13 September, 2012

Green groups attack forest industry walk out

Zoe Edwards, state political reporter 
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), Sep 13, 2012T

Environmental groups have accused the forestry industry of holding Tasmania's forest peace talks to ransom.

The Forest Industry Association of Tasmania (FIAT) will not return to the negotiations until the State Government ensures Forestry Tasmania will continue to control production forests.

That has incensed environmental groups involved in the peace talks.

Don Henry from the Australian Conservation Foundation says FIAT's actions are not in the public interest.

"You shouldn't hold peace negotiations to ransom, that's a dangerous game," he said.

The Wilderness Society has also criticised FIAT for walking out for a second time.

Spokesman Lyndon Schneiders says the negotiations are the best way to reach a deal.

"Then the concerns around what are future governments going to do have to be diminished," he said.

"We've got concerns as well about what Will Hodgman's going to do into the future.

"If we took that approach given Hodgman's been running round, saying he's going to tear up the agreement and start from scratch and give industry everything they want, we wouldn't be at the talks either."

FIAT's Terry Edwards says it will not be the association's fault if the talks fall over.

"Government can solve this today, if they are to make an announcement that satisfies the needs that we have," he said.

It has whet Opposition Leader Will Hodgman's appetite for an election.

"If the deal falls, so should the Government," he said.

The Acting Premier has conceded there will be no deal to end the decades-long forest wars if industry does not sign on.

But Bryan Green is not changing his mind.

"We will continue to work with them, allow them to understand the process as it unfolds," he said.

"We have said, just as we're doing with in the energy reforms, [we are] establishing a body to work through the restructuring process."

Mr Green wants to set up a statutory authority to take control of commercial forests from Forestry Tasmania.

He had hoped the plan would appease FIAT and entice it back to the forest peace talks.

Will Mr Hodgman also believes Forestry Tasmania should maintain control over production forests.

"It'll be just a colossal waste of time, money and effort and it will be another step in just trying to keep Nick McKim happy," Mr Hodgman said.

The Greens want more detail before fully backing Mr Green's plan.

Nonetheless, a cabinet sub-committee will meet tomorrow to deal with the issue.

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