Politicians warned to tread gently

TASMANIAN forestry industry leaders have warned politicians to tread carefully and not upset the balance of a battered industry trying to move forward.

Tasmanian Country Sawmillers Association president Fred Ralph says that his members intend to honour the conditions of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement even though there are still concerns about long-term wood supply.

Australian Forest Contractors Association Tasmanian spokesman Ken Padgett says  the industry had reached the stage where it was starting to get some markets back that were supported by the environmental groups. There was no wish to upset that balance.

The two were commenting yesterday on Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz calling on State Parliament to reconsider its approval of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement following last weekend's federal election.

Senator Abetz said that much of the significant swing against Labor in Tasmania, particularly in the Lyons electorate, was dissent about the forestry peace deal.

But Blessington farmer and former Private Forests Tasmania chairman Ian Dickenson said that politicians needed ``to take a cold shower,'' and have a serious conversation with Tasmanians about the future management of forests before they took any action.

Successful Lyons Liberal candidate Eric Hutchinson also pulled back from tearing up the forest agreement.

``We want to regrow the forest industry and that will involve co-operation and co-ordination between state and federal governments,'' Mr Hutchinson said.

``We understand that it will be a very different industry and we do believe that we should have a vibrant industry not driven by woodchips, but by high value sawlogs and discussion is needed regarding residues.''

Mr Ralph said that he did not know ``any right-thinking person'' that wanted to take the Tasmanian forestry industry back to what it was before the three-year-long debate that culminated in the forests agreement.

``It was structurally wrong, socially wrong, environmentally wrong and organisationally wrong,'' he said.

He expects that eight of the 27 regional sawmills operating before the agreement would survive.

``We need to be battening down the resources for these eight mills so that they become the foundation of a new industry,'' he said.

Mr Padgett said that without market access the industry had nothing.

``We now have potential FSC certification and access to markets supported by environmental groups,'' Mr Padgett said.

``We are not going to re-invent the industry - the world is a changing place.

Mr Dickenson said  politicians were foolish if they thought  the  election had given them a mandate to tear up the forests agreement.

``They need to have an honest and serious conversation with the wider community - it would be very unwise to do anything straight away,'' he said.

Tasmanian Country Sawmillers Association president Fred Ralph

Tasmanian Country Sawmillers Association president Fred Ralph


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