South Sister St. Marys, Tasmania

South Sister

update march 19, 2005

SOS members welcomed the second decision by the Chairman of the Resource Management and Appeals Tribunal (RMPAT) on Friday March 18, 2005 that the Final Hearing would go ahead as planned on June 6, 2005.

Forestry Tasmania had been unhappy with the first decision (Hearing on March 4) and had made a submission stating that there should be no listing for a final hearing as the temporary order had been refused. In addition, they were dissatisfied that the applicants had a 'proper interest' and requested them to show that they indeed did have standing. FT had also submitted during the first hearing that the conduct of harvesting would not lead to environmental harm but rather, would be a consequence. Therefore they asked that the Tribunal address this issue.

The Environmental Defender's Office (EDO) which represent the applicants, submitted information on March 15 as requested, and the Chairman ruled that "information given at this stage satisfies the Tribunal that each of the remaining applicants is prima facie a person with a proper interest as required by section 48 of the Act". The Chairman's conclusion was that "... remains listed to proceed upon the dates directed by the Tribunal; and the existing directions as to the exchange of evidence continue to apply".

Following the decision, FT issued a statement which included the following:

" ... We also note that proceeding to a hearing does not imply any problems with the Forest Practices Code requirements. FT holds a forest practices plan for this area that has been significantly modified following public input."

This statement is misleading and incorrect - the size of the coupe was reduced because of the presence of Eucalyptus brookeriana which is protected under the RFA, evidence of old landslips and the requirement of a wildlife habitat clump under the Forest Practice Code!

"We have always understood the Forest Practices Board had ultimate responsibility to decide these matters. We are reviewing the decision taken by RMPAT and will be taking legal advice. We will announce our decision on operational issues on Monday (21 March). In the meantime, the contractor will continue harvesting in an existing coupe and FT will maintain the supply of sawlogs to local sawmills".

SOS members are awaiting an announcement that FT will refrain from logging this coupe until after the Final Hearing in June. To log it in the interim - despite being completely legal, would make a mockery of the justice system.

other developments

SOS members had asked the Break O'Day Council to issue an Environmental Protection Notice (EPN) however they refused to do this. They did however write to Minister of Forests Bryan Green and ask him to ".... defer logging activities until the findings of the hearing have been determined and that you also request Forestry Tasmania to take no action in the interim".

DPIWE was also asked to issue an EPN yet they also refused preferring to wait for a decision from the Tribunal. Now a decision has been handed down they will be asked again.

SOS members await a response from the Attorney General, Judy Jackson regarding seeking a temporary order on behalf of the applicants as she would not be required to give an undertaking. It is expected that she will refuse as SOS members have been told that "the government doesn't plan to get involved"

SOS members have sent information to the contractors Taslog regarding the increased risk of landslides and disturbance to water if harvesting operations go ahead. They were also 'placed on notice' with various other letters sent to them should harvesting activities proceed with negative consequences. A public notice was sent to both Mercury and Examiner Newspapers in Tasmania notifying insurance companies that Taslog had been informed about the possible consequences of harvesting activities.

Mr Ralph Rallings, Engineer who wrote to Minister Bryan Green outlining that failure to assess the slopes below the coupe was "imprudent and borders on negligence" still awaits a reply from Mr Green.

In parliament this week, Tim Morris MHA asked Mr Green "Minister, will you comply with the Break O'Day Council's request and order a halt to forestry works at South Sister while the Resource Management and Planning Tribunal hearing is under way, and if not, why not?"
The reply from Mr Green was incoherent and his comments later contradicted his reply which according to Hansard was "The issue here is that this is a preliminary hearing. The hearing dates were set down for June. RMPAT have established a process to allow it to be deemed whether or not there is a prima facie case. That is my view. What I am saying to the House today is that the roading has been completed on the coupe. No logging will take place before the date of this particular hearing. It is my expectation that logging will be able to proceed as a result of the hearing because there will be no case to answer."
Mr Green denied that he meant ceasing operations until June and his office confirmed to an SOS member that no logging would take place prior to the decision mentioned above regarding the applicants 'proper interest' etc. Contact with his office on Friday March 18, after the release of the Tribunal's decision indicated that Mr Green will only put out a statement after FT have issued their response regarding legal action.

SOS members are hopeful that logging will not proceed. If so, then the vigil will be dismounted and evidence for the Final Hearing will become the priority for the group. If FT do in fact proceed with logging, then a major blockade will be organised.

what can you do?

SOS members are still calling for financial support. Legal costs continue to mount and if FT contest the decision in the Supreme Court, SOS will have increasing costs to bear. Please make a donation or a pledge. Please write letters to the Editor in your state, ring talkback radio and write to politicians and Forestry complaining that justice has not been done. No logging should occur until the Hearing has been completed - 11 weeks from now. The state government should insist FT refrains from logging until further assessments are made.

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