Posts Tagged ‘Environment Tasmania’

Tasmanian Agreement – still not one tree saved

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The following article is sourced from ‘Missing peace in forest war’s coupe de grace‘ by Matthew Denholm, The Australian, 20111022,

Forestry clearfell of old-growth in Tasmania’s Styx Valley
(Photo by Editor 20110928, free in public domain, click photo to enlarge)


More than two months (on 7th August 2011) after the landmark deal that promised to bring peace to Tasmania’s forests the protests – and the logging – continue unabated.

Funding for the struggling timber industry under the landmark $276 million Gillard-Giddings deal is starting to trickle out, but as yet not one tree has been saved!

Conservationists concede they may end up with nothing to show for 18 months of torturous negotiations, while many in the industry are sceptical that the promised peace will ever be achieved. The key decisions – on how many and which forests will be saved – are bogged down in difficult detail and alleged recalcitrance.  Tasmania’s upper house, meanwhile, is lining up to sink the legislation needed to create the new national parks and reserves.

Environment Tasmania’s Phill Pullinger (right) with The Wilderness Society’s Vica Bayley


A key conservationist and negotiator, Environment Tasmania director Phill Pullinger, concedes to Inquirer that events could conspire to see money flow to industry without one tree ever being saved.

“To be honest, it is a possibility,” says Pullinger, a Hobart doctor and former young Tasmanian of the year. “It has always been the case that the forest protection couldn’t be permanently delivered until the legislation goes through both houses of the Tasmanian parliament.”


That vote is a long way off, probably well into next year. The most immediate hurdle to overcome is a row over whether the state-owned Forestry Tasmania should be allowed to continue logging in 41 coupes (forest areas).  All are within 430,000ha of forests set aside for “immediate” interim protection in the Gillard-Giddings deal of August 7, known as the Forests Intergovernmental Agreement or IGA.

Forestry Tasmania insists it needs to log in these coupes, a fraction of the total area, to maintain existing contracts to timber mills. Conservationists argue Forestry Tasmania could and should reschedule logging to less ecologically significant forests.  The dispute was being sorted out by an independent rescheduling team appointed by state and federal governments. Inquirer has learned this process has gone badly for conservationists, with only seven of the 41 coupes able to be protected and five already logged. Forestry Tasmania and industry claim there simply is not time to do the rescheduling work – new roads, development of forest practices plans – necessary to shift to new areas quickly enough to meet existing timber contracts.


‘It is a fundamental problem that has weakened the (peace) process: you’ve got a government agency that is essentially working against the agreement. And the governments haven’t shown the stomach to pull the agency into line.’’

~ Phill Pullinger, Environment Tasmania, October 2011

Conservationists claim this should have been done months ago, given that Forestry Tasmania was asked by the state government – its owner –  to place a moratorium on logging in these forests in March.

“They (FT) have basically for 12 months now deliberately spun the wheels on that; there could easily have been a moratorium delivered six or nine months ago,” Pullinger says. “It is a fundamental problem that has weakened the (peace) process: you’ve got a government agency that is essentially working against the agreement. And the governments haven’t shown the stomach to pull the agency into line.”

Crew-cutting pristine Tasmanian wilderness


This is rare intemperate talk from Pullinger, normally diplomatic and restrained as he tries to keep his constituency in the peace tent and the process on track.

It’s a sign things are not going well.  Forestry Tasmania, a government business enterprise that reports to a board and is not necessary bound by ministerial direction, denies it has been dragging the chain. While it is the party with the most to lose – up to 572,000ha of native forest it manages for timber production – corporate relations manager Ken Jeffreys insists it is acting in good faith.

“Some people out there seem to think that FT has some maniacal glint in their eye and go out and harvest forests when it has no market because it has nothing better to do,” Jeffreys complains to Inquirer. “That is so far from common sense it’s hard to respond to.

He insists Forestry Tasmania is happy to abide by the independent reschedulers’ verdict and points out that it has already rescheduled logging out of some contentious coupes.  This fight over a handful of coupes has been holding up plans under the IGA for an overall immediate interim conservation agreement between the state, Forestry Tasmania and Canberra to protect the 430,000ha. Under the IGA, this interim agreement would protect those forests while an independent verification team determines the final size and location of the new permanent reserves.

Ancient Myrtle Beech  (Nothofagus cunninghamii)
chainsawed in the Upper Florentine Valley, Tasmania
(Photo by Editor 20110928, free in public domain, click photo to enlarge)


IGA Independent Verification Team


The independent team, overseen by academic Jonathan West, will decide how much forest, of a larger 572,000ha nominated by green groups, is worthy of protection.  West’s team will also test industry claims about how much timber it requires to meet existing contracts. Then it must decide how much forest can be protected while providing this resource.  The job, which unrealistically is due to be completed by December 31, is the “forest wars” equivalent of deciding where exactly the boundaries of a Palestinian state should be drawn.

Conservation groups believe that most – if not all – of the 572,000ha can be protected, once a developing plantation resource is factored in.


Forestry Tasmania’s position

Forestry Tasmania chief,  Bob Gordon
– what IGA?  It’s logging business as usual to fill ‘orders’.


Forestry Tasmania stands by its modelling suggesting that no more than 300,000ha can be protected if it is to deliver on current timber contracts. Some in the industry believe only 250,000ha can be saved from the chainsaws.  Neither of the industry figures is unlikely to be enough for conservationists, but may well be too much for Tasmania’s independent-dominated upper house.  Several recent votes in the Legislative Council suggest it is opposed to the IGA and to more forest “lock-ups”.  Its refusal to pass the reserves would leave conservationists relying on a federal-state conservation agreement to protect those forests.

