A year ago hope was building for a breakthrough on native forest protection, with the parties involved on both sides of the logging divide agreeing to a series of face to face negotiations. The talks kicked off in Tasmania.
I have taken a keen interest in these developments, hoping that they could help win protection for Tasmanian as well as mainland native forests. When I was in NSW parliament I worked with communities in southeast NSW to stop woodchipping and I am now fortunate to be the Australian Greens spokesperson on forests.
As more details have been released over the past week it is apparent that Tasmanian forests have not been the winner from these protracted talks.
Senator Bob Brown, the Greens spokesperson on Tasmanian forests, in a public letter details how the degree of failure embodied in the Tasmania forest agreement means forest protection will be "decoupled from federal compensation".
The public costs are starting to tally up. The agreement signed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Premier Lara Gillings will cost more than $270 million. The ABC has reported that almost $1 million has already been spent on the negotiations.
Despite these funding agreements no forest land has been protected as national park.
Tasmanian Greens leader and Franklin MP Nick McKim and his Greens colleagues are working to maximize conservation outcomes from the Labor Heads of Agreement on Forests in line with the original Statement of Principles. The NSW South East Region Conservation Alliance has raised serious concerns about the agreement, arguing there is "no upfront conservation outcome" and it does not provide the policy or financial foundation for sustainable plantation-based forestry in Tasmania.
Despite these setbacks our hopes are still alive as there are two weeks before the final Intergovernmental Agreement is signed. Senator Bob Brown has put out a call for a letter writing campaign with the advice: "If, like me, you have been to Tasmania’s amazing forests, talk about your experience."
It is worth writing that letter now. Click here for contact details for the daily papers.