14 March, 2014

Liberals warned over TFA stance

Rosemary Bolger
The Examiner (Launceston), 14 March 2014

ENVIRONMENT groups have stepped up the pressure on the Liberal Party, warning there will be no such thing as non-contested wood if the Tasmanian Forests Agreement is torn up.

At the final stage of the election campaign, the Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania urged the Liberal Party to rethink their plan to tear up the deal, but stopped short of issuing a threat.

"It is the Liberal Party that will be making a choice to remove the capacity for the industry to have a stable future," Dr Phill Pullinger said.

"This is a package deal. It was, it is, a finely-balanced agreement, and you can't pull out one thread."

The groups have welcomed timber veneer company Ta Ann Tasmania's commitment to only source wood from outside areas that are protected under the deal, even if the Liberals reopen them to logging.

However, that doesn't guarantee support for the company's products made from the so-called "non-contentious" areas, if it's not underpinned by the TFA.

"The whole industry becomes contentious again," Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said.

He rejected the Liberals' claim to have a mandate to unwind the agreement.

Liberals forestry spokesman Peter Gutwein said he would not be "greenmailed".

"Threats by environmental groups that the Liberals plan to rip up the sham forestry deal will reignite protests will not sway a majority Liberal government from taking the action needed to rebuild our forest industry," Mr Gutwein said.

Labor has vowed to continue to implement the Tasmanian Forests Agreement. That is the key plank of the party's forestry policy unveiled yesterday at Ta Ann's Smithton mill.

Deputy Premier Bryan Green said a re-elected Labor government would also negotiate a new regional forest agreement with the Commonwealth.

The policy includes $5.8 million in new spending, including money for research into plantation products, $1.5 million to offset costs of transporting forest residues to Bell Bay, and more assistance for workers.

Mr Green said the Liberals had failed to provide a credible alternative.

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