While such an agreement would ban logging, it is legally uncertain if Forestry Tasmania could ignore this on the basis that it conflicts with its legislative or contractual obligations.

Jeffreys insists Forestry Tasmania would abide by any final agreement, subject to being able to meet those commitments – a big out if Forestry Tasmania decided to dig in for a battle.


Tony Burke’s position:


Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke
in Tasmania’s Wielangta forest, March 2011
(Photo by Matthew Newton,  Source:  The Australian )

Despite the difficulties, federal Environment Minister Tony Burke remains confident he can pull off the kind of final “win-win” forest peace deal that has eluded so many of his predecessors.  He tells Inquirer the alternative is a kind of mutually assured destruction, whereby the forests continue to fall as fast as the jobs.

The number of jobs in Tasmanian forestry has halved since 2008 from 6960 to 3460, due mainly to Japanese paper-makers boycotting woodchips sourced from native forests, Gunns exiting the industry in favour of a plantation-based pulp mill and as a result of the high Australian dollar.

If you let the markets sort this one out without a co-ordinated strategy from state and federal government … then you end up with a terrible outcome for the Tassie economy … diabolical,” Burke says.

Initially as Forests minister and more recently as Environment Minister, Burke has been involved in the process from the beginning.  The first in federal cabinet to twig to the potential to assist industry while securing a historic conservation outcome, he has repeatedly slipped quietly into Tasmania to do his own field work.

The former staffer to Graham Richardson has camped with greenies amid the giant eucalypts of the Styx Valley and toured sawmills and production forests.  When the process has looked as if it were imploding, he has intervened with all sides to keep it on track. Inspired to join the ALP by landmark conservation battles such as the Daintree and Kakadu, Burke constantly stresses his desire to also secure a good outcome for jobs and industry.

He believes the (Tasmanian)  Legislative Council will take a different view to new reserves when details are developed for a $120m federal regional development fund promised under the IGA.  That money, to revitalise timber communities and diversify the Tasmanian economy, is contingent upon state parliament passing the new reserves legislation. No reserves; no $120m.

Burke, himself a former state upper house MP (in NSW), believes this cash for regions will ultimately win over the key 12 independent MLCs.

“Those MPs will have to look in the eyes of a whole lot of their constituents who are out of work and justify their actions,” he says. “I just don’t believe when it comes to it they’ll vote this down.  This is the first time we have tried to deal with this issue with an independent process rather than a political fix. The irony this time is: can we stop politics from wrecking it, not from fixing it?”

He warns both sides will need to accept the outcome of the independent verification process. “They are honour-bound to accept the process – they created it,” he says.

This suggests Canberra will not be afraid to impose the verdict of the independent verification team if the two sides cannot embrace it – or at least an agreed variation of it. Such action may well see either side – timber or conservation – walk away.

Certainly, Pullinger won’t promise to accept the outcome if it is not embraced by both sides.

“If the independent verification group comes down and says … we are going to protect just a fraction of these forests … then – expert group or not – I don’t think anyone believes that is going to be able to deliver a lasting agreement.”



The IGA deal is a deal is a promise.   Why are Gillard and Giddings allowing Forestry Tasmania to renege on the deal by continuing to log these now protected native forests in Tasmania’s Styx Valley and southern forests.  Why are Gillard and Giddings breaking their promise to Tasmanians?

IGA interim reserves are IGA interim reserves?  The IGA offers millions in contractual compensation.  So take the compensation Bob Gordon!  You can’t have your compensation and interim reserves too!

Leave the bloody old growth alone!

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, 2011
– do I really have to honour that forest deal?
(Photo: The Examiner)


Evidence of new logging despite Tasmanian Forests Agreement


[Source: ‘Evidence of new logging despite Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement requires urgent government action‘, by the Australian Conservation Foundation, 20110922, ^]


Environment Tasmania, the Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation have released a report assessing the status of logging in important native forests and photographs that show new logging activity in forest reserves prescribed by the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA).

“The settlement and retirement of Gunns’ native forest timber quotas has halved the demand for native forest timber from Forestry Tasmania, so there is no need or justification for logging within the forest reserve areas,” said Dr Phill Pullinger of Environment Tasmania.

“Wood supply for remaining sawmills can be provided from outside of the important native forests identified for protection,” Dr Pullinger said.

“Aerial photographs taken in late August and last week show Forestry Tasmania continues to log inside the 430,000 hectares of unique and important forests identified for immediate protection in the IGA,” said Vica Bayley of the Wilderness Society.

“In fact, our report and the new photos show Forestry Tasmania has not rescheduled logging outside this area and has even commenced logging new coupes since the IGA was signed.

“While we are encouraged to see progress on key components of the intergovernmental agreement — including the retirement of Gunns’ wood quota, funding for timber workers and contractors and the independent verification group — we have seen no progress on halting logging inside the nominated forest reserve areas,” Mr Bayley said.

“Environment groups again call on the state government to honour the agreement it has signed by directing Forestry Tasmania to declare the nominated forests as informal reserves and immediately appointing an independent expert to undertake the rescheduling,” said Denise Boyd of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The report released today is part of environment group signatories’ ongoing commitment to implementing the IGA and will provide governments with verified, accurate information to help achieve the forest protection outcomes of the IGA. The state government must now ensure delivery of the critical plank of the IGA – forest protection.

 “We have seen no progress on halting logging inside the nominated forest reserve areas.”

~ Vica Bayley, The Wilderness Society


Forest protest continues in Mount Mueller Forest, Styx Valley (Tree Sit, Day 7)


Check out The ObserverTree protest website:






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