$7m carrot to remain in forestry

FORESTRY workers will soon be given access to $7 million in Commonwealth Government handouts as an incentive to remain in the industry.

Resources Minister Paul Harriss yesterday announced Tasmanian harvesting contractors would be able to apply for a share of the money later this year to help grow their businesses and build capacity.

The unspent cash is leftover from the previous government’s forestry exit package kitty.

‘‘It’s not about getting people back into the industry,’’ Mr Harriss said.

‘‘It is about those who are ready, willing and able to get on with business in a conducive ‘can do’ environment.’’

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chief executive Terry Edwards said the money would not go a long way and needed to be spent wisely.

Mr Harriss said other funding would also be made available for saw millers and residue processing.

But Environment Tasmania spokesman Phill Pullinger said the government had no idea about creating a viable timber industry.

‘‘The industry has been based on two things ... a large amount of taxpayer subsidies and the destruction of ancient forests,’’ Mr Pullinger said.

‘‘We sincerely hope the government is not looking at both opening up rainforest and ancient growth forests at the same time as providing taxpayer support for that destructive activity.’’

Mr Pullinger said he was deeply disappointed with the repeal of the forest peace deal, and had no interest in contributing to the forestry Ministerial Advisory Council.

‘‘I think a spot at the table is somewhat meaningless given the conservation outcomes of the agreement have been torn up,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re not interested in supporting or validating the government’s position in any way.’’

He warned protest action would be a natural consequence of the legislation’s passage.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union spokeswoman Jane Calvert agreed, saying repealing the Tasmanian Forest Agreement would propel the state back into instability.

‘‘We might not agree with all the detail but the TFA kept forestry off the front page and conflict out of our forests,’’ Ms Calvert said.

‘‘By chucking this agreement out we throw forestry back into the election cycle subject to political whims.’’

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