ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), March 01, 2012
The Tasmanian Greens leader wants the Forestry Tasmania board sacked after revelations the state-owned company is negotiating to hand over land marked for protection to Tasmanian Aborigines.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre wants areas protected under the federally-funded deal to end logging in native forests handed to Aborigines.
The centre's legal director, Michael Mansell, says state-owned Forestry Tasmania has agreed verbally to help manage protected forests, if the Government gives the land to the Aboriginal community.
The future of 572,000 hectares of Tasmania forest is currently being considered for protection from logging.
Mr Mansell says Aborigines are waiting to see how much is deemed as having high-conservation value.
"Once that's agreed, we believe the land should vest in Aboriginal people, the management of the conservation areas vests with us."
"The money for the management that has been set aside already by the Commonwealth, $7 million, should go to us and, as part of the management of that large conservation area, we would have to pay the experts.
He has drawn up a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Forestry Tasmania to help manage the forests.
He says it is yet to be signed, but the state-owned company and forest groups agree on the principles of the deal.
Mr Mansell says the MOU does not allow for future logging inside the protected forests and he expects environmental groups will also sign on.
He says it is now up to the Premier, Lara Giddings, to act on the land handover which would also need approval from the Tasmanian Parliament.
Ms Giddings says she is aware that the Aboriginal community approached Forestry Tasmania to discuss options to manage new areas of reserves.
She says the State Government is not currently considering such a proposal.
PHOTO: Michael Mansell expects environmental groups will sign onto the land deal.
Greens leader Nick McKim has told ABC Local Radio that Forestry Tasmania was actively undermining the peace process.
"That it is actively seeking to undermine the IGA and ultimately what needs to happen now is that Lara Giddings and Bryan Green need to step up to the mark, sack the Forestry Tasmania board, sack Bob Gordon and get that organisation back working in consonance with government policy not opposed to it."
Tasmania's Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Cassy O'Connor, is concerned Forestry Tasmania is trying to exploit the Aboriginal community.
Ms O'Connor has warned the community it is a mistake to get involved with Forestry Tasmania.
"This move, particularly on Forestry Tasmania's part, is a mistake."
"Forestry Tasmania is exploiting a vulnerable community, in the process they are potentially undermining the IGA, and as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I'm frankly gobsmacked that FT could go to this extent with the community and not consult with the Minister," she said.
The Opposition's Peter Gutwein says he is not surprised by the revelations.
"This clearly demonstrates the dysfunctional nature of this Government, absolutely."
"I don't think there could be a clearer description of this Government as dysfunctional at the moment."
The Australian Greens leader, Bob Brown, says it is a cruel move by Forestry Tasmania.
He says the Aboriginal community made him aware of the issue two weeks ago and he has urged them to be wary of the state-owned company.
"This is quite a treacherous activity that Forestry Tasmania has been involved in."
It is a rogue organisation that sees itself outside the reach of proper probity by the State Government and State Parliament and it's pretty cruel, using the Indigenous community in Tasmania."
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