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Regional Forest Agreement for Tasmania: a balanced result

The Federal Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, John Anderson, today welcomed the signing of a Regional Forest Agreement for Tasmania by the Prime Minister and the Tasmanian Premier.

"This agreement provides the balance governments have been seeking to apply to decisions about the future management of Australia's native forests," Mr Anderson said.

"The RFA provides the certainty of access to native forest resource that forest industries, employees and communities have lacked. The Commonwealth has agreed to legislative backing for the Agreement, and to accept the RFA as a legally binding agreement."

As a result of the increased certainty for forest industries, Mr Anderson said he expected industry would have the confidence to invest in new plant, equipment and jobs.

"Australia's forest industries have enormous potential," he said. "I believe they can further improve their competitiveness and increase value adding efforts, taking a greater share of domestic markets and boosting their export performance.

"The opportunities provided by the Tasmanian RFA will help to turn around the deficit in the trade of Australia's forest products. The challenge will be to move this into surplus. And as a result of the RFA, licences will no longer be required for the export of woodchips.

"The RFA also provides security for the protection of conservation values of forests and endorses the Tasmanian government systems for sustainable forest management. It commits the State to continuous improvement in forest management. The RFA therefore provides a more sensible system of forest conservation and management than export controls could ever achieve," Mr Anderson said.

The RFA will also:

. complement efforts by industry and governments to increase plantations within Australia helping to achieve the 'Plantations for Australia: 2020 Vision' of trebling the area of plantations by 2020;

. increase the capacity for forest conservation on private land; and

. increase the capacity for commercial and sustainable management of private forestry.

"The conclusion of the Tasmanian RFA is a significant milestone in the national process to complete Regional Forest Agreements, and represents a major achievement in implementing the goals of the National Forest Policy Statement," Mr Anderson said.

The completion of the next regional forest agreement, for the Central Highlands region of Victoria, is expected before the end of 1997.

Media contact:

Robert Haynes, Mr Anderson's office, 06 277 7520; 0419 493 511