Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Landmark conservation agreement signed to protect Tasmania's native forests
13 January 2012
The Gillard Government today signed a major new Conservation Agreement with the Tasmanian Government that marks the next step in progressing the historic Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA).
The legally-binding agreement with Forestry Tasmania, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, excludes hundreds of thousands of hectares of public native forests from rotation forestry while a comprehensive analysis of forest conservation values and industry timber supply requirements takes place.
Environment Minister, Tony Burke, welcomed the Conservation Agreement which will allow all parties to focus on supporting the longer-term Independent Verification process.
“This Government recognises that market conditions have already resulted in a significant downturn for the forestry industry in Tasmania,” Mr Burke said.
“Without the IGA timber communities would be hit by these market changes without the support they need.
“That’s why the Government is committed to delivering a solution for the forestry industry and Tasmanian families.
“The Conservation Agreement is the next step of the Intergovernmental Agreement which is supporting the community led agreement to deliver long term job security and a good conservation outcome for Tasmania’s ancient forests.
“With this agreement in place, all parties can now concentrate their efforts on assisting the important work of the Independent Verification Group, which is assessing the conservation values of the entire 572,000 hectares nominated by environmental non-governmental organisations, in addition to verifying long-term timber supply requirements and availability.
“This is a good result for Tasmania's forestry industry, for local jobs and communities while protecting Tasmania’s iconic forests.”
To inform the details of this Agreement, independent forestry experts undertook a thorough investigation of existing harvesting work within the 430,000 hectare interim area in the Intergovernmental Agreement, and explored all options for rescheduling this harvesting outside the interim area to the maximum extent possible.
The reports of the independent expert forest schedulers, released today, found that while some harvesting work could be moved, it was not possible to reschedule harvesting in a small number of coupes.
In accordance with the requirements of the Intergovernmental Agreement, which commits to honouring all existing wood supply contracts, these coupes have been excluded from the Conservation Agreement.
The Australian and Tasmanian Governments have agreed to implement the outcomes of this process by legislating to formally protect those areas of high conservation value forest that are compatible with the Intergovernmental Agreement’s wood supply guarantees.
Until this legislative protection is in place, the area determined by the Independent Verification process will be protected under a second Conservation Agreement.
The Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments, and Forestry Tasmania will start work on the new Conservation Agreement by 20 January 2012.The interim Conservation Agreement and the reports of the independent expert forestry schedulers are available at: www.environment.gov.au/land/forests/tasmanian-forests-agreement.html.