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It now all hinges on ... The Legislative Council

• Healing the Divide: Majority of environment groups support the forest agreement

Sheryl the giant freshwater lobster and 16 environment groups from all around Tasmania have called an urgent press conference to show their support for the Tasmanian Forests Agreement.

Austra Maddox, of the Florentine Protection Society, said she welcomes the agreement, which provides a comprehensive conservation outcome despite the necessary compromises that resulted from long negotiations.

“Regardless of your political leanings, if you care about Tasmania’s most unique animals and plants, this agreement is the only realistic opportunity to protect them,” Ms Maddox said.

“Therefore, we welcome the agreement and would like to see all environment groups get behind it. The alternative is continued logging of these forests and continued conflicts. With courage, Tasmania can grasp this unique opportunity to move on,” Ms Maddox said.

Helen Hutchison, spokesperson for Friends of the Great Western Tiers, said that the group supported the agreement, because it provides the most positive way forward for the whole community.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to put the past behind us and move on to a position we’re we can look at the future with hope,” Ms Hutchinson said.

Todd Walsh, a giant freshwater lobster researcher from the North-West, said the agreement promises the best, real-world outcomes for vulnerable lobster populations, which depend on forests for food and shelter.

“Whether you’re forestry, farmer, fisher or a greenie, the giant freshwater lobster is an icon for Tasmanians from the North-West.”

“We’ve talked about protecting it for fifteen years, but this is the first agreement that will actually deliver lobster reserves,” Mr Walsh said. 

Show of Support:

Environment groups from around Tasmania who publicly support the Tasmanian Forests Agreement.

Brett Tooker, Peninsula Environment Network

Andrew Lohrey, North East Land Trust

Todd Dudley, Michaela Spence, North-East Bioregional Network

Pablo MacQueen, Panama Forest and Denison River Catchment Group

Frank Giles, Save Our Sisters

Helen Hutchinson, Neil Smith, Friends of the Great Western Tiers

Roberta Blackwood Beatie, Launceston Environment Centre

Lesley Nicklason, Friends of the Blue Tier

Austra Maddox, Elizabeth Perrey, John Biggs, Florentine Protection Society

Todd Walsh, Giant Freshwater lobster population monitoring program

Gemma Tillack, Phill Harrington, Climate Action Hobart

Rob Blakers, Nature Photographers Tasmania

Mel Hills, Wild Wielangta

Michael Fewings, The West Wellington Protection Society

Louise Crossley, Spirit of Bruny

Bob Graham, Bruny Island Environment Centre

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Evan Rolley

• Lara Giddings, Premier: Ta Ann reinforces importance of Tasmanian Forests Agreement

The importance of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement in securing the future of the timber industry has been highlighted today by Ta Ann’s decision to remain in the state.

The Premier, Lara Giddings, welcomed Ta Ann’s commitment to continue operating in Tasmania, which will secure the future of at least 140 direct jobs.

“These are jobs that have been saved by the Tasmanian Forests Agreement and will be lost without it,” Ms Giddings said.

“Ta Ann has recognised that the importance of the market stability and FSC certification that this agreement seeks to deliver.

“Ta Ann is a major employer in Tasmania and its withdrawal from the state would be a devastating blow to the regional communities of Huonville, Smithton and surrounds.”

Ms Giddings said the company had made it clear that its fate hinges on the future of the TFA.

“Ta Ann’s message is clear - industry wants and needs this landmark Agreement, but the Liberal Party continues to play politics with Tasmanian jobs and regional communities.

“It is now patently clear that their do-nothing approach advocated by Will Hodgman and Peter Gutwein would cost jobs and investment in Tasmania.

“It is about time they acknowledged that the TFA is not a political construct, it has been negotiated in good faith by industry, unions, community and environmental groups, to attempt to end division and secure a long-term future for the forest industry.

“Ta Ann has echoed the spirit of the agreement by calling on all sides of politics to put aside their differences and work together for the future of Tasmania.

“Tasmanians want this issue fixed but at the moment the Liberal Party is only promising a continuation of the conflict that has held our state back for more than 30 years.”

ABC Online: Ta Ann staying on:

The future of about 140 Tasmanian timber workers has been secured with processor Ta Ann confirming it will remain in the state.

The veneer company is facing cuts in its wood supply under the forestry peace deal and says it has suffered from continuing protests.

Ta Ann’s executive director Evan Rolley said despite this, the company would retain its mills in Smithton and the Huon Valley.

Mr Rolley said Ta Ann had taken advice from Forestry Tasmania on likely volumes and also received assurances from the State and Federal Governments.

He told ABC Local Radio the company would look to diversify and source wood supply from other areas.

“[There are] opportunities to use some of the even lower grade logs that are available that are currently exported and most importantly, we are going to sit down with the private forest owners,” he said.

etc

• ABC Radio ... ... is quoting Liberal Deputy Leader Peter Gutwein as saying the Libs will not recognise any IGA agreement despite Ta Ann’s support for the IGA.

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David Obendorf: Final Forest Deal – to be or not to be? Ta Ann pledge

Lobbying the 15 Legislative Councillors over this Tasmanian Forest Agreement Bill will begin in earnest this week. Ensuring the passage of this legislation - as it stands - will be a tall order.

The numbers in the Upper House are just as tight as they were for the Same Sex Marriage legislation.

The Legislative Council will debate the legislation from 11 to 13 December 2012.

One signatory group to the 30-month of forest talks – Timber Communities Australia - has yet to sign the final agreement. Despite this, the Labor-Green government took a gamble and took the Bill to the Lower House on the last day of Parliamentary sitting in 2012.

