Dear Senator Colbeck
I write to urge you to reconsider your comments on the Tasmanian World Heritage Area extensions posted on your website (http://www.richardcolbeck.com.au/featured_stories/the_tasmanian_wilderness_world_heritage_area_scam) . I appreciate your concern with this issue, but it would be helpful if you became better acquainted with the facts and background of this matter before ‘rushing to print’.
What your helicopter tour showed you was logging roads and coups deep in world heritage value forests. This happens with dispersed logging strategies and is standard forestry practice. It is the reason there has been a rather bitter conflict in Tasmania for four decades. What you saw was world heritage forests being whittled away. Including some logged areas in the new boundaries will allow those areas to recover ecologically and preserve the integrity of the reserves as a whole. Saying that the area is undeserving of protection because of logging is akin to saying that the Egyptian sphinx is unworthy or preservation because its nose is damaged.
Removing the logged areas from reserve areas is one option but it does not require a wholesale roll back of the world heritage area which is what your government is proposing (74,000 ha). Curiously this proposed role back includes the glacial lakes of the Mt Field National Park. Obviously this is simply cover for gifting old growth world heritage value forests to the logging industry. It reduces your credibility to pretend otherwise.
I understand your concerns about special species timbers. This issue was addressed comprehensively by Tasmania’s Legislative Council whose select committee was chaired by, and largely made up of, conservative members. It was widely expected that their changes to the Forest Agreement areas would spell the end of the agreement. However the Environmental NGOs accepted the changes and allowed further areas into production. This was a substantial compromise which deserves acknowledgement. I encourage you to get across the detail and talk to the ENGOs before passing judgement.
I was particularly surprised by your statement that this process was political. In the four decade history of this conflict this was the only time an agreement has been reached rather than imposed. It was industry that approached the conservation movement seeking an outcome. The conservation movement obliged despite there being no moratorium on logging during negotiations. Political parties were kept at arms-length. The only political interference was by the Legislative Council which watered down the conservation outcomes in order to allow a greater supply of special species timbers.
I have spent a lot of time in Tasmania’s forests – logged and unlogged. The simple fact is that a 60-80 year rotational logging regime cannot conserve the ecological values of the forest. I discuss this in more detail in my blog post here: http://www.findinghomebookspace.blogspot.com.au/2013_04_01_archive.html
Please talk to more than one interest group on this issue. The Tasmanian Forest Agreement is a complex negotiated document representing trade-offs between diverse groups. I am not an expert in the agreement but I know that there is no such thing as a ‘forestry vs conservation’ position on this. Different industry groups have different interests. Unsurprisingly some of them did not get everything they wanted. Such is public life.
I will post this letter on my blogspot, and with your permission, will post any reply.