06 August, 2012

No peace deal for Tasmania's forests

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), August 06, 2012

Long-running talks to strike a peace deal for Tasmania's forests have failed, with signatories unable to meet today's deadline for a final agreement.

The industry and environmental groups involved say they need fresh eyes and cannot do it alone.

They have called on the state and federal governments to facilitate a final agreement to reduce the amount of native forest logging in the state.

The groups will not say what the key sticking points are, but say the plan they had almost settled on did not provide enough timber for the industry.

Terry Edwards from the Forest Industries Association says the issues which need sorting out are "significant".

But Phil Pullinger from Environment Tasmania says failure is not an option.

"We do think that the new set of eyes may help us with some lateral thinking," he said.

Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings says an agreement is vital to bring hope for the future.

"It is a reality that our forestry industries are under pressure, it is a reality that our world markets are in decline," she said.

"There is no use being a (Opposition Leader) Will Hodgman in all of this and putting your head in the sand and pretending the problems in the forest industry will go away.

"What an agreement will do is give us some hope, some way to providing for a sustainable native and plantation forest industry into the future."

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says he is confident an agreement can still be reached.

"Throughout all of this, we need to remember two things: one, we are talking about a group of people who a fortnight ago were able to reach an agreement; secondly, everybody around that table knows what it means if they don't reach agreement," he said.

"Industry are only at the table because they believe there are significant benefits to industry from them being in an agreement.

"The conservation groups are only on the table because they believe there is a one-off opportunity there for a conservation outcome.

"And the union is at the table because they know there are strong employment outcomes from reaching an agreement."

The parties will meet Mr Burke and Deputy Premier Bryan Green on Friday.

They expect a deal, if any, will be announced early next week.

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