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Tuesday, 23 August 1994
Page: 103

(Question No. 1084)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister representing the Minister for Resources, upon notice, on 23 February 1994:

  (1) Did the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories (Mrs Kelly) write to the Minister on 14 December 1993 in relation to woodchip export licence renewals and urge the following:

  (a) that key areas of forest in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia should be protected from logging and excluded from export woodchip approval;

  (b) that woodchip export licences for Tasmania should be issued only on provision of a strict timetable for gazettal of the resolved and unresolved Recommended Areas for Protection;

  (c) that the National Forest Policy Strategy for the protection of old-growth forests and wilderness areas, including the moratorium clause, should be applied in the renewal of those licences; and

  (d) that stiffer regulations on cable logging of steep slopes were required.

  (2) Why did the Minister ignore his colleague's recommendations on the bulk of these issues.

  (3) Is the Government in breach of its international obligations under the World Heritage Convention in approving logging that will destroy forests of World Heritage value in south-west Tasmania.

  (4) What will the Minister do to ensure that Tasmania belatedly meets its obligations under the 1986 Memorandum of Understanding to gazette the Recommended Areas for Protection as secure reserves.

Senator Collins —The Minister for Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) Yes. The former Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, the Hon Ros Kelly MP, wrote to the then Minister for Resources, the Hon Michael Lee MP, on 14 December 1993 offering advice on these matters in relation to proposed woodchip export licence renewals for 1994.

  (2) The Minister did not ignore Mrs Kelly's advice. In response to Mrs Kelly's representations, a number of areas proposed for logging by the States were excluded from the approved licences, and the licences included conditions to minimise impacts on the national estate, to ensure the protection of endangered species, and to avoid significant adverse environmental impacts.

  Furthermore, in writing to the licensees, Mr Lee indicated that they should have due regard to the objectives, policies and processes agreed by governments in the National Forest Policy Statement and should consult with State forest management agencies as appropriate on the adoption of these agreed policies.

  Other areas of Mrs Kelly's advice were taken up by Mr Lee directly with the State forests Ministers who have responsibility for those matters. Additional matters are being pursued by Commonwealth and State officials as part of the cooperative processes involved in the implementation of forest conservation initiatives under the National Forest Policy Statement.

  (3) The Government is not in breach of its international obligations under the World Heritage Convention. The southern forests of Tasmania were investigated for world heritage values in 1986, and the areas now being harvested in the south-west of Tasmania were not designated as World Heritage Areas.

  The Tasmanian Parliament has designated these forests as part of Tasmania's Multiple Use Forests enacted through Tasmania's Public Land (Administration and Forests) Act 1991. These forests are being harvested to meet timber requirements during the transition of the State's hardwood sawmilling industry from old growth to regrowth forests.

  (4) All the Recommended Areas for Protection (RAPs) are currently secure from logging under the Tasmanian Public Land (Administration and Forests) Act 1991. Nonetheless, Mr Lee, in informing the Tasmanian Premier, Mr Groom, of his approval of 1994 woodchip export licences, indicated his view that outstanding work on the reservation of these areas be progressed and formal action, such as the gazettal of the RAPs, be concluded as soon as possible.