Customers will not buy products sourced from former World Heritage forests in Tasmania, warns Ta Ann official, says federal government's request to delist 74,000 hectares would remove market support company has enjoyed over last 12 months
January 1, 2014
– KEY players in Tasmania's timber industry have undermined the Abbott government's bid to roll back World Heritage listing for the nation's most disputed forests, describing it as unjustified, political and a threat to jobs.
As The Australian revealed yesterday, the federal government is requesting the World Heritage Commission rescind 74,000ha of the 170,000ha extension to Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area.
It must now convince the committee, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, to undo almost half of the extended heritage area it unanimously agreed to in June last year.
Peak conservation groups, industry players and Labor Premier Lara Giddings warned the move threatened to destroy the forest peace deal struck in November 2012, costing the industry markets and jobs.
Ms Giddings said by provoking a return of the ``forest wars'' the rollback would perversely threaten hopes of resurrecting Gunns' stalled $2.5 billion Tamar Valley pulp mill.
``This would be disastrous for Tasmania. It would jeopardise all future planned forestry investments including the pulp mill,'' Ms Giddings said. ``Our international forestry markets would be under grave threat.''
The Coalition's request to the Paris-based World Heritage Committee pitches the reduction as enhancing the wilderness area's integrity by removing ``large tracts'' of previously logged forest and plantations that have no natural heritage value. Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Richard Colbeck confirmed to The Weekend Australian that the rescinded forests could be logged.
He partly justified the World Heritage rollback on the need for more wood to ensure the timber industry did not run out of supply after 2030.
However, key industry players, representing the great bulk of the sector, told The Weekend Australian that no domestic or overseas customers would buy products sourced from former World Heritage forests.
Worse, they said the decision would see customers gained since the striking of a forest peace deal walk away, destroying expansion plans and costing jobs.
``Frankly, no one who is trading in either national or international markets would find selling products from previously assessed World Heritage areas to be a task they would want to take on,'' said Evan Rolley, executive director of Tasmania's largest timber processor, Ta Ann.
``If the proposal to delist the area were successful and we were to process the wood, we would be in breach of our agreement and we would expect that the market support that we've enjoyed over the last 12 months would be immediately removed.''
Mr Rolley, a former antagonist of the conservation movement as one-time head of logging agency Forestry Tasmania and chief bureaucrat to pro-logging premier Paul Lennon, said the markets and industry had moved on.
``There's a whole lot of politics around this, but the one thing the timber industry desperately needs in Tasmania is to have a sense of stability and purpose,'' he said.
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