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Media Release: 7th May, 2013.
The implications for native forests around Australia of Tasmania’s controversial new forest law are alarming forest campaign groups around the nation.
They fear that the loggers, state governments and those environment groups party to the forest agreement will now attempt to use this as a model for the rest of the country with dreadful impacts on Australia’s forests.
The constraints on advocacy and peaceful protest are also of great concern, as an extraordinary precedent has been set under which the environment will be punished if groups dare to strongly advocate genuine forest protection and transition from native forest logging, especially to markets and consumers. Already the Prime Minister has demonstrated in her call to silence environmental critics that an era of victimisation and vilification has begun.
Forest campaigners around the nation have condemned the new Tasmanian forest law, including Environment East Gippsland, Gippsland Environment Group, South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA), Rainforest Information Centre, Forestmedia, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, Chipstop, and NativesRule.org.
Steve Meacher, a Victorian campaigner of many years working to save the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum stated, “Clearly there remain significant problems with the Tasmanian agreement and mainland environment groups will not consider themselves bound by it nor by any future agreement which takes a similar approach. The deal is imposing conditions that are not within the powers of the parties.”
Environment East Gippsland’s Jill Redwood stated, “Tasmania is ushering in an era of entrenched industrial logging in native forests and attempting to gag environmental forest campaigns, both of which are unacceptable”, she said. “The Tasmanian agreement has been flagged as a blueprintfor the rest of Australia’s forests and we will vehemently resist this.”
South East Region Conservation Alliance spokesperson Harriett Swift stated, “Holding the forests hostage to a bunch of obnoxious provisions, including ‘durability’ requirements to silence voices telling environmental truths to buyers and to halt forest protests, is an attack on civil liberties. Already the PM has called for dissenters to be silenced, and a campaign of denigrating such groups and the individuals who represent them is underway.”
“If the new law was genuinely aimed at balancing conservation outcomes and a sustainable industry, public scrutiny and comment about what it contains would be no threat to it.” Harriett Swift said.
“We expected nothing less than an adequate reserve system and an accountable industry. This agreement delivers neither,” Harriett Swift said.
Major problems with Tasmania’s forest agreement include:
· World Heritage nominated forests are still being logged and this will continue until mid-June, after which associated ongoing operations such as log removals will still continue in relation to those areas.
· The Wilderness Society, Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Tasmania are actively promoting Tasmanian forest products, including wood sourced from destroying World Heritage value forests;
· No new reserves were created by the legislation. Only 90,000 hectares (of World Heritage forests) are to be protected in the next 18 months (and some logged meanwhile);
· All other promised protection will most likely never eventuate, but the loggers get their millions in funding, and ‘green’ groups assistance to sell the products immediately;
· Reserves that might be created can be opened for logging;
· If the Liberals win at national and state elections, then they will scuttle the conservation arrangements which arenot due to start until October 2014 at the earliest;
· The agreement included a requirement that Forestry Tasmania be awarded Forest Stewardship Council certification – which is highlyunlikely given their destructive methods of logging;
· Excisions? of valuable forests planned to be logged even though they are inside the areas slated for future protection;
· Native forest logging is entrenched and greenwashed, a major departure from national conservation groups’ policy for a rapid transition of logging away from native forests into existing plantations.
The bill passed in Tasmania’s House of Assembly yesterday is primarily yet another industry lifeline and has betrayed the environment. Grass-roots environment organisations have been left stunned that a bill that lacks conservation assurances and props up a collapsing and unviable destructive native forestry industry has passed with support of some Greens parliamentarians. Still Wild Still Threatened and Huon Valley Environment Centre have renewed their commitment to forest protection advocacy in all forms.
Huon Valley Environment Centre’s spokesperson Jenny Weber stated, “Today we are far from assurances of protection for Tasmania’s wild forests. The passing of this legislation, that is very pro-industry with merely a conservation veneer, does not deliver any upfront forest reserves. Logging will continue inside the proposed reserves, as there are areas of forest that were excised from the proposed reserves to meet the logging schedule.
“This legislation fails the wild forests, and we will be there to provide scrutiny of a forestry industry that has not made any commitment to changing environmentally destructive practices,” Jenny Weber said.
Still Wild Still Threatened spokesperson Miranda Gibson stated, “In response to the Forest Bill passed by the House of Assembly yesterday, the Huon Valley Environment Centre and Still Wild Still Threatened have vowed to continue to campaign for Tasmania’s forests. The legislation entrenches and props up the unviable native forest industry and ongoing logging of high conservation value forests, while making the attainment of new reserves virtually impossible. Conservation outcomes have been undeniably sidelined. Those groups and members of the Tasmanian State Greens who have supported this bill have aligned themselves with the collapsing forestry industry at the expense of our forests,” Miranda Gibson said.
“We are alarmed by the threat to curtail freedom of speech and the rights of protest out of yesterday’s legislation, which attempts to blackmail the community into silence by holding forests at ransom. These are undemocratic tactics to silence the voice of the community and benefit the forestry industry. The new clause provides the opportunity for either House of Government to determine what constitutes a failure of durability, including substantial active protests or substantial market disruption, and once that determination is made, reserves do not proceed,” Huon Valley Environment Centre’s Jenny Weber said.
“When one wades through all the spin being propagated by parliamentarians and signatories to the TFA, forestry in Tasmania is at the point where it continues to drain public resources and destroy irreplaceable ecosystems. It has tarnished Tasmania’s brand by not recognising the value of unique native forests and by maintaining unsustainable resource management practices coupled with a wasteful and irresponsible on-the-ground approach. If that wasn’t enough, they have created a green-wash industry for Hamid Sepawi’s Ta Ann and those connected with Sarawak timber mafias and human rights violators. What is clear out of this process is that Ta Ann has received ongoing parliamentary support in Tasmania and now a green-wash tick from some environment groups. We will continue to oppose the ongoing operations of this company in Tasmania and Sarawak.,” Jenny Weber said
“As The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania and the Australian Conservation Foundation are now committed to forsaking the role of forest advocacy and have become the green-mouthpiece for a forestry industry, who yesterday claimed they got everything they wanted out of the of the TFA process and consistently refuses to make necessary changes to their out-dated, destructive and reprehensible practices, our organisations will redouble our efforts to campaign for the protection of intact natural ecosystems,” Jenny Weber said.
“The native forest industry is not economically viable when left to stand on it’s own two feet. Yet, the House of Assembly has just passed a bill that will continue to prop up this out-dated and unviable industry with tax payer funds whilst disregarding community concerns and scientific recommendations for forest protection.” Still Wild Still Threatened’s Miranda Gibson said.
“It is delusional to believe that this bill will deliver adequate forest protection. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of verified high conservation value forests are being held to ransom, with protection subject not only to durability measures at the whim of both houses of Tasmania’s parliament, but also dependent on FSC certification. Under this bill high conservation value forests will continue to fall and human rights violations tacitly accepted. As long as they do, we will continue stand up for those ecosystems, forests, communities and cultures that are threatened,” Miranda Gibson concluded.