MLCs poised to axe forest deal

THE Tasmanian Forest Agreement is all but extinct, with Legislative Councillors poised to vote in favour of felling the   peace deal today.

MLCs spent the bulk of  yesterday considering amendments to the government’s forestry legislation, after earlier giving the repeal bill general support.

The bill will this morning be read one final time before MLCs cast their vote, with at least eight expected to vote in favour of ‘‘ripping up’’ the forest peace deal.

The legislation will be sent back to the House of Assembly, where the government has the numbers to pass its bill into law.

Central to the repeal bill is reclassifying 400,000 hectares of native forest for potential logging in six years’ time.

Exemptions will be granted to open other areas of previously protected land for specialty timber harvesting sooner.

The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, which was a signatory to the peace deal, has thrown its support behind the Liberals’ legislation.

FIAT chief executive Terry Edwards said significant ‘‘wrinkles and hiccups’’ had been ironed out through amendments to the bill, and the polished legislation would create a framework for the timber industry.

However, Mr Edwards said any industry growth would be modest and its turnaround ‘‘anything but’’ quick.

Forestry Tasmania is confident that the legislation will not damage future Forest Stewardship Council accreditation for the state’s timber products.

But The Wilderness Society’s Warrick Jordan said the bill’s passage marked an ‘‘absolutely tragic day’’ for Tasmania’s forests, and its consequences on the timber industry would be substantial.

He said there was an irreconcilable conflict between the Liberals’ plan for special species harvesting and the quest for FSC certification.

Markets for Change chief executive Peg Putt said timber customers would be horrified by the dismantling of the TFA.

‘‘We’ll certainly let Tasmanian timber customers know that things have gone way backwards in Tasmania ... undoing two or three decades of forest conservation and putting the state in a perilous situation,’’ Ms Putt said.

Environment Tasmania spokesman Phill Pullinger and Bob Brown Foundation campaign manager Jenny Weber both said the legislation was a recipe for a return to forest conflict.


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