Forests agreement spot fires

ENVIRONMENT groups have called for calm in the forestry debate as industry signatories appear to soften their support for the peace deal.

The Australian Forest Contractors Association, a signatory to the Tasmanian Forests Agreement, is now backing the federal government's push to delist 74,000 hectares of World Heritage area.

The boundary extension of the World Heritage area was a key conservation outcome of the TFA.

The association's change in position follows a pro-industry speech by Prime Minister Tony Abbott who declared too much of the country was locked up in national parks and Australia was "now open for business for the forestry industry".

Mr Abbott was a guest of the Australian Forests Products Association, another signatory to the peace deal, which also welcomed his comments.

Tasmanian Liberal leader Will Hodgman said Australian Forest Contractors Association comments were encouraging.

"People are recognising an alternative vision for the forest industry and a new way about providing support for an industry with more wood supply," he said.

"We've always understood there to be serious frictions within the signatories and the parties involved in this process."

The Liberals have vowed to unwind the TFA but have not spelt out how much wood would be supplied to the industry under new legislation.

Deputy Premier Bryan Green said he had not been contacted by any industry groups.

"From my point of view the forestry agreement is vital to the longevity of the industry in Tasmania," Mr Green said.

Environment groups yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to the TFA.

"Environment groups call for a calm focus on the future and urge the Liberal Party to support the only plan that can protect both forests and jobs in Tasmania," Environment Tasmania's Phill Pullinger said.

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said the deal was crucial for industry.

"We don't want to go back to conflict over forests in Tasmania," he said.

An EMRS poll of 800 Tasmanians found 92 per cent wanted an end to the decades-long conflict and two thirds of Tasmanians backed the TFA.

Will Hodgman

Will Hodgman


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