22 November, 2012

End to Tasmanian forest wars will curb logging

Andrew Darby, Hobart correspondent for Fairfax Media

The Age, November 22, 2012

A final deal that should end the generation-old Tasmanian forest wars has been signed, protecting more than 500,000 hectares of native forest.

Negotiators said the deal would shrink the surviving native-forest logging industry, but had been supported by all involved in the two-year-long talks.

"It delivers a comprehensive conservation outcome that we can all be proud of, once it is gazetted," said The Wilderness Society's campaigner, Vica Bayley.

"It's a final agreement that involves compromise, but in the end is win-win for everybody," Mr Bayley said.

Mr Bayley said 395,200 hectares of forest would be protected immediately under the deal, with a further 108,800 hectares to gain protection by 2015, giving a total of 504,000 secured from logging.

Protected forests will include the highly contested, tall, old-growth eucalypt Styx, Upper Florentine and Weld valleys fringing the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Terry Edwards, chief executive of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, said he had mixed feelings.

"But I hope that for the sake of the state of Tasmania that the war might now be over," Mr Edwards said.

As of this morning, all bar one signatory had backed the agreement, and that party had given in-principle support, he told local ABC radio.

Mr Edwards said the industry had reduced its quota to 137,000 cubic metres, below a 155,000 cubic metre benchmark set in an interim agreement hammered out by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year.

The biggest surviving native forest company, veneer processor Ta Ann, is to renegotiate reduced contracts to ensure that its supplies come from genuine arisings of sawlog supplies.

The agreement will go before Tasmania's cabinet today, Thursday, before legislation is introduced to enact key components that would unlock $100 million in federal assistance.

The eventual fate of the deal also depends on the state's upper house, the Legislative Council, whose majority have opposed the negotiations. Mr Edwards urged all parties to get behind the proposal.

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