An Independent Verification Group through the Tasmanian Forests Agreement has been established to provide advice to the Prime Minister and the Premier on sustainable timber supply requirements and areas and boundaries of reserves from within the ENGO-nominated 572,000 Ha of native forest.
This process will provide an independent and robust verification of high conservation values and timber supply claims, and recommendations of the areas that should be protected in formal reserves.
The Government has agreed to implement the outcomes of this independent verification process, subject to its endorsement by the Statement of Principles signatories, in particular by legislating to formally protect those areas of high conservation value that are compatible with the Tasmanian Forests Agreement wood supply guarantees. If legislation to provide protection for the high conservation value forest is not passed in the Tasmanian Parliment any funding provided for regional development will be repaid by the State to the Commonwealth.
The Tasmanian Forests Agreement guarantees annual sustainable timber supply of at least 155,000 cubic metres of high quality sawlog per year, 265,000 cubic metres of peeler logs per year for the manufacture of laminated veneers and verified specialty timber requirements. It also states that existing contracts for native wood supply contracts will be honoured.
Under the Tasmanian Forests Agreement, the Australian Government is providing funding to support a restructure of the industry to implement wood supply and conservation outcomes, including:
- $43 million to implement the Agreement, including $15 million for voluntary compenstable exits for swamillers wishing to exit the industry;
- ongoing funding of $7 million per year (indexed) to support management of additional reserves; and
- funding to support the independent verification process.
On Friday 19 August the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings released the Terms of Reference for the independent verification of guaranteed wood supply and high conservation value forests under the Tasmanian Forests Agreement.
The Terms of Reference, which were endorsed by all Signatories to the Tasmanian Forests Statement of Principles process, are a key next step in progressing the joint objectives of environmental protection and support for a strong and viable forest industry.
Professor Jonathan West was appointed to lead the Independent Verification Group, in recognition of his extensive knowledge and understanding of Tasmanian industry as the head of the Australian Innovation Research Centre.
On March 23 the Independent Verification Group, through its Chairman made public their advice to Government.