Forest Industries Assn. of Tasmania makes revised offer to conservation groups in attempt to resurrect forest peace deal, says it has made 'very substantial' reduction to wood supply requirement of 155,000 m3/year

HOBART, Tasmania , November 7, 2012 () – THE timber industry has blinked first in its stand-off with conservationists over a deal to end Tasmania's forest wars, offering to further reduce wood volumes.

Breathing new life into the stalled two-year negotiation, the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania has made a revised offer to conservation groups to try to resurrect a so-called peace deal.

FIAT said the offer involved a ``very substantial'' reduction in the 155,000 cubic metres a year of native forest sawlogs it had previously insisted upon as the industry's wood supply.

FIAT chief executive Terry Edwards would not reveal the industry's new ``bottom line'', saying it depended on a range of factors.

However, sources told The Australian the new figure was 145,000 cubic metres a year, still well above the 130,000-135,000 understood to be acceptable to green groups.

Mr Edwards did not rule out further concessions but said the revised offer gave green groups a range of options and the sawlog figure was unlikely to change.

``It's fair to say this is very close to our final position,'' he said. ``I think the resource number that we've put on the table at the end of the day will be the bottom line.''

Using a sawlog buyout scheme to reduce annual contracted wood volumes to 130,000 cubic metres would allow the protection of 525,000ha of native forests.

Industry is also insisting on a range of ``durability'' measures, designed to ensure green groups respect any deal, cease their campaigns and stop lobbying for more forest lock-ups.

These include one-fifth of the forests to be protected being initially kept outside national parks for several years as ``hostages'' in case green groups renege on their promises.

While it is understood green groups have softened their hostility to this idea, a more controversial condition sought by industry is that of a secure future for the loss-making state owned forestry company.

Industry wants Forestry Tasmania, which lost $27m last financial year, to retain control over production forests, while the Greens want FT broken up and stripped of land.

Mr Edwards said that in talks with Premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim both had indicated that if industry and conservationists agreed on the shape of a restructured FT this would be ``very persuasive''.

While FIAT has withdrawn from formal talks with The Wilderness Society and other green groups, Mr Edwards said informal discussions would continue in coming days.

(c) 2012 News Limited

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