On the eve of a Legislative Council vote on his divisive and illogical forestry legislation, the Wilderness Society has questioned Premier Will Hodgman’s budget allocations to forestry related initiatives, including the implementation of a Strategic Growth Plan that runs counter to its forestry legislation and a $450,000 public relations campaign that looks like a pre-election damage control slush fund.

The Strategic Growth Plan, kept secret whist Premier Hodgman’s legislation passed the Lower House, does not call for the reversal of high-conservation forest reserves and explicitly recommends forest policy that is ‘agreed and stable’. The Government’s forestry legislation to reverse and log reserves lacks credible timber industry support and risks Tasmania’s environment, brand, timber markets and third party certification - it is anything but ‘agreed and stable’.

“Premier Hodgman’s forest policy is chaotic and attracting overt opposition from a wide cross section of the community, including the timber industry itself,” said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.

“To allocate millions of dollars of public money to implement a plan that bears no resemblance to the forestry legislation his Minister is putting to the Upper House highlights the inconsistency and desperation in Premier Hodgman’s forestry portfolio.

The Wilderness Society is calling for clarity on a $450,000 (over 2 years) allocation for ‘community awareness projects’.

As Government bulldozes ahead with unpopular and illogical forestry legislation, the Society called this out as a damage-control PR campaign, including through an election period.

“If the Growth Strategy calls for increased community awareness, it does it in the context of ‘agreed and stable’ forest policy and where the forest reserves Premier Hodgman wants to log are counted as part of the Tasmanian Reserve Estate, part of the 50% of Tasmania that is protected,” said Mr Bayley.

“This looks like a publicly-funded PR campaign in the lead up to and beyond the next election.

“This budget demonstrates that public subsidies of the forest industry are alive and well under Premier Hodgman. On top of budget handouts, this Government will privatise publicly-owned plantations to prop-up Forestry Tasmania’s books while it makes a loss on logging native forests.”