The debate occurred from 3pm on Thursday to 4 am on Friday morning; with the House reconvening at 9 am; the Bill was passed 13 to 9. It was another example of an unedifying debate amongst elected MPs. Little wonder ordinary Tasmanians switch off to this brand of politics that sounds more like Championship word-wrestling. Only two of the 10 Labor MPs spoke to the Bill – Lara Giddings and Bryan Green – during the entire debate.

In August this year the Liberal Opposition removed one critical policy from their 13-Point forest plan that had been on their website since December 2010:

“Iconic forests such as Styx, Florentine and Weld protected – Point 5: Up to 150,000 hectares of high conservation value forests, including old growth forests such as the Styx, Weld Valley, and Florentine can be locked up. … This means that most of our remaining old growth forest can be preserved and protected (apart from a specific and small speciality timbers resource), as identified through the socio-economic and environmental study.’

The State Liberals now reject any further lock up of native forests on public land.

The agreed forest reservation ambit is for 395,000 hectares of High Conservation Value forests for immediate protection; with another 108,000 ha set for protection by March 2015 (i.e. 12 months after the next State election).

The annual sawlog quota is a minimum (not a maximum allocation) of 137,000 cubic metres down from 155,000 cubic metres as stated in the Interim IGA on August 2011, and down from the minimum 300,000 cubic metres p.a. in the existing Tasmanian RFA.

This final Signatory Agreement signed last Wednesday by 9 non-government groups does not guarantee or specify a wood supply for veneer-producer Ta Ann Tasmania.

Ta Ann Tasmania has an agreed 265,000 cubic metre p.a. wood supply of high quality peeler billets from Forestry Tasmania extending out to 2027. 

Buy-outs of up to 31,000 cubic metres per annum of saw log grade timber was negotiated through the Commonwealth’s $15 million sawmill exit fund. 

Not all environmental groups are happy. Director of the Tasmania Conservation Trust, Peter McGlone said: ”It fulfils all our fears; the forests that are most important for biodiversity and threatened species are not going to be protected in the proposed new reserves.” The Trust wrote an Open Letter to the Prime Minister and Premier on 21 November asking them to abandon the legislation. ( Open letter to Julia Gillard, Lara Giddings )

The size of Ta Ann’s future wood supply allocation and whether the company will voluntarily surrender of its peeler billet quota is now open to negotiation.  Executive Director, Evan Rolley indicated on 13 November that the company would seek compensation for any reduction in their wood supply quota in lieu of a legislated forest deal that reduced their access to public forest resource.

Which Government will supply the funds to shrink Ta Ann Tasmania’s annual wood supply?

Last week on Tasmanian Times:

Forests deal: Edwards, Brown, Milne, Giddings, Green, ET, TWS, ACF, TFGA, TMC, FGWT. Gibson, Weber

Open letter to Julia Gillard, Lara Giddings

Read for yourself, The Tasmanian Forestry Agreement 2012:
•  Here
• or Download:
Tasmanan-Forest-Agreement-SignatoriesAgreement-2012.pdf

• Download Map of Proposed Reserves:
114173748-Proposed-Reserves.pdf

ABC Online: Gunns employees owed $9 million:

It has been revealed employees of failed timber company Gunns are owed more than $9 million in entitlements.

In a report to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the receivers say the company has nearly $185 million worth of land, $25 million in cash and $109 million in plant and equipment.

The company owes its employees more than $9 million; about $6 million in holiday pay and more than $3 million in long service leave.

Gunns has more than 1,200 parcels of land, mostly in Tasmania, worth nearly $185 million.

Receivers KordaMentha say the exact commercial value of the land and equipment, including about 20 cars and trucks, cannot be revealed due to commercial sensitivities.

The receivers are currently selling off the company’s timber mills in Tasmania and South Australia, with final bids due today.

Bids close today for Gunns’ sawmills at Bell Bay in Tasmania and Tarpeena in South Australia.

etc

Examiner: Gunns’ trail of council debt:

ELEVEN Tasmanian councils look like being among the big losers from the collapse of forest company Gunns Ltd with more than $420,000 still owing in unpaid rates.
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The councils are among the 857 unsecured creditors owed more than $70 million by the former Tasmanian timber giant after it went into receivership in September.

Dorset Mayor Barry Jarvis said that the $45,258 not paid to his council would be for last year’s rates.

“There would still be this year’s rates outstanding so you can double whatever is there,” he said.

Gunns’ report to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission last Friday revealed that the Waratah- Wynyard Council stood to lose the most of the 11 councils listed as unsecured creditors, with $85,288 owing.

Central Highlands Council was owed $16,769 and George Town Council is waiting for $63,077.

PPB Advisory administrator Daniel Bryant told creditors and investors at Gunns’ first creditors meeting last month that the company owed at least $709 million.

The company owes its main bankers $490 million and its former employees more than $9.7 million in holiday pay and long service leave entitlements.

Unsecured creditors said after the meeting that they did not expect to recoup any of their money.

Last week’s report to ASIC provided the first detailed figures on the size of Gunns’ debt and how widespread the effect of its collapse will be.

etc

• US lumber market fall

Higher lumber demand in the US increased both US lumber production and importation in the 3Q/12, but sawlog prices have remained unchanged since 2011, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly

The improved housing market in the US the past four months has resulted in both higher lumber production in the US and in increased importation of lumber. As a consequence lumber prices have gone up by over 30% from last year. However, sawlog price have remained unchanged so far this year, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly.

The full article can be downloaded:
GTWMU_US_lumber_market_fall_2012.pdf