15 May, 2014

Government stands firm on bid to reduce Tasmanian forest World Heritage listing

Felicity Ogilvie
ABC News 15 May 2014 

The Federal Government is ignoring a Senate inquiry's advice on a World Heritage-listed forest in Tasmania after the inquiry condemned plans to delist the forest.

PHOTO: The World Heritage committee will hand down its draft decision on the Tasmanian forest this week. (Rob Blakers: Supplied)
The extension of Tasmania's World Heritage area is the centrepiece of the so-called forest peace deal.

But the Coalition opposes the deal and say they want the World Heritage committee to reduce the Tasmanian extension by 74,000 hectares.

Greens leader Christine Milne is on the Senate Committee that has told the Government to stop trying to delist the forest.

"If a country like Australia decides that, as a result of a political whim, it can destroy its World Heritage area to facilitate logging, that will send a very clear message to other countries that they can adjust their boundaries for uranium mines or any other kind of mining, logging, tourism, development or whatever they like," she said.

"It would be a real blow to World Heritage globally."

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck says the Government will push on with its request.

The area contains some plantations and areas that have been previously logged.

Senator Colbeck says it should never have been World Heritage.

"I think the Tasmanian community said at the federal election last September, and again at the state election in March, that they want to have a forest industry, they want to sensibly use our resources in Tasmania, but they also ... value and want to maintain the wilderness World Heritage values of the outstanding area that is the original estate," he said.

"So I think there's an opportunity to have win-win-win all round."

The World Heritage committee will hand down its draft decision this week.

Spokesman for the Tasmanian Special Timbers Alliance Andrew Denman is hoping the area's World Heritage status will be revoked.

Mr Denman builds boats out of specialty wood and he says the forest agreement and subsequent World Heritage listing is putting pressure on timber supplies.

"The TFA (Tasmanian Forest Agreement) has had a terrible impact on especially the timber sector," he said.

"We've seen a massive reduction in supply of timber, in some cases over 90 per cent for some species.

"We've also seen a doubling and sometimes a tripling of the resource price as well, all because of a political agreement to restrict access to a sustainable resource.

"So if the World Heritage committee decides not to approve the Federal Government's request to remove 74,000 hectares, obviously that 15,600 hectares of specialty timber area that could possibly be accessed will not be available and that will have an impact on industry."

Vica Bayley from the Wilderness Society is one of the environmentalists who negotiated the forest agreement and he wants to keep the World Heritage extension intact.

"The industry has restructured and, similarly, the specialty timber sector needs to readjust and accept that fact," he said.

"There are plenty of specialty timber operators and specialty timber workers that are saying, keep this World Heritage list, keep the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, and let's work with what we have."

Environmentalists have already been back into the forests protesting against the World Heritage delisting.

Mr Bayley says delisting of the World Heritage forest will spark more protests.

"If these World Heritage listed forests are indeed delisted and they are indeed logged, clearly people will continue to stand up for their protection," he said.

"Not only here in Tasmania, but across Australia and around the world. And, that's not only people that care about the forests; that's people that care about markets and where they get their wood from."

Environmentalists will travel to Doha next month to lobby the World Heritage committee when it makes its final decision on Tasmania's forests.

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