Large swathes of protected forests will be opened up to logging by the new Tasmanian Liberal Government.
The Government will introduce legislation to Parliament next month to repeal the TasmanianForest Agreement and set aside 400,000 hectares of forest reserves for future harvesting.
But Cabinet has agreed to impose a six-year freeze on harvesting in a move designed to calm environmentalists.
Resources Minister Paul Harriss insisted the pre-election promise to rip up the forest peace deal would grow the industry.
Mr Harriss said he would start working with industry to create a new forest strategy based on science.
“This is an elegant solution to growing this important industry while importantly protecting our markets and continuing the achievement of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification.”
Mr Harriss said none of the almost $400 million in government funding attached to the forest peace deal would have to be repaid.
“We have no control over what’s been spent. What we do have control over is what we’re doing into the future,” he said.
The Tasmanian Forest Agreement had protected half a million hectares of forest from logging in return formillions of dollars in assistance to the struggling timber industry.
More than 120,000 hectares was added to the World Heritage List last year, but the Federal Government is trying to reverse protection for 74,000 hectares.
The Tasmanian Government now wants to open up the remaining trees, some 400,000 hectares, to logging.
The Forest Industries Association fears the State Government is rushing its forest policy.
Chief executive Terry Edwards has not commented on the ramifications of the proposed changes, saying he needed to see more detail.
Tasmanian forestry peace deal
- The peace deal took four years to negotiate
- It allowed for about $400m in industry funding
- It protects 504,000ha of high-conservation value forests
- 123,650ha now permanently protected as World Heritage
- Remaining 380,000ha awaiting permanent protection
- The guaranteed sawlog quota was halved to 137,000 cubic metres
- Veneer producer Ta Ann Tasmania has had its peeler billets quota cut by 40 per cent
The association is one of the main industry signatories to the forest peace deal.
On Monday, Cabinet signed off on a plan to impose a six-year freeze while state-owned Forestry Tasmania attempts to secure FSC certification.
But it is a move that is expected to reignite Tasmania’s forest wars.
Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne says no-one will buy the wood harvested from areas that have been deemed to have high conservation value.
“This is ideological; take forests out of protection, destroy the biodiversity, end any sense of peace in the forests, simply to deliver on a claim that they can cut it down and ship it away,” she said.
“They can’t, they’ve got no market.”
The Tasmanian Greens leader accused the State Government of making up policy on the run.
Kim Booth said it would cripple the forest industry by undermining its reputation in overseas markets.
“They never had a forest policy, they ran around and threw rocks for four years,” he said.
“They tried to tear up every good piece of work that environment groups were doing and calls by the industry to allow the industry to get on with its job.”