Skip to main content

The Tasmanian Forest Agreement: your questions answered

Updated:

 

Part 1: The Agreement

  1. What is the Tasmanian Forest Agreement?
  2. What is the Tasmanian Forest Agreement Act?
  3. Did the changes by the Tasmanian Upper House mean the Agreement can’t be delivered?
  4. Has the legislation been passed?
  5. What forests are protected now?
  6. What work needs to be done from now?
  7. Why is this is the best way forward for Tassie’s forests?
  8. What does the legislation say about protests?
  9. What is the state and Commonwealth funding for?

Part 2: The amendments

  1. What were the amendments that have passed?
  2. What is the impact of the amendments?
  3. How have you compensated for the amendments?
  4. Why do you still support the when the reserves have been delayed so significantly?
  5. Why is Christine Milne saying it’s no good, when you are supporting it?
  6. Won’t some of the proposed reserves be logged?


Part 1. The Agreement
 

1. What is the Tasmanian Forest Agreement?

The Tasmanian Forest Agreement was made between conservation groups including the Wilderness Society, forestry industry bodies, and unions in November 2012. It took almost three years of hard-fought negotiations, and agreed to:

  • Protect 504,000 ha of iconic forests and wildlife habitat, including 400,000 ha as soon as legislation is made;
  • Create a World Heritage area over iconic forests like the Weld, Styx and Florentine valleys;
  • Restructure the forestry industry and;
  • Support struggling Tasmanian communities.

2. What is the Tasmanian Forest Agreement Act?

The Agreement needed to be made into law through the Tasmanian parliament. In April 2013, the Tasmanian Upper House made significant changes, including delaying 300,000 hectares of reserves until October 2014, making achievement of top-tier Forest Stewardship Council certification required before reserves are finalised, making progress of reserves uncertain if there are ongoing public campaigns against the industry, and attempting to allow ‘selective’ logging for ‘specialty timbers’ in new reserves. The upper house made it clear that that if there were more changes in the lower house they would vote the legislation down, ending the chances of forest protection.

3. Do the changes by the Tasmanian Upper House mean the Agreement can’t be delivered?

No. While there are some amendments made to the legislation that the Wilderness Society doesn’t support, and the legislation is not perfect, the prospects for protecting Tasmania’s forests and wildlife under the November 2012 Tasmanian Forest Agreement are the best we’ve ever had.

The Wilderness Society and the other conservation signatories had the option to walk away from the agreement. Instead we’ve worked with the industry and the Tasmanian and Australian governments to give the agreement the best chance of protecting our forests.

The two governments and key industry players like Forestry Tasmania have made commitments that mean that the Forest Agreement we signed in November 2012 now has the potential to be delivered, despite the changes made by the upper house.

4. Has the legislation been passed?

Yes. The ALP and the Tasmanian Greens passed the legislation in the lower house on the 30th April. The Liberals opposed it.

5. What forests are protected now?

504,000 hectares of forest will be put into protection until the reserves are finalised. A ‘protection order’ revoking the ability to log and a State-Commonwealth conservation agreement will be made, the area will be managed by the National Parks Service and protected as a precondition of FSC certification, and wood will not be bought or sold from these areas by key companies. A small number of logging operations (around 600ha in total) will occur in the reserves while the industry transitions to other wood supplies, and there’s agreement to reduce this by as much as possible and as soon as possible.

Around 100,000 ha will be put in permanent reserves initially, and a 170,000 ha World Heritage Area is planned for creation in June over iconic forests like the Styx, Weld and Upper Florentine Valleys. The rest of the reserves will be formally protected in 2014 and 2015.

6. What work needs to be done from now?

A ‘Special Council’ of the signatories to the Agreement has been set up to implement parts of the Agreement. The Wilderness Society has a lot of work to do to make sure that the 400,000ha of reserves in interim protection are made into National Parks and other reserves over the next two years.

There is also a big job to convince the Liberal parties, nationally and in Tasmania, that the Tasmanian and Australian communities expect forest protection and a sustainable forest industry. If the Liberal party's policy is to tear up the Forest Agreement - as they are currently claiming - it would mean entrenched destruction of forests and devastation for Tasmanian workers and communities.

7. Why is this is the best way forward for Tassie’s forests?

This outcome is not perfect for our forests, or for the forestry industry. Real-world solutions seldom are. But for the first time the forestry industry is supporting important forest protection, as the future viability of the industry depends on community support and top-shelf certification from the Forest Stewardship Council.

The Forest Agreement gives us what Tasmanians and Australians have wanted for our forests for decades – a World Heritage Area in the southern forests, an end to logging in 500,000 hectares of our iconic forests, and the best shot we’ve ever had to protect our forests all over Tasmania.

8. What does the legislation say about protests?

Tasmania's Upper House made amendments that allow either house of parliament to consider not progressing the making of reserves if particular campaigns or actions are undertaken. This is not something the Wilderness Society supports, and our 30 year commitment to peaceful protest as a fundamental part of protecting the environment is as strong as ever.

9. What is the state and Commonwealth funding for?

The funding for the agreement is for a range of issues including buyout out sawlog contracts to reduce volumes, exit assistance for contractors, worker packages, regional development, reserves management, moving logging out of the reserves, and plantation innovation. You can see the official government 'funding schedule' here.

One of the innacuracies going around about the agreement is that the funding is a 'handout' to 'prop-up' the industry. The reality is that the vast majority of the money is being spent on managing the impact on those leaving the industry, be they workers, sawmillers or logging contractors, reducing the size of the industry, and on diverse regional development projects to provide jobs in other industries. 

The main direct support for the future of the native forest industry is 9 million dollars to run a process to determine what can be done with the woodchips that need to be sold for logging to be viable. This process will be run by the Special Council, of which TWS is a part, and our Agreement with industry means any solutions must be economically viable, environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable. While this funding may seem counter intuitive to conservation, the industry negotiators made it clear they could not support reserves unless there were options explored to sell ( a massively reduced volume of) woodchips. 

There is also 2 million dollars allocated for a review of specialty timber supplies and management. Again this will be run by the Special Council, and is absolutely fundamental for conservation. Some funding has also been provided to allow Forestry Tasmania to pursue Forest Stewardship Council certification. It is essential any efforts to get this certification are done well, and the funding helps this. 

Some industry buy-out funding will flow immediately, but the $100 million for regional development will not be provided to Tasmania from the commonwealth until the first 80,000ha of reserves begin to be created.



Part 2. The Amendments
 

1. What were the amendments that have passed?

Most amendments of concern centred on the delivery of the reserves, delaying the actual creation or gazettal of most of them substantially (Oct 2014) and making them conditional on getting FSC certification. Other amendments provided for selective specialty timber (rainforest) logging in reserves and further uncertainty over the reserve making process should there be ongoing campaigns against industry

2. What is the impact of the amendments?

The amendments do significantly impact on the balance of the agreement and delay implementation of elements of it, especially the reserves, until after the next elections.

3. How have you compensated for the amendments?

Together with other signatories we have sought and received commitments from government that go some way in restoring confidence that conservation outcomes will be delivered.

Examples include:

We have also reached agreement with other signatories around work in the market place for Tasmanian timber, including getting end customers of timber products to sign a Compact that they will not receive wood from the future reserves.

4. Why do you still support the when the reserves have been delayed so significantly?

We believe that the agreement and the resulting legislation is the only viable way forward.

We believe that this is the best opportunity to protect more than half a million hectares of Tasmania’s high conservation value forests and that this opportunity will not arise again for many, many years by which time many stands of old growth and high conservation value forest will be logged.

The agreement is already on the cusp of adding 170,000 hectares of some of the most spectacular forest to the World Heritage list.

There is no perfect pathway but the legislation does offer a pathway, we have negotiated a range of important measures to mitigate the impact of the amendments forced by the Upper House.

It is useful to compare the legislation not to the agreement or the legislation prior to its amendment, but to what we would have without it and what we would have in a years time if it were rejected.

Sticking with an agreement for industry is the best outcome for the forests and the best for giving Tasmania the chance to move on from the past.

It is in the interests of the timber industry to back the agreement and the new forest reserves because it needs the market certainty that FSC certification can provide and FSC will only eventuate of high conservation values forests are securely protected.

5. Why is Christine Milne saying it’s no good, when you are supporting it?

Leader of the national Greens party, Christine Milne, believes there has been too much taken from the security of the forests, at a cost to conservation and that they will never be passed into new reserves. She advocated we reject the legislation or insist it is re-amended and sent back to the Upper House so that we stand-up put responsibility on them for collapse.

This is obviously an option we have thought long and hard about but it is difficult to see how it realistically protects the forests, now or into the future.

We have made a decision to stick with the Agreement we signed in 2012. We will honour that commitment. To their credit, the timber industry and the unions have also reaffirmed that they will honour the agreement, despite the changes made by the Upper House.

What we want is a resolution to the conflict, the protection for the forests and timber industry of which we can be proud. While the Upper House has removed some confidence that the outcomes can be delivered, the additional commitments from government help restore some of that confidence and giving this a go is better than an alternative where the forests would be left with nothing.

6. Won’t some of the proposed reserves be logged?

Some very small part of the reserves (650 hectares or less than 0.2 per cent) of the proposed forest reserves may be logged to maintain supply while the industry makes a transition from its reliance on native forests.