Release of independent verification report a 'milestone' in reaching Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement, says Australian state's environment minister

HOBART, Tasmania , March 23, 2012 (press release) – The Australian and Tasmanian governments today welcomed the release of the Independent Verification Group assessment of the forestry industry’s timber supply requirements and the conservation values of nominated areas of Tasmania’s native forests.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said delivery of the advice to the Australian and Tasmanian Governments, and the community, was a significant milestone in the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA).

The Australian and Tasmanian governments are implementing the IGA in response to rapid change and major challenges in the industry, which had shed thousands of jobs in recent years as a result of changes in the market for forest timber.

The IGA was developed in response to calls from the forestry industry, unions and environment groups that have worked together to develop a constructive way forward to respond to challenges faced by the forestry industry as a result of the major market changes.

Professor Jonathan West led an independent process with forestry and conservation groups to verify the high conservation value of native forests nominated under the IGA, and the timber supplies needed to meet industry needs. The independent verification process was agreed by groups involved in the IGA.

The independent process is not intended to define a single solution, but rather to provide all parties with the information to use in developing agreed options that will achieve the best possible results for industry, timber workers, communities and the environment.

“The Tasmanian forestry industry faces huge challenges and that’s why we are working hard to support workers and secure a sustainable future – without the IGA timber communities would be hit by these market changes without the support they need,” Mr Burke said.

“For the first time we have an independent view of the current demands for wood supply and the different conservation values of areas within Tasmania.

“This independent information provides a foundation for any discussions about jobs, timber communities or conservation. Without the IGA, this foundation would never have been established.

“The parties to this process have shown great commitment in working through the challenges to date because they recognise that working together and negotiating in good faith is the only way to create an outcome that can be sustained.”

Deputy Premier Bryan Green said the Independent Verification Group’s work deals with extremely complicated issues and needed to be interpreted carefully by all involved and particularly the Reference Group of stakeholders.

“The Signatories will now work through the detailed advice as they identify and explore options to deliver a solution that they can all support,” Mr Green said.

“We are at a critical point in the process and it is important that the work is not taken out of context by those intent on wrecking the agreement.

“This report is being made available now in the interests of transparency even though some parts of the work are yet to be peer reviewed.

“Most fair-minded people would agree that we need to move beyond the conflict over forestry because we simply don’t want another 30 years of vitriolic debate.

“The agreement offers the best opportunity to secure the future of our forest industry and achieve significant conservation outcomes and both Governments are determined to see the process through,” Mr Green said.

Under the Intergovernmental Agreement, the Tasmanian Government has committed to introducing legislation by 30 June 2012 to implement an agreed solution.

An expert team is helping signatories work through this over the coming weeks while the governments also work together to review Professor West’s report.

The government will be doing everything it can to support the industry, union and environment groups in their efforts to develop a lasting outcome that will support the forest industry’s transition to a more sustainable long term future, to diversify the Tasmanian economy, and protect forests.

Professor West’s independent verification report can be found at:

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