21 December, 2006

ARTICLE: Warning on forestry

Phillippa Duncan
The Mercury, 21/12/2006

Premier Paul Lennon has warned a Federal Court decision to protect two rare birds and a beetle could destroy Tasmania's forestry and agricultural industries.

Mr Lennon said Greens senator Bob Brown's legal win stopping logging in the Wielangta State Forest could also have "serious ramifications for the Tasmanian economy".

Forestry Tasmania would be unable to continue to offer long-term wood supply, threatening sawmills and the proposed pulp mill.

Mr Lennon has asked Prime Minister John Howard to urgently change the law to protect the milling industries, 10,000 forestry jobs and farmers' livelihoods.

He said the decision could extend to all activities in Tasmania's environment and had introduced a "whole new set of requirements".

The court had ruled people whose activity impacted on the eagle or its habitat had to protect and enhance the species' population.

Mr Lennon said legal advice indicated the ramifications of Justice Shane Marshall's decision "go way beyond" Wielangta and forestry.

"The wedge-tailed eagle does not confine itself to a particular forest," he said.

"Activity outside a state forest could well find itself in the same position as activity inside the forest.

"The situation is very serious."

The court ruled that logging would have a "significant impact" on the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, swift parrot and broad-toothed stag beetle.

It also ruled that Forestry Tasmania had not adequately protected the three species and had breached the Regional Forest Agreement in the forest near Orford.

In the biggest blow, Justice Marshall removed Forestry Tasmania's exemption from the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Mr Lennon said Tasmania had locked up 40 per cent of its landmass in reserves and parks for the exemption, which Mr Howard should restore.

Mr Lennon has indicated the State Government will not appeal the decision because it would only extend the action and not end the uncertainty.

He is "optimistic" Mr Howard will amend the law and possibly the RFA to protect forestry and farming jobs.

"We can't have a situation in Tasmania where 10,000 families and their livelihoods are put at risk," he said.

The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania predicted the decision could even impact on tourism which depends on the state's natural wilderness.

FIAT chief executive Terry Edwards said the state and federal governments had to act urgently to restore wood-supply certainty.

He said the decision had undermined the intent of the RFA and jeopardised $1 billion of industry investment and 10,000 jobs.

"We call on both governments to reinstate the original intent of the RFA and to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure the principles agreed upon by them in negotiating that agreement are honoured," he said.

Senator Brown predicted any legislative change would "enhance and accelerate the extinction of species".

"If they do this in an election year, they do this at their own peril," he said.

Forestry Tasmania and the state and federal governments have until February 9 to appeal the decision.

Original article

No comments: