The Tasmanian government has decided to open up 400,000 hectares of previously protected forest to the timber industry, a move that environmentalists say will do serious harm to both the climate and the country’s tourism sector.
In 2013, the Australian Labour government added 170,000 hectares of Tasmania’s rainforest to the protected heritage area in a peace deal. The deal banned widespread logging in the area and offered compensation to the timber industry to stay away, but was labelled by the opposition as “job-destroying” and harmful to the economy.
After coming to power later that year, Tony Abbot’s Liberal government planned to reopen some of the area to the timber industry.
To do so, Abbot also sought to revoke the special protection status afforded to 74,000 hectares of forest, but UNESCO rejected this proposal in June, meaning this area will not be affected.
However, the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) bill has been approved by both the Tasmanian and national governments, meaning 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) of native forest are now open for logging.
Will Hodgman, Tasmania’s premier, said, “For more than 30 years, environmentalists, with the help of Labor and the Greens, have progressively locked up hectare after hectare of productive forests, destroying businesses and jobs, regional communities and livelihoods.
“We took a clear plan to the election to say “enough is enough” and rip up the job-destroying forest deal.”
The move has been met with the opposition of conservationists, who claim that the forest would do much more good if left as it stands, because of its contribution to the mitigation of climate change through carbon storage and the role it plays in the tourism sector.
Tourism employs around 15% of people in the state, while just 1% of the workforce is employed in the forestry sector.
Jenny Weber, campaign manager of conservation group Bob Brown said, “Tasmania’s government has issued a licence for native forest annihilation in an era when native forest logging should cease, for climate mitigation and ecosystem benefits.
“The future of Tasmania’s unique forests is appalling under this anti-conservation government, in the past years financial support for the logging industry flowed, including hundreds of millions of dollars to continue native forest destruction”.
Photo: J Brew via flickr