Elizabeth Lord, journalism student at RMIT University in Melbourne
The Mercury, 22 June 2011
FORESTRY workers from across the state gathered outside Parliament yesterday with the message to keep native forests open.
Community leaders highlighted the social, economic and environmental benefits of the state's native forest industry to the 300-strong crowd.
The industry is reeling from the exit of struggling forest contractors, closure or impending closure of woodchip and sawmills, and the impacts of the global financial crisis and the Japanese earthquake.
Forestry workers called on politicians not to lock up the rest of Tasmania's native forests without an independent assessment that included community consultation.
Third-generation sawmiller Brett Mackay said the forestry industry was a major contributor to the state's economy with 15,000 people employed either directly or indirectly in the industry, most within the native forest sector.
"We love our work and we want to stay in the native forestry industry. It needs to be fully supported so that employment is maintained," Mr Mackay said.
He presented Premier Lara Giddings with a 15-point message that outlined the benefits of keeping the remainder of Tasmania's native forests open, including long-term sustainable jobs, community vitality and opportunities in bio-energy production and non-wood based industries.
Ms Giddings acknowledged that it was a difficult time for forest workers but told the crowd that the Labor Government would not back away from the industry.
"We are committed to a native forest and plantation forest industry in this state," Ms Giddings said.
"You can be assured we want to have a long-term industry in this state."
Opposition Leader Will Hodgman also pledged his support and said the Liberal Party would oppose any moves in Parliament to shut the forestry industry down.
"We believe in a strong, sustainable, viable forestry industry that will continue in this state forever," he said.
Greens forestry spokesman Kim Booth called on Ms Giddings to support the forestry contractors and their families and provide financial assistance to allow them to exit the industry.