Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings left open the prospect of logging in these forests if there was no other option. The Greens withheld their backing from the deal.Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday that in finalising the agreement there had been a chance to provide ''clear, immediate protection'' for the 430,000 hectares while still meeting industry's need for wood supply. Under the changes, the federal government will strike a legislatively backed conservation agreement with the state, protecting these forests and, if necessary, compensating loggers to stay out of them.Greens leader Bob Brown said he told Ms Gillard the Greens would not accept the initial package, which failed to deliver on earlier agreements in the long-running peace talks between industry and environment groups.''I'm now looking forward to working with the federal government to get the World Heritage outcomes here,'' Senator Brown said.Among forests to be immediately reserved are tall old-growth eucalypts fringing the existing Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, some of Australia's largest temperate rainforest in the Tarkine and the contentious Wielangta forest on the east coast.Senator Brown faced the threat of being bankrupted out of the Senate in 2009 over legal bills for his failed fight to stop logging in Wielangta to protect threatened species. ''Wielangta now seems to be moving to a national park,'' Senator Brown said.The total 430,000 hectares is now to be formally assessed and legislated into reserves in a process likely to take at least 12 months.These national parks and reserves, together with changes to wood supply agreements, will have to navigate a hostile conservative upper house in the State Parliament.Ms Giddings said if they did not, then Tasmania would not get $100 million regional development assistance, or more than $35 million to look after the new protected areas.But the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania was deeply angered by the last-minute changes, which also drop a legislated guarantee for wood supply to a key veneer mill in the state's south.Association chief executive Terry Edwards said it was a cynical sellout and he could only hope Tasmania's Legislative Council would see the folly of pandering to the Greens.The Coalition's forests spokesman, Richard Colbeck, said the deal capitulated to green groups by cutting in half Tasmania's $1.4 billion forest industry. Doubts remain over the position of the major timber player, Gunns Limited. Its decision to abandon native forest logging opened the door for the peace talks.