Forest peace: clock ticking on deal

LESS than 48 hours remain for a forest peace deal to be struck and locked into legislation by State Parliament this year.

The state government remains hopeful of an 11th-hour deal before Parliament rises tomorrow, which would allow it to debate legislation that awaits crucial details _ and abide by the $276 million agreement it signed with the Commonwealth.

However, federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said last night that he remained pessimistic of any deal being reached in time.

``The last time I met with the signatories I emerged making clear that I was pessimistic about whether they could reach an agreement,'' Mr Burke said.

``I haven't sat down with the signatories as a group since that day. I have heard reports that there may be a chance of an agreement, but I haven't seen anything definite myself. Therefore, at this stage I'm still working on the basis that there will not be an agreement.''

The Examiner understands that signatories are continuing to work on a potential deal, but a small number of sticking points remain.

No one appears to be ready to discuss what will happen if legislation fails to pass Parliament this year, which the Commonwealth has made a condition of Tasmania receiving more than $100 million.

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said his organisation wasn't prepared to speculate on what might happen.

``We're simply focused on trying to finalise an agreement,'' Mr Bayley said.

``Though no matter when that happens we will be looking to Parliament, to whoever has the responsibility for implementing it.''

Meanwhile, in question time the Tasmanian Greens accused Forestry Tasmania of leaving timber to rot on Burnie's wharf. Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth said tens of thousands of tonnes of eucalypt and blackwood logs were being left to split and rot, while the state-owned business claimed there was a shortage of speciality timber available.

Resources Minister Bryan Green said the stockpiling had occurred because of difficult market conditions.

``I recognise that there has been enormous difficulty with exporting some of that product, particularly the style of log that has been stockpiled,'' Mr Green said.

Mr Booth claimed that most of the logs were sold as firewood to a contractor who had received $750,000 in federal money to exit the forestry industry.

Federal environment minister Tony Burke with Premier Lara Giddings.

Federal environment minister Tony Burke with Premier Lara Giddings.


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