ELEVEN Tasmanian councils have united to take on anti-forestry and anti-development lobbies, saying communities have had enough and jobs and opportunities need to be preserved.
Mayors and councillors from Brighton to Circular Head have vowed to fight what they perceive as the State Government’s apathy to the economic and social disadvantage rural Tasmanians are now facing.
Brighton Mayor Tony Foster said if anti-development forces, emboldened by recent forest victories, were left unchecked, Tasmania also risked losing agricultural, mining, tourism and aquaculture opportunities.
Mr Foster said 11 of the state’s 29 councils had agreed to fund a campaign that would shake Hobart’s ivory towers and force the people inside to listen.
The councils’ stand follows a prime-time television campaign launched by the Australian Workers Union to fight growing environmental opposition to mining in the Tarkine.
Councils participating are Brighton, Central Highlands, Derwent Valley, Tasman, Circular Head, Dorset, Glamorgan-Spring Bay, Southern Midlands, Huon Valley, West Coast and Northern Midlands.
They are adding their voices to an angry chorus that started in July, when Westbury farmer Michael Hirst staged a protest next to tree-sitter Miranda Gibson.
Mr Hirst’s group Give it Back represents farmers with forestry liabilities, who say they are fed up with governments ignoring them.
Last week’s collapse of Gunns Limited now threatens to bankrupt hundreds of farmers by depriving them of plantation income and farmers predict a dramatic escalation of the forest industry crisis that has already forced the Federal Government to bail out tree fellers and log truck drivers.
Cr Jarvis said the State Government had failed communities by not creating a forest industry road map for the transition from woodchips to value adding.
Mr Foster said the Government had excluded local governments from its forest crisis negotiations.
Snow and clearfall near Mt Mueller
• Helen Burnett, Frank Nicklason, Elizabeth Perey:
Bruce Mounster’s article, headlined “fightback”, depicting a local council campaign against “anti-forestry and anti-development lobbyists” continues media language which has been particularly unhelpful. (Mercury 1/10)
For example, considering the forestry issue, is it fair to describe those majority of Tasmanian people who are opposed to broadacre clearfelling and burning of publicly owned native forests as “anti-forestry”? Do we know that these “anti-forestry” people are necessarily against all forms of native forestry?
It sounds a bit like ‘with us or against us’, and hardly conducive to a mature debate.
This last weekend we joined five other people from the Florentine Protection Society, visiting Miranda Gibson who has spent the last ten months of her life on a platform high in the Observer Tree near the Florentine Valley. Miranda has brought to the attention of the international community the plight of high conservation value native forests in Tasmania through her blog http://www.observertree.org
During the walk to the Observer Tree we had a discussion with a young woman (a University student and tour guide, originally from Denmark) who had recently had a long dialogue with northern Tasmanian farmer Michael Hirst from the group “Give it Back”. This group is arguing against the creation of further forest reserves. Rather than aggressive, confrontational, or polarised the discussion with Michael Hirst was seen as civilised, rational, and helpful. Many points of agreement were found.
To what extent has media reporting over emphasised the differences between groups and disregarded points of agreement?
As we returned to our cars we reached a point that seemed emblematic of what most people have the greatest problem with, something most of us can agree on. At our backs was a dense, even aged stand of eucalyptus regrowth which had replaced the exquisite forest we had earlier been walking through, in the middle distance an ugly clearfell on a steep ridge. Far off were beautiful snow capped peaks.
Getting the language right, maintaining respect despite differing views, avoiding misrepresentation, is more important than ever in this divisive issue.
Frank Nicklason, Helen Burnet, Elizabeth Perey.