Thursday, October 28, 2010

The 2010 Tasmanian Forests Statement of Principles. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. by Pilko

Congratulations to all parties involved in the Tasmanian Forests Statement of Principles.

The so called "Forests Peace Plan" will soon see a halt to all logging in Tasmania’s high conservation forests such as the Weld, Florentine, Styx and Tarkine, as well as agreements to protect previously unprotected areas including the Tarkine Rainforest, Great Western Tiers, Blue Tier and the Upper Florentine Valley. The deal is set to protect up to 600,000 hectares of mainly wilderness forests on public land and a moratorium on logging in 29 coupes covering about 1200ha of high-conservation value forests nominated as top priority by environmental groups is already in place.

Make no mistake this is a huge win for Tasmania's magnificent wilderness areas which deserve to be preserved for future generations of not just Tasmanians but visitors to our beautiful island.

Whilst Mr Pullinger, Mr Oosting and others have been busy securing the protection of the forests Australians love and want preserved for future generations, they have endured nasty personal slurs and a barrage of abuse from elements of Tasmania's environment movement.

However the recorded history of this momentous deal - a deal that will be pleasing to the majority of Tasmanians, will not remember the sulking and vitriole of a handful of noisy internet based NIMBYS but rather remember the young men and parties representing the forest industry who stepped up to the plate to save our magnificent forests and move the management of Tasmania's forests into the 21st century,

This is no small achievement as many who have gone before them have tried and failed.

The majority of Tasmanians who are sick of seeing the abuse and exploitation of Tasmania's forest's and the conflict that has accompanied this will approve of this deal.

Indeed A cross section of environment groups  including the Tarkine National Coalition, Friends of the Blue Tier, Birds Tasmania, Florentine Protection Society, Huon Valley Environment Centre, Peninsula Environment Network, Save our Sister, Still Wild Still Threatened, Future Tasmania, West Wellington Protection Group, Public Environmental Health Network welcomed the forests peace deal between ENGOs and the timber industry saying  it promised to deliver real conservation outcomes in the region.
The Tasmanian Country Sawmillers Federation also welcomed the statement of principles.

In environmental campaigns as in life we sometimes seem to continually find ourselves on the losing side.
As in life, there are some who react well and there are some who react badly.

Those who have reacted badly emanate from the fringes of the Tasmanian environmental left where a driving passion for our wilderness has long ago been overtaken by paralysing negativity and cycnicism. Where environmental activism has been replaced by nasty ideological crusading.
There are serious questions over the credibility of these people whose ranks include some elected public officials, campaign leaders and faceless apparatchiks whowhilst professing a love of the Tasmanian landscape refuse to at least acknowledge the massive potential wins for many key Tasmanian wilderness areas.

Public scrutiny of the forests deal is crucial and I recognise that there are plenty of outstanding issues not resolved by the deal, many of which have been outlined by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust.

This includes the 'Elephant in the Room" - the proposed Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill.

However it is an appalling look for those who are focussing all their public statements on the deal’s shortcomings without acknowledging the massive wins for our wilderness. They do themselves and their cause no good in the eyes of mainstream Tasmanians. Tragically the loudest and most self righteous critics of the statement of principles have become so distracted and paralysed by bitterness that they are far less active in their own campaigns and seemingly satisfied confining their activities to internet clubrooms.

ENGO's are even being blamed for the fact that the Tasmanian Government is seeking around $1Billion to restructure the industry. It has been suggested that the way forward to the new age where we have our forests back and control over land use would have been for the ENGO's to stay away and let the industry collapse instead of 'saving it and gaining it a tax payer bailout.
This argument is simply ludicrous and only serves to demonstrate how desperate some are to justify their futile war against the peak environmental groups.
ENGO's neither have the power to save or destroy to the Tasmanian logging industry, nor do they have the authority or clout to release $1B from Federal coffers.
The federal and state governments would never allow the Tasmanian logging industry to collapse, nor  in the current climate, would government fail to deliver large sums of bailout money.
Bailout money and an industry restructure would most certainly be forthcoming despite ENGO involvement. Indeed without the efforts of the ENGO's the outcome may have been much more one sided with government merely propping the industry up with more bailout money, no environmental gains or genuine industry reforms

In terms of the proposed Gunns pulp mill, the project remains the elephant in the room.
The Tamar valley Pulp mill has been the biggest environmental conflict in this state since the Franklin Dam, so to not talk about the proposed mill in relation to this historic deal, does seem ludicrous.

The recent statements by Greg L'Estrange that the deal is good for Gunns’ pulp mill are a real poke in the eye for the ENGO's and not what they would want to hear. This will be taken as sign by many that the young ENGOs have been taken for a ride by Gunns and there is a real case to argue that this deal has in some ways eased the way for the mill especially in terms of Gunns bottom line For me the jury is still out on that one, but I can certainly sympathise with those who argue the case.
This will be an ongoing problem for the ENGO’s involved in broking the forests deal and for Nick Mckim who as the leader of the Tasmanian Greens has also gone through an unprecedented period of public silence on the mill issue. There is a lot of chatter about Mckim's silence and the dramatic transformation he has bought to the role of leader of the Tasmanian Greens. It has been argued that bringing Mckim and O'Connor into cabinet was a stroke of genius by Bartlett in terms of eliminating a previously potent political foe. Its difficult to argue against the notion that with the silencing of the leader of the Tasmanian Greens, general opposition from the Greens party has also been softened.

It is also impossible to ignore the fact that TWS has dramatically toned down their language around the pulp mill with TWS continuing to campaign behind the scenes but softening their public campaign against the project.
Indeed ENGOs seem to have compartmentalised the mill project whilst industry and government have continued to openly flout their enthusiasm for the project and support logging industry interests that want the project built. Indeed the ENGOs current diplomatic strategy of comparative silence will not be sustainable in the long term. There is an enormous amount of negative emotion in the Tamar Valley about the prospect of the mill being built and real concern about the noticeable change in posture from these traditionally, and up until recently, very close and active campaign allies of Tamar Mill opponents.

ENGOs and in particular Tasmanian Greens leader Nick Mckim will need to reconnect very quickly with their members and supporters in the North as Gunns continue to sell off its businesses and shed its workforce in its fight to keep the pulp mill dream alive and in particular as industry and government increasingly turn its focus on the proposed mill which Gunns has clearly staked the company, and for all intents and purposes the industry, on.
Only recently the elephant in the room was being described as arguably the biggest environmental conflict in the state’s history. It’s still there and it still needs to be dealt with.
TWS, ET and the Tas Greens would do well at this stage to pause and survey their members on how they want them to conduct themselves in the ongoing campaign against the Tamar Valley mill.


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