Rally slams Tasmanian World Heritage move

Source:   Date:2014-04-22

Winding back Tasmania’s World Heritage wilderness is terrible economics, a rally in Hobart has heard.
Environmentalists say the federal government’s proposal to de-list 74,000 hectares will cost more than it can deliver to the timber industry.
The Australia Institute’s Dr Richard Denniss has told more than 350 protesters the forestry industry has been subsidised to the tune of $400 million since 2011.
Dr Denniss says only one per cent of Tasmanians are employed in the industry and the trees are worth more standing as carbon credits.
‘There are more people working in newsagents,’ he told reporters on Wednesday.
‘This is terrible economics.’
The Abbott government has asked UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to remove the area, arguing it has been degraded by logging.
The area is part of 172,000ha added last year under the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement between green groups and the timber industry.
An interim report from UNESCO has rejected the proposal but a final decision will be made next month.
‘Federal governments and state governments are literally betting hundreds of millions of dollars that a small declining industry can turn itself around,’ said Dr Denniss, an economist and former adviser to the Greens and Australian Democrats.
‘Even if it did turn around and even if it did double its size, those hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies will only create small numbers of jobs.’

Government forestry spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck said subsidies had only been needed because of reforms instigated by the Greens, who shared power with Labor in Tasmania until March this year.
‘The industry would be very happy to be allowed to get on with business without interference or subsidy,’ he told AAP.
Senator Colbeck said the World Heritage listing had been rushed in a ‘sham process’ by the former government.
‘We are seeking an outcome that achieves a balance between the sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment, and in doing so ensures the integrity of the outstanding universal value of the Tasmanian wilderness,’ he said.
Opposition to the de-listing has attracted celebrity support from the likes of Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush and AFL coach Mick Malthouse. The latest to sign up is British chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall.
Wednesday’s event was hosted by broadcaster Wendy Harmer, who joked she’d be releasing a nude calendar to raise funds for the cause.

Almost 2,000 people rallied last month in Tasmania’s Upper Florentine Valley to defend World Heritage-listed forests. (AAP Image/Matthew Newton)