Victorian Forest taskforce

Friday, July 1, 2016

This Daniel Andrews-devised industry/enviro groups roundtable is progressing. The first agreed ‘Statement of Intent’ report was due to be presented to the government by the end of June but that’s now been pushed out by 2-3 weeks. These delays mean more trees fall meanwhile.  

It was set up as a compromise with the CFMEU which pushed back hard against the Great Forest National Park proposal last year. The Taskforce is an attempt to bring Victoria’s logging industry, union and enviro groups (not govt or VicForests) into the one room to devise a consensus solution to the historic logging conflict (and the looming demise of the industry and exhaustion of our forests). It is well resourced by government and our four enviro reps have been doing an exceptional job in what can be an extremely difficult forum with very unacceptable claims and at times behaviour. There have been experts present on various topics so all in the room are being informed by the same lot of information and data.

 EEG and Victoria’s forest campaign groups have formed a Caucus, to which our four representatives present updates weekly and discuss and answer questions. It’s an improved process on how the Tasmanian negotiations were set up several years ago.  There’s also a website and regular email updates put out by the Taskforce that the public can be part of, but no real details at this early stage of confidential talks.  

Professor Don Henry is the unanimously supported independent chair of the Forest Taskforce. He was previously CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation for more than 15 years. His skills are welcome as the Taskforce negotiations can be intense and developing agreed recommendations fraught. Don Henry is currently a Public Policy Fellow – Environmentalism, with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne.

The group is getting to the pointy end of the negotiations now after months of effort. Will ‘dead cats’ be thrown onto the table or will they knuckle down and construct a ‘carefully’ worded report that can be smoothly birthed by mid-July and then presented to Premier Daniel Andrews.

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