12 September, 2012

Another hitch for forestry peace talks

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), Sep 12, 2012

Tasmania's forestry peace talks remain in limbo after forest industry signatories walked away.

The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) is refusing to rejoin the talks because the State Government has broken a promise over the restructure of Forestry Tasmania.

FIAT says Government officials gave assurances the state-owned company would retain control over production forests.

Earlier today, acting Premier Bryan Green today announced he would push for the establishment of a new statutory authority to take control of Tasmania's production forests.

Labor's minority government partner had been arguing for the forests to be transferred to a government department.

"The industry had been concerned about ensuring that there is not ministerial control over the management of forests in Tasmania," Mr Green said.

"I agree with that. We're putting in place a process to ensure effectively a body is developed to allow that to happen, it is independent from ministerial control.

"What I'm looking to do is ensure that we get an outcome that everybody can be happy with."

FIAT was threatening to walk away from the peace talks if the Greens got their way.

Mr Green said he had found a "sensible" solution which he hoped would see FIAT remain at the table.

But FIAT's chief executive Terry Edwards says the pledge falls "substantially short" of what industry requires to stay in the peace talks.

Mr Edwards says the State Government had made commitments that production forests would remain with Forestry Tasmania.

Members voted unanimously to stay out of the peace talks until the Government fulfil its original pledge.

"When we signed the interim agreement we had been assured that the expectations we had about forest management would be met," he said.

"We had been assured that. That assurance now hasn't been honoured and as a result the Government has now got the situation they now find themselves in."

Mr Edwards says the association will stay out of the talks for four weeks to give Mr Green time to change his mind.

"I want to give the Government a genuine opportunity to resolve this problem."

"I don't want to talk about destroying these talks.

"The process is still there, we're committed to continue to use that process to try and produce an outcome but we will not do it in circumstances where we cannot be assured that any outcome will be durable and this is, in that contest, a key durability issue."

Greens leader Nick McKim had compromised, agreeing to consider Mr Green's plan to establish a new independent statutory body.

But Mr McKim's stance on FIAT's push remains the same.

"The Greens are not prepared to support those forests remaining with Forestry Tasmania," Mr McKim said.

"We've been consistent about that since day one and that remains our position and will remain our position."

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