MLC reserve changes a deal-breaker: Bayley

ENVIRONMENT groups have warned MLCs considering changing the size or location of proposed new reserves that they could destroy the forestry peace deal. 

A raft of amendments to the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill 2012 presented by the state government this week would give the Legislative Council the power to reduce the 390,000 hectares earmarked for immediate protection. 

The change was a request from some MLCs who were concerned the previous bill only gave them the option to approve or reject the protection of the entire area made up of 295 parcels of land.

Yesterday, Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said fiddling with the new reserves, which had been agreed to by industry and environment group signatories, would strike at the heart of the delicately balanced agreement. 

``Deletion or amendment of those boundaries is going to be very problematic,'' Mr Bayley said.  

However, he downplayed the impact of the state government's other proposed amendments which, if adopted, will speed up the process to protect the new reserves. 

``I think that's a reaction to the now delayed time line of the agreement,'' Mr Bayley said. 

His comments come after Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chief executive Terry Edwards slammed the changes because they bypassed a key durability requirement.

Mr Bayley argued the signatories could still prepare a durability report for Parliament before the Legislative Council voted in March, at the earliest. 

Deputy Premier Bryan Green vowed to work with signatories to ensure the amendments did not water down the durability requirements. 

The committee also heard from the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania, which proposed amending the bill to recognise the growing role of tourism within the new reserves and ensure existing access for tourism operators to state forests is maintained. 

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association expressed its frustration private foresters had been excluded from the process.

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